CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's education community was dealt a devastating and shocking blow when Dr. Jorea Marple was fired from her position as state superintendent of schools. Equally shocking was that she was not afforded the courtesy of a reason for the firing.
When the board met just hours later and board President Wade Linger suggested hiring Dr. James Phares as the full-time superintendent, it left no doubt in anyone's mind that the board's reasoning was politically motivated.
Like many other educators across our state, I am deeply saddened and sickened by the decision of the state board. I am reminded that once again our students will be the ones to pay the price. As a 14-year educator, I cannot help but reflect on two very important lessons that have, unfortunately, been reinforced by this decision.
Lesson 1: It is not really about the kids in West Virginia. While those on the state board would like to lead the public to believe that this is the case, it simply is not. It is about furthering political agendas. Firing Dr. Marple is certainly evidence of this.
The state board will be hard-pressed to find a greater visionary or champion of students and teachers than Dr. Jorea Marple. Thanks to Dr. Marple, students across our state are learning to love reading through READ WV. Dr. Marple has also focused on the importance of the arts in education because she knows and understands that the arts not only enrich our students' lives but also enhance the development of 21st-century skills such as creativity, communication, collaboration and self-direction.
Under her direction, offices in the West Virginia Department of Education began to work closely with teachers and really listen to them concerning their students' needs. Teachers began to have more opportunities for quality professional development through state initiatives such as Teacher Leadership Institute, and teachers were involved in writing and creating quality resources for the state's repository Teach 21.
Lesson 2: That faction commonly known in the education community as the "good ol' boys club" is still very much alive and well in the state of West Virginia. For those not familiar with this term, the good ol' boys club system functions on the premise of let the little girls work in the classroom and the big boys make the decisions in the office. It is unfortunate that Gayle Manchin, as a woman, is a willing participant in this club. Kudos to Pricilla Haden and Jenny Phillips for their refusal to participate in the farce any longer.
My heart aches for Dr. Marple, but even more so for the students and teachers in this state. The board has clearly demonstrated that the students and teachers are not even a close second to their political aspirations. Teachers, students and parents across this state have lost all faith and trust that the state Board of Education will do what is best for students and teachers. Along with our faith and trust, the state board has lost our respect. Removing Dr. Marple was nothing short of a low-down, dirty political move, but such, it seems, is West Virginia politics.
According to Jenny Phillips, the board said that it wanted forward-thinking leadership. They had that with Dr. Marple. The board's actions clearly demonstrate that they do not want visionary leadership. What they want is a marionette that can be controlled by the good ol' boys.
Richardson is a National Board Certified teacher in Putnam County.