CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) The man who helped McDowell County boost student test scores and upgrade its facilities to get out from under state control was appointed to oversee school maintenance and construction projects throughout West Virginia.
Gov. Joe Manchin appointed his cousin, Mark Anthony Manchin, as executive director of the West Virginia School Building Authority.
“While Mark is well-known in certain circles as my cousin, he is first and foremost an extremely respected and accomplished educator,” the governor said.
Mark is a former state senator of Kanawha County and served as Webster County’s school superintendent before being appointed by the state Board of Education in 2001 to oversee McDowell County’s schools.
His father was the late A. James Manchin, a former state treasurer, secretary of state and at the time of his death a member of the House of Delegates.
Mark said he looks forward to the challenge of meeting the needs of all of West Virginia schools and will focus on improving aging schools and increasing school security.
“Obviously, as a county school superintendent you’re responsible for a myriad of things: the curriculum, finance, construction, public relations, all of it, especially when you are in a state-intervention county. It’s a high profile position,” Mark said.
“Taking over the School Building Authority’s accounting for the needs of the state will be another high profile position.”
Mark replaces Clacy Williams, who retired in June.
“When all is said and done, Mark was clearly the best person for the job, and his willingness to take a pay cut in order to take this position demonstrates his commitment and shows me that he has the passion necessary to be extremely successful in this position,” the governor said.
Mark was scheduled to start his new job on Dec. 4 at an annual salary of $99,600. As a superintendent, Mark was paid approximately $100,000. His predecessor at the School Building Authority was paid $104,758 a year.
It took Mark five years to get the struggling McDowell County schools heading in the right direction. State Superintendent Steve Paine gave his blessing last month for the county to regain control of its schools, which had suffered from low student test scores, poor attendance, decaying school buildings and large numbers of uncertified teachers.
“We like to think that we’re moving the school system forward, there’s still much work to be done down here, most of the schools still need to be built, to be staffed with highly qualified teachers,” Mark said.
“But we’ve been able the weather the storm, literally, we had two devastating floods that destroyed two of our schools and damaged 10 others. Now I feel comfortable that the county is going in the right direction.”
Mark said that last year 12 of 14 schools in McDowell met the national adequate yearly progress benchmark set by No Child Left Behind.
The School Building Authority was created in 1989 and has awarded more than $1 billion for school replacement, renovations and upgrades in West Virginia’s 55 counties.
“More than half of the schools in West Virginia that the children are attending are 40 years of age or older, even though the School Building Authority has expended a tremendous amount of money to keep up with schools,” Mark said. “That age is going to show one way or another.”