CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State schools superintendent Steve Paine is departing even sooner than expected.

The state Board of Education has announced an emergency 3 p.m. meeting today to accept Paine’s retirement, effective immediately.

The meeting announcement says the state board will also “appoint a State Superintendent of Schools.”

Paine announced his intended retirement early this month, although at the time he said his retirement would be effective June 30 or before then if the state Board of Education finds a suitable replacement.

State school board member Tom Campbell, a former delegate who was visiting on the House floor this morning, said he has been pleased by Paine’s performance and that he will be tough to replace.

“He’s done a great job,” Campbell said. “I was president of the board when we hired him, and he hit the ground running. He was great to work with from the start.”

Campbell said the three years that Paine has served is the average nationwide.

“It’s a very demanding position, so he’s met that,” Campbell said. “I wish him nothing but the best.”

Campbell said a placeholder needs to be named today but the search for a superintendent will continue. “By code, you have to have a superintendent of schools,” Campbell said, adding that the person named today could be an applicant for the role permanently.

When speaking with reporters the day Paine announced his retirement, Gov. Jim Justice said he hates to lose the superintendent and left the door open for a possible leave of absence instead.

“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 at the time.

Paine has  been 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.

When the state board most recently met Feb. 12, Paine was not present.

When Paine first announced his departure, he said he needed to tend to health problems his wife has been facing.

“Unfortunately, a member of my family is facing a health crisis and I want to be fully present for my family,” he stated then.

Paine also has faced some controversy in his superintendent role.

For example, he faces a federal lawsuit filed by lobbyist Jason Webb, who contends Paine tried to get him fired from representing the standardized testing company ACT.