In earlier interviews, DOE employees praised Marple.
"All our programs have blossomed since she came," Goff told the Gazette in August. Last year, school systems bought more than $100,000 in fresh foods from West Virginia farmers. Every eligible county system is now signed up for the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.
Marple insisted that the DOE cooperate with other agencies, Caseman said. "The cooperative spirit spread, so we've gotten many more people to the table to maximize children's health efforts."
The Bureau of Public Health's Chuck Thayer said he too was "stunned" by the news of Marple's firing. Marple significantly expanded a children's-health partnership between the BPH and Department of Education, he said.
"The DHHR now directs about $1 million toward that partnership," he said. "We fund regional wellness coordinators in the schools to help develop wellness activities, anti-smoking activities, that kind of thing.
"We very much want the Office of Healthy Schools to be sustained. And we're worried about that."
A major part of OHS federal funding will run out in February. Marple told the Gazette in October that she was committed to finding ways to keep the office in operation.
Under Marple, the Office of Healthy Schools stopped telling the Legislature that five-day-a-week physical education is too expensive and began advocating daily physical activity instead.
The OHS has been negotiating with Playworks, a national program that helps schools create five day-a-week physical activity programs, OHS physical activity coordinator Mary Weikle told the Gazette last summer.
"What's going to happen to all that?" asked Jenny Phillips, who resigned from the school board last Thursday in protest.
"If Dr. Marple had been doing a bad job, I could understand wanting to change," she said. "But her evaluations were excellent. In every aspect of what's needed in a child's life, from academics to health, she has been there."
She said the unannounced, dismissive way Marple's firing was handled was "horrible" and "a travesty."
Caseman is worried about the upcoming legislative session. "This close to the session, how do we prepare, to make sure important children's health programs don't get cut?" she said. "Those of us who advocate for children's health don't have a lot of money for lobbyists. With Dr. Marple, we could count on the Department of Education. Now we may have to circle our wagons."
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1798.