With Marple's abrupt firing and two pending lawsuits against the board for its actions, Combs is aware that it's a controversial time to be affiliated with the West Virginia Board of Education.
"Obviously, I do know about the activities of the past. But those things happened before I became involved, and my passion for education and wanting to help our students surpasses any of those worries I might have had based on what's been in the news lately," she said. "I'm coming in with the attitude that I want to work with all of the board members to do what we can for education."
Combs graduated from Mountain State University in 2004 with a bachelor of science degree in organizational leadership and development.
State Board of Education member Bill White, who served as the founding dean of MSU's School of Leadership and Professional Development, was appointed to the board in 2010.
Mountain State's primary accreditation was recently revoked by the Higher Learning Commission, which cited a series of leadership problems at the school. The University of Charleston has since taken over operations at the Beckley and Martinsburg campuses.
White said he has not worked with Combs in the past, but is pleased with her appointment because he had requested that the governor appoint more women.
Since both Phillips and Priscilla Haden resigned following Marple's sudden firing, Gayle Manchin is the only woman serving on the board. Former Randolph County Schools Superintendent Jim Phares has since replaced Marple as state superintendent of schools.
Combs' experience also includes a certificate in community economic development from the Virginia Institute for Economic Development at Virginia Tech and a certificate for nonprofit organization management from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
She will join the board for its regular monthly meeting in Charleston on Feb. 13.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.