By Katie Kuba
Senior Staff Writer
The West Virginia Board of Education reaffirmed its decision to fire former State Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple Thursday in Charleston but delayed tapping a permanent successor until a nationwide search is completed.
Following a 90-minute executive session, state board members voted 6-2 to terminate Marple's employment, with state board members Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips dissenting. After a second 90-minute executive session, board members unanimously endorsed current state superintendent Chuck Heinlein previously the state's deputy superintendent to act in the position until its next meeting Dec. 12.
But exactly who will step in as Marple's permanent replacement remains an unanswered question. State board president Wade Linger indicated that the board would select yet another superintendent at the Dec. 12 meeting who will serve on a temporary basis while the board conducts a "serious nationwide search" for a permanent superintendent of schools.
The Randolph County School Board found itself at the center of the controversy over the legality of Marple's firing at a Nov. 15 meeting when state Board of Education President Wade Linger Jr. said he wanted Superintendent Dr. James Phares to be selected as Marple's replacement. Phares told The Inter-Mountain Tuesday that the state board had requested him to be present at Thursday's meeting and said the board would have "a review of (his) candidacy for state superintendent" at that time.
Thursday's agenda contained an item denoted as "Oath of Office," but no oath was administered, and Phares did not appear at the board meeting.
Following a nearly two-hour public comment period during which a total of 20 individuals speaking on behalf of various educational organizations sharply criticized the board's decision to fire Marple as well as the manner in which it was done, Linger called for a motion to adjourn into executive session. Haden who resigned in protest after the board abruptly dismissed Marple without placing the item on the Nov. 15 meeting agenda demanded that Linger provide a reason for the executive session.
"I've got to protest," Haden said. "I got blindsided the other time now, please state your purpose for going into executive session."
Linger replied that state law permits going into executive to discuss personnel matters.
Board member Jenny Phillips, who along with Robert Dunlevy, Gayle Manchin and Michael Green participated in the meeting via telephone, made a motion to table reconsidering Marple's termination until the W.Va. Supreme Court rules on a petition to block Marple's firing and have her reinstated. However, the motion was defeated by a vote of 6-2.