Other audit items acted upon by Marple include giving schools more flexibility with teacher mentoring funds, requiring regular reports on efforts to aid low-performing schools, and creating leadership teams to unify what had been fragmented programs aimed at boosting student achievement.
The department has pursued a statewide computer bus routing system, as recommended by the audit, and expects to award the resulting contract by Jan. 1. Responding to other audit findings, the department has also revised its purchasing policies, and begun revamping the way it helps professional development.
But the board's Nov. 21 endorsement of the audit also showed how much further it wishes to go.
Besides targeting the bureaucracy as cited by Manchin, the board singled out the audit's call for filling teacher vacancies by merit instead of seniority. Agreeing that the best person should get the job, the board's draft response concludes that seniority should not be the only factor considered. While the department had not acted on that recommendation, both the audit and the board's draft response noted that it would require changes to state law.
Other recommendations highlighted by the board last week include giving principals more power over hiring and firing, and beginning a "meaningful conversation" regarding "the struggles facing small county school systems and the future of the 55-county board system."
The board's response to the audit followed its 5-2 vote on Nov. 15 to dismiss Marple, less than two years after it unanimously selected her following a lengthy search process. Amid concerns about whether it complied with the state's open meetings law, the board plans to return to the topic on Thursday. That meeting's agenda also includes discussion of hiring a new superintendent.
The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the state School Service Personnel Association believes philosophical differences between some board members and the department led to Marple's firing, citing conversations with board members. Those groups and the West Virginia Education Association have decried her dismissal, and have vowed to seek answers at the Thursday meeting.