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Gayle Manchin heading state Board of Education

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gayle Manchin will serve as the next president of the state Board of Education as Attorney General Patrick Morrisey steps in to advise the board in its search for a new state superintendent of schools.

The board voted to appoint Manchin as president during a regular meeting Wednesday and to make board member Mike Greene the next vice president. Both will serve two-year terms.

Manchin will be at the helm of the school board as it embarks on a national search for a new state superintendent of schools -- a position held in the short term by Jim Phares since the board voted in November to oust then-Superintendent Jorea Marple.

At that time, board members said they would soon conduct a more comprehensive nationwide search for a long-term superintendent. That search began gearing up this week, more than six months after Phares took over.

The process will begin in Morrisey's office. The board requested help from Morrisey's office to help parse legal issues related to the extensive search process.

A representative for the Attorney General's Office said Wednesday that the office will be "providing legal counsel to the board, but the board will be making all of the substantive decisions related to who they choose to be the new superintendent."

The representative would not comment on any potential financial relationship between Morrisey's office and the board.

At Wednesday's meeting, Morrisey described the relationship as "a collaboration."

"The key part of our office is to just help you with the legal issues so it allows you to focus on the substantive point of who should be the next superintendent," he said.

Potential potholes include issues related to setting up public bidding policies, he said, as well as finding a balance between confidentiality issues and open meetings laws.

The Board of Education is currently in the midst of a legal dispute related to Marple's termination. The former superintendent filed suit in circuit court in February, claiming wrongful termination. That case has been moved to federal court and is still underway.

At his last meeting as president, Wade Linger boasted of the initiative the board took during his tenure -- a term that saw a controversy surrounding Marple's sudden firing as well as the adoption of an extensive education reform package by the state Legislature.

"I think for a long time the feeling has been that public education is just too stodgy and too cumbersome to change it, to improve it .<!p>.<!p>. I think everybody felt that way, but I don't think that any of those people think that now," Linger said. 

"I think the attitude now is that anything is possible and that this board is willing to stand up and do what needs done to make changes."

Manchin said that this period in the state's education authority is being defined by an increase in responsibility for the board.

"As an individual board member but also collectively as a board, we kept asking for more responsibility and accountability," she said.

"It's not to be given something that we weren't due, but the state of the board had devolved into an arena that really was not serving the purpose that it was supposed to have. So what has happened over the past six months is that board has begun to grow and evolve into what a state board should be."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.

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