Cumberland Times-News

January 4, 2013

Ousted West Virginia schools superintendent demands job back

Joanna Marple suing Department of Education

Associated Press

— CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Former state schools superintendent Jorea Marple told the state Board of Education in a letter that it should either reinstate her or present “competent, admissible evidence” of something she did that warranted her abrupt termination in November.

The letter was sent Dec. 28 and received by the board on Thursday, a day after four prominent attorneys notified the state Department of Education that Marple planned to sue over her firing. Thursday’s letter clarified that she planned to sue the school board. The notification is required 30 days before suing a state entity.

The Charleston Daily Mail reported that Marple’s latest letter demands her job back, a formal finding by the board that it acted inappropriately when it fired her and an undisclosed amount of money for wrongful termination.

She claims the board’s actions have caused permanent damage to her reputation.

“Further, she has suffered humiliation and anguish as a direct proximate result of the termination,” the letter states. “Her right to enjoy life free from the unfounded action by the board has been impaired, and she has been severely inconvenienced in her life.”

An education department official said Wednesday it would be inappropriate to comment before seeing any litigation.

Victor Flanagan, one of the attorneys representing the board, said he and the board had not decided whether they would meet with Marple’s attorneys or how they would respond to the letter. He said a meeting was possible.

A petition filed with the state Supreme Court in November alleges that the board violated West Virginia’s open-meetings law when it fired Marple. The parents of a Boone County public school student brought that challenge, citing the lack of notice on the agenda of the board’s Nov. 15 meeting that Marple’s position would be discussed. It seeks to void her firing and block the hiring of a replacement.

But the board revisited Marple’s firing and again voted to oust her in a late November meeting meant to quell any concerns over the open government law. It also voted to hire Randolph County’s schools chief James Phares to replace Marple. He took the oath of office on Wednesday.

Two board members, Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips, voted against Marple’s firing and resigned late last month over her dismissal and how it was handled.