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BOE files response in Marple petition

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The West Virginia Board of Education says it provided proper notice and followed the guidelines of open governmental proceedings policies when it voted to terminate state Superintendent Jorea Marple.

Mountain State Justice filed the emergency petition for a writ of mandamus Nov. 21 on behalf of James Hicks and Michelle Hicks, the parents of a Brookeville Elementary school special needs student.

The petition alleges the board's decision will affect the quality of education for their child and asserted Marple's firing was "predetermined in back-room, secret meetings among certain board members."

In the Nov. 30 response, the board said it has the authority to discuss personnel matters in executive session, "particularly when no vote has been taken in executive session and the vote is subsequently performed publicly."

The board also maintains it provided proper notice in its Nov. 15 meeting by noting personnel matters as an agenda item.

The response said the agenda item was listed under "New Items" as "WVBE personnel matters including a five day suspension without pay for an employee at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind and the indefinite suspension without pay for a RESA 5 employee."

"The plain language of this agenda clearly states that personnel matters were to be discussed, and it does not include any exclusionary language limiting the board to only discuss the two employees specifically mentioned," the response states. "Rather, a reasonable reading of this agenda item would allow for the board, while in executive session, to discuss any personnel matters that needed to be deliberated.

The board also asserts that the firing and subsequent hiring of a new superintendent was not predetermined.

"Petitioners are confusing the constitutional and statutory duty of the board to instate a superintendent of schools with a ‘predetermination' to replace the former superintendent," the response states.

The response additionally asserted that if decisions at the Nov. 15 meeting "questionably contravened the open governmental proceedings act," then those issues were resolved by the Nov. 29 hearing.

The board says it is required to appoint a superintendent and cannot appoint an "acting" or "interim" superintendent.

"The strong suggestions or inferences alluded to by petitioners do not change the facts of this matter or the manner in which the decision was made by the board," the response states.

Earlier day, petitioners filed a supplemental brief in support of their emergency petition for writ of mandamus calling the meeting a "ceremonial and perfunctory ratification of the previous illegal termination."

The motion cited the agenda, which had the oath of office following the reconsideration of termination.

"It is obvious to all who attended the meeting on Nov. 29, that the decision to terminate the superintendent had already been made," the motion states. "By placing items on the agenda that necessarily presupposed the termination of the superintendent, the remedial measures of the board amounted to nothing more than a dog and pony show intended to ceremonially ratify its violation from the Nov. 15 meeting."

The motion also took issue with the board's official statement.

"In its official statement, the board cites the reason for the termination of the superintendent is student achievement and graduation rates in West Virginia," the motion states. "However, the board continued, ‘we are not saying that superintendent Marple is any more responsible than governors, legislators, educators or board members for these shortcomings.' The stated reason for the superintendent's termination is clearly pretext for some other illegitimate reason."