Cumberland Times-News

December 28, 2012

W.Va. education board members resign over firing

Two were opposed to dismissal of former state schools superintendent

lawrence messina
Associated Press

— CHARLESTON, W.Va — West Virginia Board of Education members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden have resigned, following through on vows prompted by the abrupt firing of Jorea Marple as state schools superintendent last month.

Phillips and Haden each sent a letter Thursday to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The two had dissented when the board voted Nov. 15 to dismiss Marple, who was then told to clear out her office that day.

Praising Marple’s credentials and performance, Phillips and Haden each expressed outrage following the firing and said then that they would leave the board.

“I just abhor the method that they used in firing Dr. Marple,” Haden, a Kanawha County resident and retired educator, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Phillips wrote that she “can no longer serve on the Board that shows such a lack of regard for a person’s reputation and livelihood.”

The board had unanimously selected Marple — a veteran educator, administrator and author — in February 2011 after a search and interview process. In the wake of her ouster, the board issued a statement that referred to lagging student performance and a desire to “head in a new direction with new leadership.”

Haden said she’s asked Tomblin to choose someone from the Eastern Panhandle, which is leading the state for population growth, for her seat.

She also expressed thanks for her near-decade on the board. Her term was to expire next year.

The board voted earlier this month to hire James Phares as superintendent. Endorsed by Board President Wade Linger within hours of Marple’s firing, Phares has been schools chief in Pocahontas, Marion and, most recently, Randolph County. He steps down from that job to take the state post Wednesday.