CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Board of Education voted Friday to fire state Schools for the Deaf and Blind Superintendent Martin Keller.
State Department of Education Executive Director of Communications Kristin Anderson released the following the statement after the board’s executive session:
“The Board voted unanimously to terminate the Superintendent for the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, Dr. Martin Keller. The Board also voted unanimously to appoint Mark Gandolfi and Jamie McBride-Vittorio to assume all administrative duties until such time that a new Superintendent is hired. Mr. Gandolfi is the current Chief Financial Officer and Ms. Vittorio is the current Principal of the School for the Blind.”
No reason was given for the dismissal.
Prior to the vote, several of Keller’s supporters, including former students of the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, addressed the Board.
“He’s a wonderful man,” said Keith Richardson, a graduate, who spoke in sign language via an interpreter.
“You can’t beat this man. He’s a wonderful man and I’m wanting you all to reconsider….Maybe he has made mistakes, I really don’t know for sure, but I am asking all of you all to give him a second chance. Everyone deserves a second chance.”
Ruby Losh with the West Virginia Deaf Alumni Association agreed.
“I know there are children, as far as deaf and blind, that both work very well under his supervision,” Losh said via an interpreter of Keller.
“We’ve had events, festivals, tournaments that involve and unite our communities and the Academic Bowl and we would never have that opportunity without his assistance.”
Though there are challenges, she admitted, “There’s a lot of things that are way more positive than negative.”
Marcus Solsby is a 1991 graduate of the Schools of the Deaf and the Blind and now serves on the board of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia.
“That sturdy leadership, that sturdy focus on the plight and needs of the students that is needed, you have that in Dr. Keller,” he said. “You have someone who cares, someone who really wants to build something new, something greater, to give deaf and blind children a better education.”
Several letters were also submitted to the board on Keller’s behalf.
Keller was hired by the state board in August 2015 at an annual salary of $110,000. Most members of the board have changed since then. The current state board is dominated by appointments made by Gov. Jim Justice.
The Schools for the Deaf and Blind are located in Romney.