"They went into executive session and the president of the board came out and told me that's what they discussed. I am extraordinarily disappointed in the process utilized here. It was indeed a surprise," Marple said. "There are so many great needs. I'm concerned about the funding formula, and maybe I've been too outspoken about that. The funding formula does not provide equity of access to all of the kids where they can be provided a broad curriculum, and people need to look at that. It's been my experience that sometimes being outspoken is problematic."
Marple said she's also worried about the impact of the loss of Haden and Phillips.
"The resignation of those two from this board is a big thing. It's a big loss for the children and the teachers," she said.
Johnson, whose term on the state board expired Nov. 4, said regardless of the rumors, something doesn't add up.
"We did an evaluation of her in July, and the president came out of executive session and said she had done a satisfactory job in her first year and gave her a $2,000 raise," Johnson said. "This is not in the best interest of the children of West Virginia. She has worked tirelessly to reform our public education.
"She has stood beside teachers and formulated a wonderful nutrition program to try to get children to eat healthy foods," Johnson said. "You can go on and on about the things she has accomplished in her short time here. The members of the board just don't have a reason."
Johnson said the way the matter was handled is telling of the motivations behind the decision.
"I don't understand why this was done in a sneaky and cowardly way and not announced to the public so that people could address it. In a situation like that, somebody must've been talking to somebody about doing it for a while," he said. "A lack of transparency is the last thing we need. You can't go behind the scenes and plot something like this."
Phillips said she is resigning because it's just unfair, and pointed to Phares' professional connections to Marion County, where both Linger and the Manchins are from. Phares is a former Marion County superintendent.
"It was a total surprise. It had never been discussed. It doesn't make any sense," she said. "I believe this was a set-up deal. All of that just doesn't happen for no reason."
Phares' recent outspoken criticisms of some of the state department's strategies handling technology and its "top-down" model make sense now, Philips said.
"It's very strange for a county superintendent to just take on the state superintendent like that," she said.
Linger said the decision to remove Marple had to be made as soon as possible in order to help turn around the state's schools.
"We're coming up on a time when we need real change in education in this state. Now is just the right time to bring in new leadership with new attitudes and forward-thinking views on education," he said. "I'm not going to engage in a bashing session of Dr. Marple. I think she's a great person. But, I think that it's pretty clear that if we want to make changes and move in new directions, then it's necessary for new leadership to be effective in that."
Linger said he's confident Phares can handle the job.
"He did a great job in Marion County when he was there and now he's doing a great job in Randolph County. ... I'm confident we'll go in the direction the board wants to go, the public wants to go, and most of all, where the students need to go," Linger said.
Marple is married to state Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who last week lost his re-election bid to Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.