Blog blasts 'Gang of Five' in Marple firing
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The husband of one of two state school board members who resigned last week over the firing of State School Superintendent Jorea Marple is accusing the school board of plotting the overthrow of the well-respected educator.
Bill Phillips, who owns Phillips Strategy in Elkins, called the firing of Jorea Marple as the state Superintendent of Schools last Thursday "despicable and senseless action ... taken at the West Virginia State School Board meeting.
"A Gang of Five fired the State Superintendent without cause or notice," he said. "Two board members resigned, including my wife."
School Board members Jenny Phillips and Priscilla Haden resigned after a 5-2 vote removed Marple from her position, without any explanation or prior notice. Both Phillips and Haden supported Marple.
On his computer blog -- http://phillipsbillboard.com -- Bill Phillips wrote, "Within hours it became apparent there was another party in the conspiracy plotted by the Gang of Five when Board President Wade Linger, on a special board call, said Dr. James Phares [superintendent of Randolph County Schools] would be named and would accept the position as State Superintendent."
Phillips wrote that "Phares made an unexpected visit to our home" on Oct. 28.
"He came on the pretense to update my wife [Jenny Phillips] regarding the stabbing and death of a Mill Creek student and the action taken by Secondary School Activities Commission related to the Elkins High School football team," Bill Phillips wrote.
"During that visit, Phares said he had spoken with Linger and proceeded to probe about the relationship of Superintendent Marple and the state board," Phillips wrote.
Reached at his home in Elkins on Sunday afternoon, James B. Phares said, "I am not going to make any comment on that."
The Inter-Mountain, a newspaper published in Elkins, quoted Phares on Saturday as saying "I am honored and humbled that I am going to be considered."
Linger announced on Thursday that he wanted to name Phares to Marple's job.
Messages left at the work and home telephones of Linger on Sunday afternoon were not returned.
Linger and the four other board members who voted to fire Marple -- Bill White, Gayle Manchin, Bob Dunlevy and Mike Green -- were all appointed by then-Gov. Joe Manchin, now a U.S. senator.
Phares told The Inter-Mountain he would ask the Randolph County School Board to accept his resignation Monday evening.
Phares also told the newspaper that West Virginia School Board members contacted him "informally" prior to last week. Phares previously served as Marion County School Superintendent.
On Sunday afternoon, Jenny Phillips said she and Priscilla Haden "knew nothing about Jorea being fired until all of a sudden, we went into executive session.
"Wade [Linger] stood up in front and proceeded to say Jorea should be fired. Later on that evening, all of a sudden it struck me what happened, because of Dr. Phares' visit to our house."
Phillips said Linger also told her last week, "Jenny, you are going to be very pleased. We will have a replacement in two weeks and you will be very pleased. The next day, he said it was Jim Phares.
"I think Jorea has been a very good superintendent," she said. "And I could not believe this had all been figured out before[hand]. Obviously, Priscilla and I weren't in the loop. But it had all been figured our before.
On his blog, Bill Phillips added, "Despite Marple being a 'will and pleasure' appointee, she and the education community of West Virginia deserve to know why this unexpected action was taken.
"This had to hatched up in private without including the two [Priscilla Haden and Jenny Phillips] who resigned in protest. Such behind-the-scenes plotting is a violation of the Open Meetings Law. This Gang should be held accountable.
"Dr. Marple was told to turn in her keys, credentials and be out of the building by the end of the day," Bill Phillips wrote. "She is held in such high regard that Department Education staff, while crying, packed up her personal items and carried boxes down the street to her home across from the state Capitol building."
Bill Phillips added, "Phares is so certain he will be named on next Wednesday, that he is resigning the Randolph County position on Monday. He plans to be present at the State Board meeting when a permanent replacement for Marple is to be discussed. Talk about arrogance."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5164.