CHARLESTON, W.Va. –State School Superintendent Dr. Steve Paine has announced his retirement.

In a Wednesday morning news release, Paine said a family member is facing a serious health issue.

Steve Paine

“After months of consideration and heartfelt discussion with my family, I have decided to retire my position as the State Superintendent of West Virginia.” Paine said in the release, “It has been an honor and my privilege to serve this state, the Governor, and the students of West Virginia. Unfortunately, a member of my family is facing a health crisis and I want to be fully present for my family. I have grown children, one grandchild who I adore, and hopes for more grandchildren in the future. It is time for me to dedicate myself to spending time with my family.”

Later Wednesday during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline,” Paine said the situation with his family member had worsened in recent weeks.

“They’ve had excruciating chronic pain since September and it’s crescendoed and it’s gotten worse and worse and worse and in the past month and a half it’s just unbearable,” Paine said. “As a husband and father I’ve got to do what I can do to take care of that.”

Paine said his retirement is effective June 30 or before then if the state Board of Education finds a suitable replacement. He said several important accountability pieces have been put into place by Gov. Jim Justice and state education leaders during the last few years that makes him feel better about retirement.

“We have the fidelity of implementation of the accountability system, training of teachers in mathematics, strategies at work to raise student achievement, training principal leadership, training future superintendent leadership and holding local school boards more accountable for the results in their district—-I think we have the foundation which we can improve,” Paine said. “I think the foundation is in place and I think it’s time for someone to come in and build upon where we are.”

When speaking with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jim Justice said he hates to lose Paine and left the door open for a possible leave of absence if Paine is interested.

Gov. Jim Justice

“If he wants to have some kind of leave of absence and be able to have the option to come back because I believe he’s that good,” Justice said.

If not, Justice said the state School Board will look for someone who has the qualities to move education forward.

“I hate this really bad because I think Steve Paine has done a fabulous job and he’s a really, really good man who is a terrific friend,” Justice said.

Paine is currently serving his second stint as the state’s top education official. He served from 2005-2011 and then returned in March 2017. He was state superintendent during both recent teachers strikes.

“My first go-around I wasn’t so sure it was time to retire but I went anyway. But they say you’ll really know it when it’s time to retire and I can tell you right now it is the right time for me, my wife, my children and my family,” he said.

State BOE President Dave Perry said he accepts Paine’s resignation reluctantly.

“Dr. Paine has provided impeccable leadership to the state’s education system and his leadership will be deeply missed. Under his direction, the department has implemented an aggressive plan to improve mathematics achievement, enhance curriculum, establish an accountability system, create a system to develop principal leadership and taken bold steps to address the social emotional needs of students,” Perry said.

According to the news release, the state BOE plans to move expeditiously to find a new superintendent. The board is next scheduled to meet Feb. 12.