Ashton Marra

Statehouse Reporter/Producer

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered.

During the legislative session, Ashton focuses on the state Senate, bringing daily reports from the inner-workings of the state’s upper house on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s nightly television show The Legislature Today.  She also hosts that show on Fridays and leads a reporter roundtable discussing the top stories of the week with her colleagues from the statehouse press corps.

Ashton has most recently received national attention for her coverage of the January 9, 2014, chemical leak in Charleston. Her work was featured on NPR's hourly newscasts, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WBUR's Here & Now, KCRW's To The Point and the PBS NewsHour.

Ashton came to WVPBS in October of 2012 from ABC News’ morning program Good Morning America where she worked as a production associate. Ashton produced pieces for the broadcast, including the first identified victim of the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, as well as multiple entertainment news stories.

Before her time at GMA, Ashton worked as an intern on ABC’s news assignment desk, helping to organize coverage of major news stories like the Trayvon Martin case, the Jerry Sandusky trial and the 2012 Presidential election. She also spent 18 months as a weekend reporter for WDTV based in her hometown of Clarksburg, WV, breaking the story of missing Lewis County toddler Aliayah Lunsford. Ashton’s work from that story was featured on HLN’s Nancy Grace in October of 2011.

Ashton graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia University in May of 2012, where she was named WVU’s Reporter of the Year. She covered government for the P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s bi-weekly newscast WVU News and also served a semester as the WVPBS bureau reporter.

When she isn’t reporting, Ashton enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the arts, including theater, music and dance. She is a huge fan of musicals and touts her collection of Playbills from the Broadway shows she’s attended, which grew by nearly 30 in her 9 months living in New York City.
 

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Gubernatorial Appointment
6:53 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Meet David Sneed, New Executive Director of the SBA

Gov. Tomblin appointed 22-year School Building Authority veteran David Sneed to head the agency this week.

Sneed served as the SBA’s chief of architectural services from 1990 until 2012 when he left for a position in the private sector, but Tuesday he returned to the state organization.

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Public Education
11:23 am
Tue July 1, 2014

State Board Unanimously Approves New Superintendent

Credit twitter.com

It’s official. The West Virginia Board of Education has approved the next state superintendent of schools.

Members unanimously agreed to hire Dr. Michael Martirano Tuesday to take over as state school’s chief this fall. Martirano currently serves as superintendent of St. Mary’s County Public Schools in southern Maryland, a position he’s held for almost a decade.

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West Virginia Morning
8:29 am
Tue July 1, 2014

A Marshall Football Player Tries the Pros Up North and Promoting Clean Watersheds

Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power are asking the state Public Service Commission to approve a 17 percent rate hike for their West Virginia customers. Gov. Tomblin appoints a new head to the state School Building authority. A Marshall University player uses his failure to be drafted in the National Football League as motivation to make it in the pros in Canada and a southern West Virginia educators is teaching her students about the important connection between clean watersheds and clean drinking water.

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West Virginia Morning
8:25 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Elkins Teen Band Mixes Old with New and Excerpts from 'Out of Peel Tree,' a W.Va. Author's Debut

Teen band The Elm Street Alleycats of Elkins lost their mentor and bass player Gene Boyer last May, but since, have been working to make the old tunes he taught them better while learning newer, contemporary music of their own.

Also, West Virginia born author Laura Long shares an excerpt from her debut novel "Out of Peel Tree," a collection of stories of family, hope and love set in Appalachia.

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Public Education
12:23 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

W.Va. Schools Chief-Elect Outlines Goals

West Virginia Superintendent-elect Dr. Michael Martirano is expected to take his new position this fall.
Credit twitter.com

The State Board of Education's choice to oversee West Virginia's public schools is offering a glimpse at his educational priorities.

The board will vote next week on the appointment of Michael Martirano. If approved, he is expected to begin work in the fall.

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Chemical Spill
5:30 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

WV TAP Recommends More Research, Precautions After Research

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling, Gov. Tomblin and Corona Environmental Consulting President Jeff Rossen spoke to reporters about the WVTAP final reporter Thursday.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

An independent research team hired by Gov. Tomblin to further study the chemical that contaminated the water supply of 300,00 West Virginians in January released their final report Thursday.

The West Virginia Testing Assessment Project, or WVTAP, began studying MCHM in February and has released results along the way. Thursday’s report includes their previously released findings and recommendations for moving forward.

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Public Education
6:57 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

W.Va. BOE Will ‘Likely’ Name Martirano Next Superintendent

Dr. Michael Martirano will likely be approved as the new West Virginia State Superintendent Tuesday, July 1.
Credit St. Mary's County Public Schools

The West Virginia Department of Education will soon have a new leader in Dr. Michael Martirano.

State Board President Gayle Manchin made the announcement of his likely nomination and approval Wednesday evening through a press release.

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Public Education
10:39 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

State BOE Names Temporary Superintendent

Credit West Virginia Department of Education

West Virginia Board of Education members unanimously approved a new schools chief who will take the post starting next week. On June 30, current Superintendent Dr. James Phares will retire, but the man filling his shoes is a familiar face to the department.

Board members voted to put current Deputy Superintendent Charles Heinlein in the position, with the understanding that when a new, ling-term chief is hired, he will return to his current job and current salary.

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Public Safety
9:21 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Gubernatorial Cuts Halt State Police Unit Expansion

The West Virginia State Police Academy in Institute, W.Va.
Credit Ramses Coly / en.wikipedia.org

In the weeks following the 2014 legislative session, a group of activists proved that standing up for what you believe in can sometimes make a difference. After letters, meetings and rallies at the Capitol, organizations that provide children and family services got their funding restored by the legislature during a special session.

Despite the ability of those groups to get their funding back after gubernatorial cuts, not every agency or organization was able to do the same. For instance, a program that won’t be expanding this year due to a lack of state money, the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children Unit.

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Prison Overcrowding
1:56 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Division of Corrections Still Working to Provide Programs to Overflow Inmates

Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein takes questions from the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Corrections Facility Authority.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Over the past two years, lawmakers have implemented two pieces of legislation intended to drastically decrease the population in state prisons in the face of a growing overcrowding problem.

In 2013, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 371, the Justice Reinvestment Act. Among a long list of provisions, the bill allowed the Division of Corrections to develop and implement a cognitive behavioral restructuring program for DOC inmates being housed at regional jails due to overcrowding in the state prisons.

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Public Education
2:51 pm
Sun June 15, 2014

Four Recommendations to Improve Education from Retiring State Superintendent

Dr. James Phares presented his final recommendations to the state Board of Education during their June meeting in Charleston.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares announced his retirement in April, but last week, presented his final report to the state Board. In it, he recounted his accomplishments in leading the state’s education system forward, but also gave a warning about what work must continue in order to truly impact student achievement.

Some of the biggest accomplishments during his 18 month tenure included the passage and implementation of Senate Bill 359, the Governor’s Education Reform Act.

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Prison Overcrowding
5:13 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

State Making Progress in Reducing Prison Population

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin presents new data on the state's declining prison population in Washington, D.C., Thursday.
Credit Council of State Governments

It’s only been a little over a year since Governor Tomblin signed the Justice Reinvestment Act into law, but the state is already seeing results in the amount of people being held in state jails and prisons.

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Public Education
8:03 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

State BOE Approves Purchase of Land at Four Times Appraisal Value

West Virginia Board of Education President Gayle Manchin.
Credit West Virginia Department of Education

The way a county handles the actual maintenance of existing and building of new schools is one of the major areas the state considers before taking over a county school system.

In June of 2011, the state decided Gilmer County wasn’t doing a good job handling not just their facilities, but also personnel, finances and curriculum, among others. The board declared a state of emergency in Gilmer County and voted to intervene.

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Public Education
7:36 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Mingo, Fayette Counties Get New Superintendents

West Virginia Board of Education members appointed the new superintendents during their June meeting in Charleston.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

When the state takes over a county, they appoint a new superintendent, but, like many in the education field, those superintendents are drawing closer and closer to retirement.

Both Mingo and Fayette counties are losing their superintendents in the next few months and at their meeting Wednesday the state Board of Education took action to replace them.

In Mingo County, board members appointed Robert Bobbera, the county’s current assistant superintendent to take the head position.

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Public Education
3:26 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

W.Va. BOE Approves Calhoun Co. Teacher, Personnel Pay Cut

Credit West Virginia Department of Education

Cuts to salaries for teachers and school service personnel were approved by the state Board of Education Wednesday for one county whose bottom line is stuck in the red.

State board members approved the salary cut for Calhoun County teachers and school service personnel at their monthly meeting in Charleston. Beginning July 1, staff at four schools will see $600 less per year on their paycheck.

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Public Safety
2:34 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

W.Va. State Police Graduates 64th Cadet Class

The West Virginia State Police held their 64th Cadet Class graduation ceremonies in Ferrell Hall on the campus of West Virginia State University.
Ashton Marra West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia State Police officially gained 27 new troopers Friday after graduation ceremonies at West Virginia State University.

Members of the 64th cadet classed marched into an auditorium full of fellow troopers and elated family members.

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Public Education
8:39 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

State BOE One Step Closer to Hiring New Superintendent

State Board of Education Vice President Mike Green, President Gayle Manchin and Superintendent Dr. James Phares at the May meeting in Charleston.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After nearly a year since beginning the process of a nationwide search, members of the West Virginia State Board of Education say they’re getting closer to their goal of finding a new state schools chief.

Consulting firm Ray and Associates, Inc., presented the board with 64 completed applications at their meeting at Stonewall Resort in Lewis County Thursday. The applicants represented 43 different states.

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Law & Order
1:56 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Six Charged in Riot at Wood County Juvenile Facility

The Lorrie Yeager, Jr., Juvenile Facility in Wood County.
Credit West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services

Six residents of a Parkersburg juvenile facility are facing charges after State Police say they assaulted correctional officers and other residents and caused thousands of dollars in property damage.

In a press release, Lt. Michael Baylous said the incident occurred at the Lorrie Yeager, Jr., Juvenile Center on Feb. 18, 2014, during a recreation period when residents were in the facility’s dayroom.

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Investment Settlement
5:23 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

JPMorgan Chase Settles Antitrust Case in W.Va.

Credit Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia's attorney general has reached a $400,000 settlement with JPMorgan Chase over allegations of antitrust law violations.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced the deal Tuesday. JPMorgan Chase was one of 22 banks and financial companies sued in 2009 by previous Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
 
The lawsuits claimed the institutions illegally rigged bids, fixed prices and manipulated the market for municipal derivatives.

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Energy & Environment
5:18 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Scientist Calls Proposed EPA Standards 'Modest' and Good First Step

Angela Ledford Anderson, director of the Climate and Energy for the Union for Concerned Scientists.
Credit Union of Concerned Scientists

Listen to an extended version of an interview with Angela Anderson.

Since this week’s announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposing new regulations that will require states to cut carbon dioxide emission by 2030, West Virginia lawmakers and industry representatives alike have spoken out against them.

The scientific community, however, is speaking out in support of the changes, some even saying they don’t go far enough to combat the growing issues of climate change.

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