Marple firing ‘a coup’
The action taken by the West Virginia Board of Education on Nov. 15 is akin to a coup organized by political powers wishing to impart their own vision of educational reform. The removal of Dr. Jorea Marple as State Superintendent is a travesty and has darkened the educational system of our great state.
An educational philosophy and vision that included a complete arts education for every student will now be compromised. Upon taking position of superintendent, she funded an elementary dance program in West Virginia schools (North Jefferson being one of the pilot programs) and regularly told members of the West Virginia Department of Education that the arts, foreign language and health/wellness were to be a major priority of every office of the department of education for the next 10 years.
In her brief tenure, I have never heard any educator speak an ill word about her work. I have worked for years in the summers providing professional development for the educators of West Virginia through the WVDE, and until Dr. Marple became superintendent, I felt as if there was little purpose or vision. The vision Dr. Marple brought to WVDE was one that was intrinsically student-centered and focused on educating the whole student. Her removal is nothing short of a political agenda brought forth by a silent minority who struck when the time was right, similar to how snakes hunt, biding their time until the victim is directly in the cross-hairs.
Board President Wade Linger has tried to legitimize the firing of Dr. Marple by citing the lack of changes proposed by the state school audit. The audit, which was published in January, showed how the state could save $90 million. However, it takes time to implement action – something Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin understands, something Dr. Marple understands, and something the WVBOE does not understand.
Mr. Linger’s insistent firing of Dr. Marple and the attempt to name a replacement the same day can only be interpreted one way. There are no dots to connect; rather deductive reasoning leads me to believe the political motivation by business in West Virginia is pushing its agenda on education and wishes to operate the WVDE without the knowledge required.
Education is not a business. It is a safe haven, an art studio, a place to read, write and express your opinion, a place where students identify problems and solve these problems, a place where self-expression is tolerated and opinions are valued, a place where students were the focus until you took away our leader and our reason for looking for policy changes and a leader who was accessible not only to the WVDE, but also teachers and students. The West Virginia Board of Education has done an injustice to the education of every student in West Virginia, and the teachers and parents need to be heard.
Jefferson High School
Town’s character under attack
Imagine this: You are in your car on Route 340 heading to Harpers Ferry or Bolivar. While waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Route 340 and Washington Street, you gaze over at the Jefferson County Visitors Center. But instead of seeing a lovely pastoral scene of pasture and wildflowers encircling the Visitors Center you see a commercial strip with a fast food joint, a Jiffy Lube, and a dry cleaners.
A scene similar to this could become a reality if the Bank of Charles Town has its way. The Bank of Charles Town owns a two-acre strip of land along Route 340 at the Bolivar entranceway. The strip of land is currently zoned “rural” but BCT has petitioned the county to change the zoning to “residential/light industrial/commercial.”
This site is considered the gateway to West Virginia. Tourists come here to enjoy the rural nature of our town and countryside. If we allow that rural atmosphere to be ruined, we are contributing to the diminishment of the tourist experience. The rezoning will adversely affect the merchants of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry, too. Why should anyone go into Bolivar or Harpers Ferry to dine if they can grab a quick bite at a fast food joint and keep on going? If the rezoning to “light industrial/commercial” is approved, the entranceway to West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle is destined to become ugly and cluttered — just like the entranceway to Charles Town at the other end of Route 340.
It is a proven fact that preservation of open space supports economic growth because it attracts visitors and enhances tourism.
State and local historic groups and Civil War groups joined together several years ago to purchase this piece of land. They reached an agreement with the seller and were ready to sign the paperwork when the BCT surreptitiously went to the seller and offered a few thousand more dollars. BCT became the owner, and the historic groups discovered what had happened on the day they were supposed to sign the purchase papers. More recently, the National Park Service has offered to purchase the parcels at the appraised value but the BCT refuses. Rezoning the land from “rural” to a higher density automatically jacks up the value of the land, which many people suspect is the bank’s ulterior motive.
The BCT has asked the Jefferson County Commission to postpone its decision on whether to accept the rezoning proposal until a later date when a new member of the County Commission will be serving who has a record of being friendly to unfettered development of any kind, anywhere, and is insensitive to our cultural and historic assets.
The public will be allowed to provide comments when the County Commission takes up this matter.