Dr. James Phares, superintendent of Randolph County Schools, said Friday in a phone interview that Wade Linger, president of the state board of education, called him on Tuesday or Wednesday to see if he would be interested in taking the state's top education job, should it become available.
Thursday the board voted 5-2 to fire Marple from her position as superintendent, her role since March of 2011. Shortly after the vote, two board members announced their intentions to resign in protest of the firing.
Hours after firing Marple, the board held a special meeting to select an acting superintendent. They tapped deputy superintendent Chuck Heinlein for the position, but Linger asked the board to elect Phares as the full-time replacement. After some discussion about whether to hold a national search, the board put off the matter to a later meeting.
In their conversation earlier in the week, Phares said he and Linger talked about the role of a superintendent as well as the findings of the education efficiency audit released in January. He added that every superintendent in the state had an inkling that changes to West Virginia education were coming, but he said he was surprised at Marple's firing.
"I don't know that I could say that there was something in the works," Phares said
In a Friday phone interview, Linger confirmed the conversation he had with Phares. He said he didn't remember the exact date, but said it took place prior to this week's meeting.
Thursday some legislators, union officials and other members of the education community expressed their shock and displeasure with Marple's firing. Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said the move by "Manchin-appointed" board members was politically motivated and appalling.
Many of the board members were nominated for their positions by then-governor and current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin. Manchin's wife Gayle is also on the board, leading some to speculate the move to fire Marple was a power play.
Phares called the idea "balderdash." Immediately following Thursday's meeting Linger said that notion was ridiculous, and reiterated the idea Friday when asked about how he knew Phares.
"This is getting to be tedious. You guys are trying to make something that isn't there. I actually resent it," Linger said. "I don't understand what your motivation is, digging for some sort of conspiracy...when I'm just trying to do my job."