Paine exits as WV schools chief, citing family medical issue

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia schools superintendent Steven Paine stepped down from the post Friday to take care of a family member with a serious medical issue.

The state Board of Education held an emergency meeting to accept the retirement of Paine and appoint his interim successor, Clayton Burch, who had been serving as associate superintendent. Burch will act as superintendent as the board continues its search for Paine's replacement, according to a statement from the education department.

Paine earlier this month announced he would be leaving the position by June or sooner depending on when his replacement was picked. In a letter to the school board Friday, Paine said he needed to retire immediately to devote his full attention to his ill family member.

Burch, who will make a $233,000 salary in his new role, was previously the state's interim commerce secretary and acting secretary for the department of education and the arts.

Paine leaves the post following two teacher walkouts in the past two years, with one credited with sparking a wave of teacher unrest in multiple states.

West Virginia educators went on strike for nine days in 2018 over raises and health insurance, fueling similar movements in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Colorado, Washington state, and Los Angeles. Last February, they launched a successful two-day walkout over a wide-ranging bill that tied a pay raise to the formation of charter schools.

The GOP-controlled statehouse later passed a bill to legalize charters during a summertime special legislative session, the timing of which undercut the threat of a third strike.

Paine also drew criticism last year when the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported he downplayed a rise in the number of homeless students as “not a significant increase.” He later said his comments were taken out of context.

Paine joined the department in 2003 and was the state's deputy schools superintendent before taking on the top role between 2005 and 2011. He returned as superintendent in 2017 and is the state's 31st superintendent of schools.