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State Board meeting made issues messier

December 1, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

The West Virginia Board of Education - the regulatory body for schools in the Mountain State - sure has a lot to learn. The handling of former state Superintendent of Schools Jorea Marple's termination was messy at best and possibly actionable at worst.

Further, it has been a process that has left the public and its best interest in the background, focusing instead on what seems like a personal agenda to oust Marple no matter the cost.

Remember the duck test? "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck," so the saying goes. That's the figurative analogy for a form of inductive reasoning.

It appears the state board didn't use any reasoning at all when looking at the future of education in West Virginia. Instead, a majority of members applied a literal "duck" test when handling this situation.

As a verb, the word duck has several definitions. Among them are the following:

-To stoop or bend suddenly; bob.

-To plunge the whole body or the head momentarily under water.

-To avoid or evade (a blow, unpleasant task, etc.); dodge: to duck a hard right; to duck an embarrassing question.

Let's recap. The state board did bend suddenly, changing course from the positive review and salary increase it recently had given Marple to deciding she no longer served its will.

Then, it appeared Randolph County Superintendent James Phares was all but guaranteed Marple's job. Yet, the board veered suddenly again - this time at its meeting Thursday. Phares was a no-show, and the state board instead is discussing a nationwide search to fill the superintendent's role.

Thursday's meeting, which also was supposed to provide answers, closure and meet the legal litmus test for handling Marple's termination, really didn't accomplish much at all.

The state board - at least a majority of the voting body - has been conducting its business as though its head really is under water. And it has ventured into very dark, murky waters where the public spotlight has been extinguished. Thursday's show for the cameras doesn't undo what clearly appears to have occurred previously behind closed doors.

Finally, some board members seem as though they are trying to avoid or evade questions to which we feel taxpayers deserve answers.

After Thursday, we now have more questions than answers. The public comment period of the meeting was nothing more than a farce. The voting majority of the board showed no interest, concern or regard for anything other than its mission to remove Marple.

We find this sad, very sad, indeed. If anyone failed to do one's duty, it was the state board, not its superintendent.

Should Phares be approved to fill in as state superintendent while a search is under way for a permanent replacement, he certainly will have his hands full. He's facing an even bigger mess than the one he had to clean up here at the start of his tenure in Randolph County.



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