Last month, the state of West Virginia saw a dramatic coup when the State Board of Education dismissed State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jorea Marple without one word of explanation. The makeup of the board (five Manchin appointees who all voted for the removal of Marple) was enough to fill in the gaps for many who wished to supply their own explanation, that the firing was "political."
However, we have not been told what kind of "politics" is at work here. What we do know, in the aftermath of the general elections in our state and in the firing of Dr. Marple, is that political offices in West Virginia were purchased in a way that they were not in other parts of the country.
Politicians with deep pockets who will doubtless serve corporate interests within this state took seats that had been previously unavailable to them, and those who have been running unviable campaigns for the last several election cycles looked viable in a way that indicates that the political landscape (at least in terms of its players) in this state is changing negatively for the people of West Virginia, but in favor of the interests of outside capital with something to gain from the exploitation of our land and labor.
Similarly, it was not educators, nor unions, nor students, nor parents who asked for the firing of Dr. Marple. Rather, it was a small group of elite, politically aligned appointees detached from the day-to-day processes of education in our state who railroaded our state's first woman Superintendent of Schools, a superintendent with a successful record and a superb reputation among educators across the state from various disciplinary backgrounds, out of her position.
Perhaps Dr. Marple served at the "will and pleasure" of the Board of Education, but the behavior displayed by that board is exemplary neither of the character nor ethics which we are responsible for installing in our students, and a failure to hold the board accountable for their actions will result in a lesson in the ugliness of corrupt power being taught to the future leaders of our state. We must demand better than that from those who make important decisions about the way education is done in West Virginia. We must demand that they not only explain this oblique decision, but that they behave in a way that is transparent, ethical and equitable, and that they are informed by the integrity required by the immense work that is before them. Otherwise, they do not deserve the nine-year terms to which they have been appointed.