Explain Surprise Firing to Public

Few thoughtful West Virginians would disagree with the comment Thursday by state Board of Education President Wade Linger that “we need real change in education in this state.”

But many, we suspect, have questions about the event that prompted Linger to make that point. He did so after the board, by a 5-2 vote, agreed to fire state school Superintendent Jorea Marple.

Marple herself seemed surprised. Two board members who disagreed with the decision, Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips, resigned in protest.

Clearly, some sort of coup was staged. There was no discussion – at least not in public – of firing Marple before the board voted to do so.

Just as surprising – again, at least to the public – was a suggestion by Linger that James Phares, superintendent of Randolph County schools, be hired to fill the vacancy. The board, with no formal search for a new state superintendent, is scheduled to vote on Phares next week.

Clearly, some board members have given a substantial amount of thought to the change.

But Marple, who has been state superintendent only since March 2011, was given no reason for being fired. Linger told a reporter, “The reason the board needed to take this action today is that we’re coming up on a time when we need real change in education in this state, some new reforms, and now is just the right time to bring in new leadership with new attitudes and forward thinking views on education.”

Well, yes, just such a superintendent is needed. But the public – that would be West Virginians who pay for schools – deserves more of an explanation of what it is the five board members want done that Marple wasn’t capable of accomplishing, and why Phares is thought to be a better leader.

Marple served at the will and pleasure of the state board, so legally, she is due no explanation. Again, however, West Virginians pay handsomely for the right to expect one.