The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

November 26, 2012

Before firing, Marple acted on audit

Superintendent had given schools more flexibility with mentoring funds, created leadership teams

CHARLESTON — Jorea Marple was carrying out numerous recommendations from the much-discussed audit of West Virginia’s public schools system when she was fired as superintendent, by board of education members eager to signal to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the Legislature that they supported the extensive review of education spending, policy and organization.

Those board members have cited the need for change when explaining Marple’s ouster, in light of struggling student performance. At least one member, Gayle Manchin, has commented further.

“My viewpoint was, we should all embrace this audit and garner from its findings and recommendation that would help us make the changes that needed to be made,” Manchin told The Associated Press last week. “My personal opinion is that wasn’t necessarily the way it was received at the Department of Education.”

Manchin added that some at the department have welcomed the audit. She also said she recognized that some of its recommendations were being carried out under Marple.

“I think there were some things being done. I think some changes were being made,” Manchin said. “I (also) think there was a defensiveness on (the department’s) part.”

When the board endorsed all but a handful of the audit’s findings last week, it issued a draft response that listed more than 70 steps taken in response to or that mesh with recommendations in the audit. Commissioned by Tomblin, the audit report was published in January.

The audit took aim, for instance, at the high number of Department of Education staff when compared to students. The board’s draft response credits Marple — though not by name — for beginning to reduce and revamp her department’s bureaucracy.

“In the months following the release of the audit report, the state superintendent worked to redefine the organization based on current major functions and goals, rather than funding streams,” the draft response said. “The superintendent reported approximately 30 positions are currently vacant, with all vacancies being reviewed and only critical positions being filled.”

Department officials estimated in August that eliminating vacant positions not deemed critical would save $1.2 million annually. But Manchin said board members are adamant about dismantling the education system’s top-heavy bureaucracy.

“The more we can push those services and the money down to the county and local level, the better we can be,” Manchin said. “The achievement and growth of K-12 students should be the focus.”

Other audit items acted upon by Marple include giving schools more flexibility with teacher mentoring funds, requiring regular reports on efforts to aid low-performing schools, and creating leadership teams to unify what had been fragmented programs aimed at boosting student achievement. The department has pursued a statewide computer bus routing system, as recommended by the audit, and expects to award the resulting contract by Jan. 1. Responding to other audit findings, the department has also revised its purchasing policies, and begun revamping the way it helps professional development.

But the board’s Nov. 21 endorsement of the audit also showed how much further it wishes to go.

Besides targeting the bureaucracy as cited by Manchin, the board singled out the audit’s call for filling teacher vacancies by merit instead of seniority. Agreeing that the best person should get the job, the board’s draft response concludes that seniority should not be the only factor considered. While the department had not acted on that recommendation, both the audit and the board’s draft response noted that it would require changes to state law.

Other recommendations highlighted by the board last week include giving principals more power over hiring and firing, and beginning a “meaningful conversation” regarding “the struggles facing small county school systems and the future of the 55-county board system.”

The board’s response to the audit followed its 5-2 vote on Nov. 15 to dismiss Marple, less than two years after it unanimously selected her following a lengthy search process. Amid concerns about whether it complied with the state’s open meetings law, the board plans to return to the topic Thursday. That meeting’s agenda also includes discussion of hiring a new superintendent.

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia and the state School Service Personnel Association believes philosophical differences between some board members and the department led to Marple’s firing, citing conversations with board members. Those groups and the West Virginia Education Association have decried her dismissal, and have vowed to seek answers at the Thursday meeting.

Text Only
West Virginia
  • Transgender women claim mistreatment

    Two transgender women say they were ordered to take off their makeup, jewelry and wigs at West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles offices or they would not get new driver’s license photos.
    In the process, they say they were belittled, and called names like “it.”

    July 13, 2014

  • Report: State’s roads among worst in the United States

    With the sixth-largest highway system in the country, West Virginia ranks near the top of states with the worst road conditions. In fact, the Mountain State is tied with Rhode Island for the second-worst roads in the nation, according to a report released by TRIP, a non-profit organization that studies the nation’s highways.

    July 12, 2014

  • Manchin seeks public say on carbon rules

    U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is encouraging West Virginia residents to speak out on new pollution limits.

    July 11, 2014

  • Study: Spilled chemical could be more toxic

    A new study shows a chemical that spilled into West Virginia’s biggest drinking water supply in January could be more toxic than a previous test indicated.
    University of South Alabama researcher Andrew Whelton released findings Thursday from crude MCHM toxicity tests on water fleas. The freshwater microcrustacean is often used in toxicological studies.

    July 11, 2014

  • West Virginia, Nebraska OK gun permit reciprocity

    West Virginia has entered into a concealed handgun reciprocity agreement with Nebraska.

    July 7, 2014

  • CVS stops some pseudoephedrine sales in W.Va.

     CVS Pharmacy is no longer selling some cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine at its stores in West Virginia.

    July 7, 2014

  • State organized labor creates new fundraising arm

    West Virginia organized labor has created a new independent fundraising arm ahead of the November general election.
    According to a filing with the Federal Election Commission, the West Virginia AFL-CIO created the new federal political action committee “Honest West Virginians” in late June.

    July 5, 2014

  • Grimes: McConnell opposes black lung benefits

    U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has vowed to repeal all of the federal Affordable Care Act — even though it includes several provisions that help coal miners receive benefits for black lung disease.
    Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s Democratic challenger, criticized McConnell for opposing those benefits during a campaign swing through the eastern Kentucky coalfields on Thursday.

    July 4, 2014

  • Prohibited Animals 1.jpg State officials say these animals are dangerous and owners need permits

    The public has an opportunity to weigh in on the state’s proposed list of dangerous animals.

    July 3, 2014 5 Photos

  • W.Va. closes budget gap without extra steps

    State officials say West Virginia closed a gap in the budget and ended the fiscal year in the black.

    July 1, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads