The removal last week of Jorea Marple as state superintendent of schools had nothing —
nothing — to do with improving education for children in West Virginia.
If the five members of the West Virginia Board of Education who voted to show Marple the door had any regard for the educational outcomes of West Virgnina’s children, they’d have spent more time learning from her experience and less colluding among themselves how best to replace her, ultimately performing that task with all the subtlety of thugs.
But your children’s educational betterment was not what holds this group’s attention and Marple was simply in the way of calculating board members who saw a way to put into that position someone more pleasing to them.
That person may be Randolph County Superintendent Jim Phares, a former Marion County schools chief who worked with state school board President Wade Linger a decade ago when Linger served there as a volunteer on a school improvement council. Linger nominated Phares for the job mere minutes after sacking Marple.
Linger, a Marion County technology mogul, ought to resign for his role in this shameless power grab that has tossed a hand grenade into the state’s school system at a time when Marple was making progress. She’d only been on the job for 18 months.
We are deeply distressed to see this board violating the state’s Open Meetings law by acting on an agenda item that wasn’t made public prior to the meeting.
Had the public known ahead of time, it’s likely teachers, administrators and many parents would have come to the meeting in support of Marple. And board member Lloyd Jackson certainly would have worked to rearrange his schedule to be present for the vote.
But Linger cares little for following the law here.
His plan to name Phares has been in the works for weeks. According to a news account from Elkins, Phares and Linger chatted in late October about whether Phares would want Marple’s job.
For his part, Phares is more than ready to go. He initially told reporters he’d resign from his current job and be in Charleston for the state board’s meeting today – so sure was he that Linger & Co. would put him in that job.
Linger has denied a “Manchin faction” on the board and fellow board member Gayle Manchin this week called such an idea “outlandish,” but the facts remain: Linger, Gayle Manchin and the three others who voted out Marple all were appointed to their positions by then Gov. Joe Manchin.
Even in a state with a reputation for shady political deals, this power play of Linger’s stands out.
The state board must be held accountable.