By Rick Boothby, Esq.
Question: What if our current superintendent may be leaving before his or her term expires in June 2013? Do we have to hire an interim superintendent? How long can or must an interim superintendent serve?
Answer: In 2009 the Legislature amended the provisions of W. Va. Code § 18-4-1 for filling an unexpired superintendent’s term. In the event of a vacancy in the superintendent's position that results in an incomplete term, the board may appoint an interim county superintendent as follows:
- To serve until the following July 1 if the vacancy occurs before March 1.
- To serve until July 1 of the next following year if the vacancy occurs on or after March 1, unless a superintendent is appointed sooner.
Although a county board has the option of appointing an interim superintendent when its superintendent leaves office before the end of his or her term, it is not required to do so.
In the case of a vacancy occurring before March 1, the statute requires that an appointed interim superintendent shall "serve until the following July 1.” This means that an interim superintendent appointed in these circumstances cannot be displaced by the hire of a regular superintendent at any time before his or her fixed term concludes at the end of the day on June 30 of the current year. It appears then that where a vacancy occurs in the office of county superintendent before March 1, a school board, if it appoints an interim superintendent, must do so for a term to end on the next June 30. The county board has no authority to appoint an interim superintendent for a shorter or a longer term under these circumstances. The period for the interim is fixed by statute. Having said all of that, there would appear to be no prohibition against the appointed interim superintendent resigning before June 30. Were that to occur, the remainder of the term through June 30 could conceivably be filled by the appointment of a regular superintendent, if desired.
In the case of a vacancy occurring on or after March 1, a county board has more flexibility. The statute authorizes the appointment of an interim superintendent to serve a term that will end not on the following July 1, but rather on the next July 1 after that. But it also provides that the interim superintendent’s term will end on an earlier date if the school board appoints a regular superintendent to take over before the interim’s term expires on that next July 1. In general then, interim superintendents appointed to fill a vacancy that occurred on or after March 1 have no guarantee of any fixed period of employment. So, for example, if an interim superintendent were appointed on April 15 to fill a vacancy that occurred on April 1, that interim appointment may last until July 1 of the next calendar year, or it may end at any time before then depending on when the county board appoints a regular superintendent to take over.