Wade Gilley, a 39-year-old West Virginia college president with a reputation as a successful educational administrator, will be appointed Virginia's secretary education on Tuesday, The Washington Post learned today.
Gilley's appointment by Gov-elect John N. Dalton to the state's top education policy-making job comes as the new administration prepares to deal with a number of major school and college problems that have intensified in recent years.
These include management problems caused by declining enrollments, city and county complaints about the costs they must incur to meet state-set-school standards, teacher displeasure over the loss of collective bargaining rights and costs fof fulfilling new fedeal government requirements for educating handicapped children.
Coincidentally, the two members of the Dalton cabinet will not have responsiblity for state programs for the health care and education of coping with the problem as parents. Gilley is the father of a child mentally retarded by prenatal measles. Dr. Jean L. Harris, recently appointed to be Dalton's secretary of human resources, is the mother of a child with multiple handicaps because of measles.
Parents of handicapped children have successully challenged the adequacy of state financing of handicapped education in lawsuits and continue to criticize the effectiveness of public school programs for their children. The federal law requiring equal education of the handicapped becomes effective next fall. Similar state legislation on the books for years has been ineffective because of inadequate funding. Gilley has been president of Bluefield State College, a four-year school for about 1,500 students in Bluefield, W. Va. Gilley confirmed in a telephone interview that he had been offered the Virginia cabinet post and said he would eccept it.
Dr. Benjamin Morton, chancellor of West Virginia's college system, praised Gilley as a "fine young man and administrator" who at Bluefield State "took a small, stagnant institution and totally turned it around in two years."
Morton said that Gilley increased enrollment by 20 per cent by emphasizing the community college characteristics of the mountain shool on the Virginia-West Virginia border.
Before going to Bluefied, Gilley was president of J. Sargeant Reymonds Community College in Richmond from its 1972 opening until 1976, when the two-year school has an enrollment of more than 7,000 full-time students.
When he was 29, Gilley became president of Wytheville Community College, a former branch of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VPI) and one of the first of Virginia's new community colleges to open.
Gilley's undergraduate and Ph. D. degrees were taken at VPI. He worked as an engineer before beginning his education career.
Like Dalton, Gilley grew up in Southwest Virginia, an area of the state where complaints by local officials against the costs of state-set school standards have been strong. The two became acquainted as Dalton rose in politics and Gilley in college administration in their region.
Gilley's appointment will complete selection of the Republican governor-elect's six-member cabinet. Of the six, only Gilley and Secretary of Transportation Wayne A. Whitham are republicans.
Gilley will be the fourth secretary of education to serve since the Virginia cabinet system was establised in 1972, but will be the first to bring to the job both a specialty in education administration and personal and political ties to the governor.
Dalton has acknowledged that the cabinet salary of $41,200 has been a problem in recruiting a successful educational administrator. Presidents of medium-sized colleges and superintendents of large public school systems, normally prime candidates for such a policy-making job, usually make more than the cabinet salary.
Morton said Gilley's salary at Bluefield State is about $34,000 plus a free home.
Gilley will replace Dr. Robert R. Ramsey, who is resigning to seek a job in higher education.