Board fires W.Va. schools superintendent
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Board of Education fired Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple on Thursday, and two board members who opposed the decision said they will resign.
Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said the board voted 5-2 to terminate Marple's contract, with members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden opposing the decision. The resignations of Phillips and Haden are effective Dec. 31.
Board President Wade Linger said in a statement that the board believes the state's public school system needs a new direction.
"Dr. Marple's concern for and commitment to West Virginia's schoolchildren is well known. She has served them with distinction, and we appreciate her public service. However, 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," Linger said.
Marple said in a telephone interview that she was surprised by the decision.
"I had received only words of encouragement," she said.
She said she had tried as superintendent to identify issues, including ways to fund schools.
"My heart, my soul and my being are with teachers and children and I hope to continue to be an advoate for meeting the needs of the children," she said.
House Education Chair Mary Poling said she was shocked at word of Marple's firing. The Barbour County Democrat credited Marple for addressing curriculum standards and overseeing a new way to measure student performance while responding to the governor's call to trim the state budget.
"I think she was doing a good job," said Poling, a retired educator. "I found no problems with her work... I would like to know why they did that, and know of no reason why they would."
Marple's firing comes as the Legislature prepares to tackle the state's sprawling education system.
"The kids, the teachers and service personnel across the state will feel the effects at a time when we can ill afford it," Lee said.
A recent wide-ranging audit of West Virginia's public schools describes a low-performing education system rigidly controlled by a state-level bureaucracy and a thick stack of policy-directing laws.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee also was surprised the firing of Marple, whom he called a strong advocate for students, teachers and service professional. He also said he was appalled by the manner in which the board handled her firing, without warning.
"Dr. Marple has done a great job in her short tenure as superintendent," Lee said. "It was completely out of the blue to me. Dr. Marple is widely respected, not only by her peers but by education employees around the state."
Marple had served as the state's schools chief since March 1, 2011, and previously served as deputy superintendent. Her husband is Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who lost a bid for a sixth term in the Nov. 6 general election.