CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Today is the day the state Board of Education is expected to try to wrap in clean linen the load of filth it planted on West Virginians the week before Thanksgiving.
Having decided to fire energetic and innovative Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple, the Manchin faction of the school board didn't even bother to do it legally. Little things like giving proper notice to the public (who might want to participate in how their schools are governed) do not rank high in that outfit. After violating the state Open Meetings Act, the clique was forced to act again. Today, everyone gets to participate in the charade.
That's what happens when you sneak around and don't really want the public to know what you are doing.
Aside from the breathtaking degree of disrespect board President Wade Linger, Gayle Manchin and their followers have shown Dr. Marple and the public, the firing makes no sense. When you compare the board's stated aims with Marple's work, she deserves praise and thanks.
The much lauded "Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia's Primary and Secondary Education System" is an out-of-state consultant's recommendations on how to run schools. It was requested by the governor's office. Board members prepared a response to the audit in March, then fussed over it for most of the year, even hiring an outside $350-a-day person to redo its response to legislators.
Setting aside for now whether the Pennsylvania company that wrote the audit possesses all wisdom on education anywhere, the report does contain good suggestions and data in its 154 pages. Overall, it calls for more student-centered education that gets more bang for every dollar -- words that could have been borrowed directly from Dr. Marple. For example:
• The Department of Education should organize itself around major goals or functions instead of funding sources, the report says. At the same time, the consultant notes that Marple, in the first few months on the job, began to do exactly that, and encourages her to be bold and look at what has worked in other states.
• On school lunches, the consultant recommends choosing an alternative method of federal reimbursement that cuts down on paperwork. Essentially all children appear to eat for free without stigma in the lunch line every day, and the feds pay schools based on their established enrollment of low-, middle- and high-income students. Marple piloted something along those lines -- offering more wholesome and nutritious food in ways more appetizing to students. The federal funding was invisible to students, but by increasing student participation, she used the increased revenue to improve the quality of food for everyone.
• On technology, the report cites a $23 million investment recommended by Marple and suggests even more.
Nothing in the consultant's report requires, or even benefits, from firing Dr. Marple. The move seems to benefit only a handpicked Manchin favorite to replace her.
So, will West Virginia and the proven, accomplished Dr. Marple be subjected to another round of watching the state Board of Education contort itself to elevate a political friend while spouting platitudes about education?
Or, could a majority of the board find enough courage, sense and decency to beg Dr. Marple to return?