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State school board to consider superintendent’s transfer to School For Deaf And Blind

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Board of Education could be looking for a new state superintendent if it agrees to the current superintendent’s request to lead the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

Among the items on the board’s Wednesday meeting agenda is the consideration of State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch’s request to transfer from his current job to become Superintendent of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. The potential employment of a State Superintendent of Schools is included in that item.

State School Board member Dr. James Wilson said it was Burch’s choice to ask for this transfer, and he has seen the superintendent focus keenly on the Romney-based school in recent months.

“I just know he’s been very interested in the school,” Wilson said. “He’s been up there a number of times this past year.”

In 2021, Burch appointed an intervention team to work with the Schools for the Deaf and Blind, after a West Virginia Department of Education investigation revealed several areas where the school needed to improve. Among them, according to the report:

— School nurses felt that physical and mental well-being of students was disregarded.

— A team observing the schools’ classes did not see “a pervasive climate of high expectations relating to academic achievement.”

— Multiple issues with insufficient building conditions.

— Longstanding leadership issues, including frequent turnover in the schools’ superintendent job over the previous five years.

The schools also dealt with a fire in February that destroyed the 1800s-era administration building.

Burch has been with the West Virginia Department of Education for 15 years, also serving in other roles in Gov. Jim Justice’s administration, including acting Secretary for the Department of Education and the Arts and as the interim Secretary of Commerce. He was named state superintendent in February 2020 to replace the retiring Steve Paine, though the board continued its search for a permanent replacement.

Burch became that permanent replacement in June 2020, and marshaled the Department of Education through the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the State School Board grants Burch’s request to move the Schools for the Deaf and Blind, Wilson said the Board will most likely appoint an interim state superintendent and work on hiring a new permanent superintendent from there.

Wilson said he has appreciated the job Burch has done as state superintendent, and understands if a passion for the Schools for the Deaf and Blind would make him request to lead them.

“He’s done a fine job,” Wilson said. “And if that’s what he wants, you don’t want someone in a position when they want to be somewhere else. If their heart is in another place, you want to see them succeed in that. How the rest of the board will see it, I don’t know.”

The State School Board meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Charleston.

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