CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As a concerned citizen, I am intrigued by both the secrecy and swiftness by which Dr. Jorea Marple was recently dismissed as state superintendent of schools by the state Board of Education. Much has been written and much has been speculated as to the process by which this decision was made. At the very least, we, the citizens of West Virginia, are left smelling a stench of impropriety stemming from the absence of transparency that led to her departure.
To add to the state of confusion, we have heard several board members speak in defense of their decision by indicating a desire to move "in a new direction" without clarifying exactly what constitutes "a new direction". The inconsistencies don't stop here. Dr. Marple was in the superintendent's position for a mere one and one half years yet was given a satisfactory performance appraisal in July of this year and a salary increase. In light of this acknowledgement, is it not reasonable to question the credibility of the board's decision to dismiss? This not only insults the professionalism of Dr. Marple, it likewise insults the individual as well as the collective intelligence of all West Virginians.
It does appear, however, that several critical elements of the Open Meetings Law may have been violated. Let's evaluate them:
• Agenda. Agendas must give reasonable notice to the public of what issues will be discussed. Specifically, any matter requiring the governing body to take official action must be listed on the agenda. Grade F.
• Emergency meeting. Notice of an emergency meeting must be posted as soon as practicable. The notice must give the reason for and purpose of the emergency meeting. Governing bodies that wish to add emergency matters to their agendas must post an amended agenda that includes the emergency item. If there was an emergency, then Grade F.
• Executive session. A member of the governing body must make a motion to go in to executive session and state in plain language the grounds for doing so. If an executive session was applicable in this situation, then the Grade, F.
• Voting. Votes may not be taken in an executive session; the governing body may only vote once it reconvenes in an open session. If voting to dismiss Dr. Marple occurred in an executive session, then the Grade is F.
Anyone who willfully and knowingly violates the provisions of the act is subject to criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor.
If the meeting process was observed and conducted in accordance with the Open Meeting Law, then despite questions and vocal objections to the outcome, we must reluctantly move on. If, on the other hand, it appears that the process has been manipulated by several Board of Education members in order to achieve their personal objective, then nothing less than a comprehensive investigation by an independent body must be undertaken immediately. Dr. Marple and the citizens of West Virginia deserve no less.
Gossard, of Charleston, is a retired supply chain manager at Union Carbide.