School & District Management

W. Va. Chief’s Firing Prompts Pushback

By Andrew Ujifusa — December 04, 2012 1 min read

The aftershocks continue from the firing of West Virginia state schools chief Jorea Marple, whose dismissal at two separate state board of education meetings last month took many in that state by surprise.

The state board of education voted 5-2 at its Nov. 15 meeting to fire Ms. Marple, who had been in her position since March 2011 and previously served as a deputy superintendent. No official cause was given, since she was an “at-will” employee, but the board’s president, L. Wade Linger Jr., said in a subsequent statement: “The West Virginia board of education believes this is a time for a change in direction. As such, we think it is important for new leadership.”

After the vote, a petition filed by Mountain State Justice, a public-interest law firm in Charleston, W. Va., on behalf of two parents, argued that the vote violated West Virginia’s open-meetings law because a decision regarding Ms. Marple’s position as superintendent was not listed on the public agenda available prior to the board’s meeting. A lawyer for Mountain State Justice said the court was due to issue a ruling on the petition after Nov. 30.

Jorea Marple

Mr. Linger then acknowledged concerns about the procedure leading up to the vote, and announced that the board would reconsider Ms. Marple’s dismissal on Nov. 29. At that meeting, the board voted again to fire Ms. Marple by a 6-2 vote, despite protests by some who attended. Ms. Marple said after the Nov. 15 vote that she was surprised by the decision and had overseen progress in the state education department, particularly in expectations for student achievement and behavior. The two board members who voted not to fire her, Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips, announced after the Nov. 15 vote that they would resign from the board, effective Dec. 31.

An efficiency audit of the state’s public K-12 system, published in January at the request of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, had criticized the department for its bureaucracy and for not pursuing significant changes in K-12 policy.

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2012 edition of Education Week as W. Va. Chief’s Firing Prompts Pushback

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