Regarding Superintendent Bell’s letter to parents

Published 3:12 pm Saturday, December 27, 2014

To the Editor:

As a resident of Franklin, I am keenly interested in the status of our public schools and have followed closely the troubling events of the past few years. In my opinion, improvement in the performance of our schools is the single most important issue affecting long term quality of life for the children, parents, residents and business people in our community.

It is, therefore, with much dismay that I have observed events around the hiring, and subsequent resignation, of first-grade teacher Elizabeth Ferguson. The Tidewater News has well documented the chronology of events for anyone interested. Specifically, I am writing with reaction to Superintendent Willie Bell’s letter on this topic sent to parents Dec. 17 and published in the Dec. 19 issue of this paper.

Mr. Bell opens his letter with, “I am writing to address a personnel situation that has received media coverage this week.” In my opinion, this opening sets a less-than-satisfying tone. I read it as saying he wouldn’t have had to write it if the paper had not reported this story. He then goes on to say, effectively, that the school system complied with the letter of the law in this matter. That claim appears to be true, and if so it screams for a review of law and policy.

Our community needs strong, effective leadership from the School Board and the Superintendent’s office. In all fairness, the current condition of our schools predate Mr. Bell’s arrival, but the Elizabeth Ferguson story does not. Such a problem presents an opportunity to display strong leadership. In this case, Mr. Bells’ letter to parents ideally would have been written and sent immediately after he became aware of the background check, and she was placed on leave Dec. 5. Waiting for 12 days to send the letter, after the story had “received media attention” has left me thinking about leadership. Perhaps the timing of the letter was delayed by law and policy, and if so I will stand corrected. Either way I hope that this letter to parents is not all we will hear from Mr. Bell and the School Board on this matter.

Galen Butler