Cumberland Times-News

November 21, 2012

West Virginia court asked to void school chief’s firing

BOE reveals response to school system audit


Associated Press

— CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education on Wednesday adopted its long-awaited response to a statewide audit of public schools, suggesting immediate action in critical areas such as teacher recruitment and retention, boosting the use of technology and improving efficiency in numerous departments, including reorganizing the Department of Education.

During a four-hour meeting, the board released the 130-page response to the wide-ranging audit that was commissioned last year by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and criticized the school system as being too bogged down in state-level bureaucracy.

“We are not satisfied with our current levels of performance and progress,” board President Wade Linger said in prepared remarks in the response. “The board has begun the process of establishing measurable objectives that challenge all schools to improve student learning. We are developing initiatives on the use of time, teaching, technology, operational and management efficiency, raising educational quality statewide and accreditation restructuring — the game changers that will move the system forward more quickly.”

He said the board didn’t expect a single audit to act as its blueprint for the future, but it was a good start to learn what areas need the most improvement.

The response noted the Legislature must amend state law to address many recommendations, and some suggestions also involve federal funding.

The audit has said the recommendations could save about $90 million a year. While potential savings could be realized, the board said “there is a great need to reallocate this money, where possible, to be better applied in meeting the challenges raised in the audit.”

The board mostly agreed with 16 specific recommendations on professional development for educators, including establishing state-level leadership that “has become fragmented” by an erosion of powers and responsibilities allowed in the state constitution. It also supported calls in the audit addressing teacher recruitment and hiring.

The board rejected an audit recommendation to mandate 180 days of instructional time. Instead the board said the department is exploring a year-round calendar “which spreads the required days throughout the year to avoid student regression of learning.”

“Quality of instruction is not about time spent in seats, but engagement of students resulting in in-creased academic ach-ievement,” the report said.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The parents of a special-needs child asked the West Virginia Supreme Court on Wednesday to declare the firing of former Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple void, calling it an ambush termination that violated the state’s open meetings law.

Mountain State Justice filed an emergency petition with the court on behalf of James Hicks and Michelle Hicks, whose child is a fourth-grader at Brookview Elementary in Foster.

The petition asked the court to temporarily block the West Virginia Board of Education from naming a new superintendent until a hearing is held and to temporarily reinstate Marple.

Board members voted 5-2 last Thursday to fire Marple, whom they appointed to the $165,000-a-year post in March 2011. The recommendation to fire Marple was not specifically listed on the board’s agenda, although other personnel actions were outlined.

“Had the Petitioners and other citizens been notified and aware of certain Board members intention to act on the Superintendent’s position, they and other citizens would have wanted to attend the meeting,” the petition states.

The petition also claims that Marple’s firing was predetermined in discussions held outside regular meetings.