Heather Deskins, the board's legal counsel, said an executive session does not legally have to be listed on the board's agenda.
"But that doesn't mean you have to do it," said Julian Martin, a 76-year-old retired teacher from Lincoln County who accused the board of firing Marple at the request of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. "I can't believe you're going through this again."
Martin believes the firing was Manchin's revenge against Marple's husband, Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who lost his re-election bid Nov. 6.
Several Capitol police offers were asked to monitor the board meeting after Martin and White got into a heated debate just before the board entered its first closed session.
Leaders of the state's teachers unions, Dale Lee and Judy Hale, praised Marple's work and asked the board to be more transparent about their reasons for firing her.
"I am pleased now. They were really premature in naming who they were planning to put in as superintendent," Hale said. "That's not an objection to Dr. Phares, but people in West Virginia deserve a search.
"Still, the board has lost a great deal of credibility and they've got a lot to prove to the public and need to build up some trust," she said.
Hale also was dismayed that four board members - Gayle Manchin, Dunlevy, Green and Phillips - attended the meeting by phone.
Lee blamed political goals of "the Manchin faction" on the board for Marple's firing. Before the decision to broaden the search for her replacement, he called the board's actions "unlawful and despicable."
While he was governor, Manchin appointed five of the six board members who voted to fire Marple, with the exception of Jackson.
"The only reason you're clearing the air now is because of the lawsuit. It appears to the public you've already chosen a successor ... someone who will do exactly as you say without questions," Lee said.
The board is required to respond to the lawsuit's allegations by today.
Robert Baker, chairman of the West Virginia Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission, addressed those who initially voted to fire Marple Nov. 15 as "the gang of five," and said the odds are against them.
He said the board knowingly violated the Open Meetings Act, even after receiving legal advice.
"You shut the door on a lot of people," Baker said. "You can't reconsider an illegal act and thereby make it legal."
Early on in the meeting, Phillips and Haden asked to delay any action on Marple's position until a decision was reached regarding the lawsuit. That request was denied.
By the meeting's end, Linger issued an apology to the crowd.
"I have learned a lot of lessons over the past couple of weeks. I am just a businessman who was asked to serve on this state board," he said. "I can see now why a lot of people don't want to serve in state government. I approached this matter as a lot of businessmen would and I have now learned that you cannot always do that in the public sector.
"Despite the difficulty of these decisions, I believe this is the right thing to do," he said. "If I have made any mistakes over the past couple of weeks, I apologize to the people of West Virginia. It was always my intent to do the best I could for the students."
The board will revisit the issue at next month's meeting, when a new temporary superintendent to step in for Heinlein could be appointed.Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.