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State Board wise to be sure firing was legal

November 27, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

State superintendents of schools keep their jobs only at "the will and pleasure" of the West Virginia Board of Education, according to the state constitution. What that means, quite simply, is that if a majority of board members are not happy with a superintendent for any reason, they can terminate her employment.

It appears that is what board members were thinking earlier this month, when they fired former Superintendent Jorea Marple.

After questions were raised about whether the firing was handled legally, board members signalled they may vote again on the matter, perhaps as early as this week, to ensure the decision is binding.

Some of Marple's defenders have demanded she be reinstated. Officials of the state's two teachers' unions have expressed outrage over her termination.

In addition to calls for Marple's firing to be reversed, it has been suggested state legislators should investigate the board's action. Some critics condemn what a majority of board members did as a "power grab."

That makes no sense. The board neither gained nor lost power by firing Marple. Its authority remained precisely the same.

"General supervision" of public schools in the state is the responsibility of the board, according to the state constitution. The superintendent in effect manages schools as directed by state law and the board's guidance.

More than routine management of schools is needed, as many West Virginians recognize. Improvements in education, through a major reform campaign, are essential.

That will require coordinated efforts involving the Legislature and the state board - with specific initiatives under the direction of the state superintendent. All involved will have to be in agreement on goals, strategy and tactics.

Clearly, state board members who voted earlier this month to fire Marple are not confident she is the best person to be in the superintendent's office as part of major reform.

As we noted previously, it would have been appropriate for the state board to be more specific concerning why it has lost faith in Marple's leadership.

Still, if a majority of state board members believe different leadership is needed to make the massive improvements needed in West Virginia schools, they have the authority to make such change. That is beyond reasonable question. So, it may be wise for the board to revisit its action in firing Marple - but only to ensure it was handled legally.

 
 

 

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