The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

December 10, 2012

Education reform

West Virginia must move ahead in enacting significant changes

— For the past three weeks the dominant education-related story in West Virginia, unfortunately, has been the surprise firing of State Superintendent Dr. Jorea Marple and the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded the process and subsequent actions including Marple being fired by the state Board of Education not once, but twice.

The many gaffes, legal or illegal, that the state BOE committed are regrettable in that it is both embarrassing and extremely poor form. We certainly hope when terms expire for these current board members that whoever may be governor at the time performs a complete vetting of candidates prior to future appointments.

What has taken place in Charleston since Nov. 15 has also served as an unneeded distraction taking away attention from the key issue confronting state officials when it comes to public education — reforms.

For many months now there has been a build-up taking place surrounding a performance audit that was conducted on our state’s K-12 school structure and policies.

Education matters were expected to be one of the key issues for lawmakers to address when they convene for the 2013 regular session of the Legislature in February.

However, some fear that all the hullabaloo surrounding the Marple dismissal has put a damper on some of the reform spirit.

We don’t quite understand that viewpoint but we can tell you that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the Legislature simply can’t let that happen.

For far too long in our state we have sloughed off significant changes in the way we administer and educate, to delay the process further because our state Board of Education botched up a personnel matter would be a travesty.

Dr. Marple is gone from the Department of Education, she won’t be coming back. At some juncture West Virginia will have a new state superintendent, although conducting a national search like the BOE says it wants to do can’t really take place until lawmakers decide whether or not they want to change state code that currently requires that anyone filling that post must have served as a county superintendent in West Virginia.

Again, what’s done is done.

We must press forward now on meaningful reforms; that’s got to be the focus in Charleston — without further delays or distractions.