Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 29, 2012

W.Va. ed board affirms superintendent firing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Citing chronically poor student performance ratings, West Virginia's Board of Education again voted to fire Jorea Marple as state schools superintendent Thursday after fielding harsh criticism over her dismissal.

Two former board members and at least seven active or retired teachers were among the 19 speakers who praised Marple, denounced her firing or called for her reinstatement during the meeting's 90-minute public comment period.

"While it's your right to hire and fire at will, we are shocked at Dr. Marple's abrupt termination, and the manner in which it was conducted," said Jenny Santilli, a Harrison County foreign language teacher who spoke on behalf of the state's association of those educators as its president.

Lloyd Jackson joined the five fellow board members who had voted Nov. 15 to oust Marple. President Wade Linger called for Thursday's vote after a lengthy closed-door session that followed the public comments. The board later adopted as its position a statement read by Linger that, among other factors, referred to how state students score below the national average on 21 of the 24 indicators of student performance as reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The board then again met privately to discuss hiring a new superintendent. Linger has endorsed Randolph County schools chief James Phares for the job.

As they had on Nov. 15, board members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden opposed Marple's firing. After Thursday's vote, Haden noted how the public speakers had called Marple a visionary and an innovative problem-solver.

"Dr. Marple is and was an excellent superintendent," Haden said.

Both she and Phillips have said they'll resign at the end of the year over firing and how it was handled.

The board's 5-2 dismissal of Marple came about 19 months after it unanimously selected her following a lengthy search process. As the topic did not appear on that meeting's agenda, the board scheduled Thursday's do-over amid concerns it had violated the state open meetings law. Alleging such a violation, a subsequent legal challenge by a pair of school parents asks the Supreme Court to void Marple's firing.

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