CHARLESTON - It's too early to tell what impact the firing of the state superintendent of schools will have on county systems, the superintendent in Wood County said.
The West Virginia Board of Education fired State Superintendent Jorea Marple on Thursday while the two board members who opposed the decision said they will resign at the end of the year.
Wood County Schools Superintendent Pat Law said he was surprised by the news. Law was with a group touring schools in Charleston and Huntington when news of Marple's termination was first reported.
"County school systems depend a lot on direction from the state Department of Education. Marple's departure will leave a void there," he said.
Law said the state department has seen a fair amount of turnover in recent years, and the loss of two "longtime board members" also would have an impact.
For Wood County Schools, however, the immediate effects may be negligible, he said.
"It's really too early to determine any local effect," Law said. "We will certainly continue with the direction we've been going with our programs and projects."
The board voted 5-2 to terminate Marple's contract, with members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden opposing the decision, Department of Education spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro said. Phillips' and Haden's resignations are effective Dec. 31.
The board believes the public school system needs a new direction, board President Wade Linger said in a statement.
"Dr. Marple's concern for and commitment to West Virginia's school children is well known. She has served them with distinction, and we appreciate her public service. However, the West Virginia Board of Education believes this is a time for a change in direction. As such, we think it is important for new leadership," Linger said.
Marple said in a telephone interview that she was surprised by the decision.
"I had received only words of encouragement," she said.
She said she had tried as superintendent to identify issues, including ways to fund schools.
"My heart, my soul and my being are with teachers and children, and I hope to continue to be an advocate for meeting the needs of the children," she said.
House Education Chair Mary Poling said she was shocked at word of Marple's firing. The Barbour County Democrat credited Marple for addressing curriculum standards and overseeing a new way to measure student performance while responding to the governor's call to trim the state budget.
"I think she was doing a good job," said Poling, a retired educator. "I found no problems with her work... I would like to know why they did that, and know of no reason why they would."
Marple's firing comes as the Legislature prepares to tackle the state's sprawling education system.
"The kids, the teachers and service personnel across the state will feel the effects at a time when we can ill afford it," Lee said.
A recent wide-ranging audit of West Virginia's public schools describes a low-performing education system rigidly controlled by a state-level bureaucracy and a thick stack of policy-directing laws.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee also was surprised the firing of Marple, whom he called a strong advocate for students, teachers and service professional. He also said he was appalled by the manner in which the board handled her firing, without warning.
"Dr. Marple has done a great job in her short tenure as superintendent," Lee said. "It was completely out of the blue to me. Dr. Marple is widely respected, not only by her peers but by education employees around the state."
Marple had served as the state's schools chief since March 1, 2011, and previously served as deputy superintendent. Her husband is Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who lost a bid for a sixth term in the Nov. 6 general election.