Respect for power of press, Parker

Published 8:17 am Wednesday, August 30, 2000

By Staff
To the Editor:
I find myself compelled to respond to your editorial from Wednesday, August 23rd. You expressed your concern of mistreatment of individuals at the board meeting. I believe you are guilty of mistreatment of Mr. Curtis Ray Parker, our former superintendent, by the comments you made. I had the privilege of working with Mr. Parker for many years, including his terms as superintendent. Mr. Parker is intelligent, honest and was totally devoted to this school system. His knowledge of school system operations and his management skills were matched by few. Our school system experienced some of its best years during his administration, particularly regarding the restoration of financial stability. His Christian principles and decency are impeccable. As for his demeanor in questioning the budget, had I retired two years ago, leaving a $6 plus million reserve for the system, and had to helplessly watch the flagrant waste of the funds I had worked so long and hard to build, I too would have been defensive.
You wonder why Mr. Parker has "suddenly taken interest in the board's actions"…he has always and continues to maintain an interest. That comes naturally when you've given a system 39 years of your life. You wonder why he hasn't attended board meetings. The reason is, since his retirement, Mr. Parker has been diagnosed with cancer. The effects of chemotherapy and the disease itself have kept him from attending not only board meetings but many other functions as well. If you knew of his condition when you took your own "potshot" at him, then you should be ashamed and remorseful of your comments, especially when your organization takes pride in its Relay For Life activities. If you were not aware of his condition, then you owe him an apology and you should back up and remove both feet from your mouths.
Your paper's position on the superintendent situation has been apparent for some time. I truly believe that two years ago, when the Board of Education appointed Dr. Bradley as superintendent, they were doing what they felt was right at the time. I also believe the same of their actions four months ago. Anytime you hire someone you are taking a chance…it is always a gamble. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. A short time ago, another school system took a chance and hired me for a position that I quickly realized I was no longer suited for. It was my ethical and professional responsibility to remove myself from that situation because it was in the best interest of all involved. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I have no doubt that there is a position somewhere that Dr. Bradley will be very effective and happy in.
I understand that you may have to "draw your own conclusions" about board actions. I understand how you may have unfounded criticisms, clouded viewpoints and swayed opinions. It is because you are on the outside looking in. I have been on the inside, in fact, I spent 25 years there. I once worked in a system of harmony, where even during the roughest years everyone pulled together. We respected, supported and genuinely cared for each other. We cried, rejoiced, struggled, sacrificed and triumphed together. Our relationships with our leaders and co-workers were honest and strong. There were no racial or sexual boundaries. We were one and we had one common goal: the educational welfare of the students in our system.
One year ago, I retired from this system and what I left was a system in discord and turmoil. There was mistrust, uncertainty, frustration, confusion and a lack of communication. There were mistreatment, and intimidation. There were manipulations and people pitted against one another. There were strong divisions among administrators, faculties and staff. There was deception and an elaborate use of smoke screens and mirrors.
It is a shame and an embarrassment to see this in our school system. This is not a healthy working environment and certainly isn't conducive to optimal student learning.
Yes, you are right. Mr. Powell has "taken on a job with much responsibility." He will have to eliminate or at least minimize the negatives that are overshadowing the great things that are happening in our system. You are also right in stating that "it won't be easy." It will take God's help and the support of the board, the parents and the community. This system must once again unite toward that one common goal: the educational welfare of our students.
Sandy Bennett
Retired Educator

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