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Private firm to help WV school board in superintendent search

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The same law firm representing the state Board of Education in its ongoing litigation with ousted superintendent Jorea Marple will also guide the board in the process to replace her.

Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe will help the school board navigate the national search for Marple's replacement. Former Randolph County Superintendent Jim Phares has held the position since Marple was terminated in November. 

 The board asked the Attorney General's Office for guidance in the search process last month -- an unprecedented move -- saying at the time the additional legal counsel was necessary to avoid legal entanglements moving forward. The department of education employs two full-time attorneys.

The Attorney General's Office, which typically assists state agencies in legal matters, elected to seek help from a private firm saying, in related documents that "the matter at issue requires specific expertise in both education and employment law that is not sufficiently possessed by the Office of the Attorney General."

The board is already involved in a wrongful termination lawsuit surrounding Marple's firing in March. In that case, the board is also being represented by Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe: so far, the firm has been paid more than $42,500 by the Department of Education.

In this new case, the firm will be paid $210 per hour. They will be paid with funds from the Department of Education's budget.

The Attorney General's Office received seven bids for the case from law firms around the state, but settled on Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe -- in part because of the firm's prior work with the Board of Education.

Because of its representation in that legal matter, the Attorney General's Office said in a related document that the firm is "already familiar with many of the WV BOE's concerns related to the search for a new superintendent of schools and is thus positioned to address many of the client's legal needs without expending significant time and cost to familiarize itself with many of the issues in question."

Victor Flanagan, one of the attorneys who will be handling the case, said the mission is to "implement a procedure that will be as efficient and cost effective as possible."

In coming weeks, attorneys will work with department officials to craft a request for proposals from search firms to aid in a national search for the next state superintendent.

Board members pledged to conduct a comprehensive national search in March when they selected Phares.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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