The action taken by the West Virginia Board of Education on Thursday, Nov. 15 is akin to a coup organized by political powers wishing to impart their own vision of educational reform. The removal of Dr. Jorea Marple as State Superintendent is a travesty and has darkened the educational system of our great state. An educational philosophy and vision that included a complete arts education for every student will now be compromised.
Upon taking position of superintendent, she funded an elementary dance program in WV schools (North Jefferson being one of the pilot programs) and regularly told members of the WV Department of Education that the arts, foreign language, and health/wellness were to be a major priority of every office of the department of education for the next 10 years.
"Dr. Jorea Marple was the first person in the state of WV to write me a handwritten congratulations for being a nationally board certified teacher (within a month of being hired for her position.)," says dance teacher Brandy Butcher of Hedgesville High School.
During a four day arts education tour of WV Eileen Miller of Magnolia High School had this to say, "Last month, for the first time in my 40 year career, I had the privilege to host a state supt. of schools at Magnolia. She talked with the students and asked them questions. She also talked with teachers in our little school. We were all inspired by her visit and she made us want to do even more for our students. (Upon hearing of Dr. Marple's firing) several students came into the library to ask what I thought they could do to help Dr. Marple. That's right; students want to help because they feel as if she cares about them! Her beliefs about education, particularly in the arts, were regularly questioned by county superintendents."
In the brief tenure of Dr. Jorea Marple, I have never spoken to or heard any educator speak an ill word about the work of Dr. Marple. Personally, I have met her on several occasions and she would show concern in whatever I had to say.
I have worked for years in the summers providing professional development for the educators of WV through the WVDE, and until Dr. Marple became superintendent, I felt as if there was little purpose or vision. The vision Dr. Marple brought to WVDE was one that was intrinsically student centered and focused on educating the whole student. Self-paced education is a major component of this vision as is creating testing models that are more performance based. The vision she created and began to implement was not shared with all members of the teaching force, but the vast majority of educators supported her and agreed with her policy and philosophy. Her removal is nothing short of a political agenda brought forth by a silent minority who struck when the time was right, similar to how snakes hunt, biding their time until the victim is directly in the cross hairs.
Board President Wade Linger has tried to legitimize the firing of Dr. Marple by citing the lack of changes proposed by the WV School Audit. The audit, which was published in January, showed how the state could save $90 million. However action to be implemented takes time, something Governor Tomblin understands, something Dr. Marple understands, and something the WVBOE does not understand. Mr. Linger's insistent firing of Dr. Marple and the attempt to name a replacement the same day can only be interpreted one way. There are no dots to connect rather deductive reasoning leads me to believe the political motivation by business in WV is pushing its agenda on education and wishes to operate the WVDE without the knowledge required. Education is not a business, it is a safe haven, an art studio, a place to read, write, and express your opinion, a place where students identify problems and solve these problems, a place where self -expression is tolerated and opinions are valued, a place where students were the focus until you took away our leader and our reason for looking for policy changes and a leader who was accessible not only to the WVDE, but also teachers and students.
The WVBOE has done an injustice to the education of every student in WV and the teachers and parents need to be heard.
Jefferson High School