Parents go to state Supreme Court over Marple firing - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Parents go to state Supreme Court over Marple firing

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Nearly a week after the West Virginia Board of Education fired state Superintendent Jorea Marple, the parents of a Brookeview Elementary school student are seeking remedy through the state Supreme Court.

James Hicks and Michelle Hicks filed the emergency petition for writ of mandamus Nov. 21 against the agency, saying board members violated the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act.

The Hicks, who say the board's decision will affect the quality of education for their child, said Marple's employment was not listed on the agenda.

The Hicks' petition alleges Marple's firing was "predetermined in back-room, secret meetings among certain board members."

The petition also alleges that President L. Wade Linger has a history of violating open proceedings principles.

"For instance, at its October 15, 2012 meeting, President Linger instructed the secretary to cease all recordings of the board meetings," the petition asserts. "Other board members and the superintendent were unaware that the meeting was not being recorded. Certain board members learned after the meeting concluded that the president had directed that the meeting not be recorded. The president's decision to cease recording of the meeting was unilateral and in contravention of counsel advice." 

Marple was hired as the state superintendent of schools in 2011, and her employment status was not an item on the board's agenda. However, during the meeting, the board went into executive session, came out and voted to terminate Marple.

Because Marple is an at-will employee, the state Board of Education is not required to give a reason for her termination.

Board members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden resigned in reaction to Marple's termination. Their resignations are effective in December. 

Linger issued a statement Nov. 20 saying, "it is paramount that the public voice continues to be heard as the state moves forward with ‘significant education reform.'"

"I have been advised by counsel that there may be concerns over the Open Meetings Act and we want to be responsive," Linger said in his statement. "I remain committed to my actions and recommendations regarding a new direction for education in our state but believe it is important to address this concern."

A board agenda for Nov. 21 included discussion about the superintendent vacancy, but it was later removed. And Linger's Nov. 20 announcement reinforced the narrowed focus of the scheduled meeting.

The board will host a special meeting Nov. 29 at 10 a.m. to revisit recommendations regarding the state superintendent, according to Linger's statement.