The state Board of Education's firing of state School Superintendent Jorea Marple is being spun by some into a great intrigue of evil forces bringing down a resolute champion of good.
Many people admire Marple, and agree that the board could have handled her dismissal with more finesse.
But to focus on one adult is to focus on a sideshow.
The firing of a superintendent is not a tragedy. The failure of West Virginia's expensive public schools to serve so many of the state's children is.
An audit of how West Virginia spends the vast sums it devotes to education, and how much difference it makes, produced answers that legislators and the educational establishment have ignored for too long.
On a per capita basis, West Virginia runs the eighth most expensive school system in the 50 states.
But one in four West Virginia high school students fails to graduate on time. Even with free meals as a loss leader, truancy and dropout rates are a scandal.
What we're doing isn't working for students.
The audit observed that the state has the most
heavily regulated system in the nation, with too many rules spelled out in state code. The state Department of Education is top-heavy, and adds a whole other set of requirements that cut into teachers' time.
The result: West Virginia students are below the
national average in 21 or 24 categories measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Education Week, in its Quality Counts report, gives this state a failing grade in student achievement.
When members of the state Board of Education sought to address these issues, they ran into resistance from the Department of Education.