By Katie Kuba
Senior Staff Writer
West Virginia State Board of Education member and Elkins resident Jenny Phillips has demonstrated that she's a woman of her word.
Just as she said she would at a Nov. 15 state board of education meeting, Phillips officially resigned from her post, effective Dec. 31, in a letter to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin dated Dec. 27.
At the Nov. 15 meeting, Phillips - along with board member Priscilla Haden - announced her intention to resign from her post in protest of former state superintendent Dr. Jorea Marple's abrupt firing, which blindsided the two board members as well as many teachers and administrators in the education community.
According to the Associated Press, Haden also followed through on her pledge to resign, also sending the board a letter on Thursday.
Phillips emailed a copy of the Dec. 27 resignation letter to The Inter-Mountain, in which she had written, "It is with a great deal of sadness that I am tendering my resignation to the West Virginia State Board of Education. I can no longer serve on the board that shows such a lack of regard for a person's reputation and livelihood as was done in the firing of Superintendent Jorea Marple."
"Whatever true reason for their action I may never know," Marple's letter continues, "but their action displayed a lack of caring or consideration for Dr. Marple. She had devoted her life to education and illegal action destroyed any further achievement she may have made for children."
The "illegal action" is a reference to what some believe was a violation of the open meetings law that allegedly occurred when the board voted 5-2 to fire Marple without specifically listing a recommendation for her termination on the agenda of the Nov. 15 meeting.
On the heels of the controversial vote on Marple's firing, the board convened in executive session a second time to discuss appointing then-Deputy Superintendent Chuck Heinlein to replace Marple. Shortly after, board president Wade Linger said he wanted Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares to serve as Marple's long-term replacement.
When it met Nov. 29, the state board reaffirmed its decision to terminate Marple, again by a vote of 5-2. But in response to widespread public outcry, board president Wade Linger announced the board's intention to conduct a comprehensive nationwide search.
However, Linger said the board still needed to appoint a short-term state superintendent of schools while the search was being conducted.
During its Dec. 12 meeting at Lincoln County High School, the board voted unanimously to appoint Phares state superintendent of schools on a short-term basis over the only other candidate who had been nominated - assistant state superintendent Dr. Kathy D'Antoni.
Phares accepted the position and said he would submit his resignation - which goes into effect Dec. 30 - to the Randolph County School Board at its Dec. 17 meeting.
Despite their support for Marple, Phillips and Haden said they voted to appoint Phares to the post because they believed he was the best person for the job.
"Within our discussion, Dr. Phares was the best candidate," Phillips told The Inter-Mountain following the Dec. 12 vote. "He's big and bold. He's a great leader."
In her resignation letter, Phillips also expressed her hope that the state board will continue to address issues surrounding children in 'out-of-home' situations," which she made one of her main priorities during her term of service.