What kind of secret backstabbing happened Thursday at the state Board of Education? Did loyalists of Sen. Joe Manchin conspire clandestinely to dump Superintendent Jorea Marple -- a week after her husband, Darrell McGraw, lost re-election as West Virginia's attorney general?
The West Virginia Education Association expressed outrage, saying:
"WVEA is appalled at the actions of the Manchin appointees on the state Board of Education. ... Actions of the BOE appear to be politically motivated, and that is a shame. ... The Manchin appointees clearly have an agenda of their own and it is not necessarily in the best interest of students. A lifelong educator who is acknowledged by her peers has been let go by a group of people who have little if any knowledge about teaching or public education."
At the board's first meeting after the election, the printed agenda contained no mention of the superintendent's status. But five members voted to go into secret session, then came out and fired Marple on the spot, immediately -- without explanation.
Dr. Marple told the five "you have a duty to provide me with cause" -- but only bureaucratic drivel ensued. The board issued a statement praising Marple, but saying "this is a time for a change in direction." It didn't cite anything wrong with the previous direction.
The five who committed this abomination were Manchin's wife, Gayle, plus Wade Linger, Bill White, Bob Dunlevy and Mike Green.
In protest, the board's two other members, Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips, plan to resign.
West Virginians deserve a full explanation of this disgusting development. Dr. Marple is renowned as a champion of high-quality education. She has spent her life serving the Mountain State. She earned a doctorate in her field and wrote a book on improving schools. While she was principal of Charleston's Tiskelwah Elementary, it was declared a National School of Excellence. She served as Kanawha County superintendent, then advanced to state-level governance.
In 2011, when Marple was a finalist for the superintendent post, her two rivals were both Manchin figures: Mark Anthony Manchin, the senator's cousin, and Carolyn Long, a Manchin appointee to the West Virginia University Board of Governors. At that time, we said the senator's wife shouldn't be on the state board, because she now lives in Washington, not West Virginia.
Will Mark Anthony Manchin or Long -- or some other Manchin crony -- now emerge as a favorite to succeed Marple?
This sudden dismissal of an acclaimed superintendent is a jolt to West Virginia. The public deserves to know why it was done. Education committees of the Legislature should launch an investigation. West Virginians need answers.