On Nov. 16, the day following Marple's termination, Linger warned Phares to take a step back.
"I want you to know that I am being told that it is a bad idea for you to take any kind of resignation action whatsoever until after the WVBOE takes official action offering you the position. The concern is that your doing so will create the appearance that I am overstepping my authority by offering a position on my own. Even if you and I know that is not true, it most certainly can and will be [spun] that way," Linger wrote in an email to Phares.
"I don't need that extra hurdle to jump, and it will definitely harm my chances of convincing the Board to support me on this," Linger wrote. "I think your approach in not taking the appointment for granted is good. But you really need to back that up with the way you deal with your Board."
In December, the board voted unanimously to swear in Phares as the new superintendent, pending a nationwide search to find a more permanent position.
"While the idea was initially mine to appoint him, no action could be taken to hire him without a majority vote. I don't know how anybody could say that we were somehow buddies or something like that. I've only known him in a professional way," Linger said Thursday. "I knew of his record in Marion County before I was even on the board, and his work in Randolph County was well documented. There's nothing more to it. It's really as simple as that."
Linger said he could not comment on when he and/or other board members determined it was time for a new superintendent or when he first considered Phares for the position, because of a pending lawsuit.
Attorneys on behalf of Marple notified the board last month that she intends to sue, claiming she was illegally dismissed and has subsequently suffered permanent injury to her reputation.
An earlier lawsuit on behalf of parents of a public school student claims the board's process of firing Marple breaks open meeting laws.
Linger first declined to comment Thursday over the phone about the emails, and instead insisted on an email interview. He then responded to email questions by saying he could not comment because of the pending legal matters.
But he called later in the afternoon, saying he wanted to comment despite being advised not to.
Linger said Thursday it was clear to him that others also felt the board needed a new direction and that Phares was the right person to lead the board during a critical time for education in the state.
"I didn't necessarily know it ... but I assumed that everybody was feeling the same thing. I knew that it would probably take some time to get a serious national search executed, and we were about to release the audit response and getting into a pretty important legislative cycle where education reform was going to take center stage," he said. "So, having a strong leader in there during this phase was important."
Phillips, who had served on the board since 2005, said she knew nothing about the plans to fire Marple, but said she and Haden were kept out of the loop because the board knew they would not support the decision.
"I don't know Wade's relationship with Jim Phares, but I have to assume it was close," she said. "I couldn't believe it when they fired Jorea. All of the sudden, bam. I still get phone calls asking what happened. I was just amazed."
But, the Randolph County native said hindsight is 20/20.
"Jim had showed up at my house [in Elkins] a week or so before Jorea was fired. He had told me that he had seen Wade and that he wanted to let me know that he understood the board was very disjointed," she said. "It was strange. He had never shown up before."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.