Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Franklin County School Board made the right move Monday night by terminating Charles Lackey's contract as the school system's superintendent. Dr. Lackey had one year remaining on his contract, but the board, in a 5-3 vote, ended his tenure and will pay him the one year's salary and benefits that are due to him by contract. Sue Rogers, assistant superintendent, was named the acting superintendent. An interim superintendent will be chosen later.
Dr. Lackey was superintendent for six years, and some of those years were filled with controversy, from criticisms of how the school system's budget was prepared and presented to credit card expenditures described by many as extravagant. In fact, those expenditures led to an investigation earlier this year by the Virginia State Police. Although no charges were filed, the fallout from the use of the credit card as well as other issues involving spending during a time when budgets were austere led to a question of credibility, not only of the superintendent but of the school board as well.
When a school system loses that credibility, the damage can be difficult to repair, and the quality of the system can eventually suffer.
School board members had been mostly supportive of Lackey in the past, but last year's election saw three new members come on board, all of whom had been critical of Dr. Lackey's performance as superintendent, especially related to budget issues and transparency.
The three board members who voted against the contract termination, P.D. Hambrick, G.B. Washburn and William Helm, are the only members on the board who were in those positions when Dr. Lackey was hired. Shortly after the vote was taken on the contract, they walked out of the meeting, not staying to take part in the rest of the board's business, which was considerable. They did not give reasons for the exodus, but it certainly could have been, and was, interpreted as a protest of the vote. If that's the case, they need to remember why they are on the board. Supporting someone they hired, even when the problems are clear, may be a case of misplaced loyalty. That is, to a degree, understandable. But walking out of a meeting with a busy agenda in protest is simply unacceptable. Those board members should at the very least explain to their constituents why they left the meeting.
Chairman Ed Jamison said after the meeting that it's time for the board, and the school system, to look forward, not backward. We agree. Although many may be irked that the school system is, in essence, paying someone to stay away, it was the only way to move forward.
Franklin County has great teachers, administrators and students, all of whom have had to watch the discord between Dr. Lackey, the school board and the board of supervisors in recent years. That discord was not easy to watch, and the credibility issue continued to be a problem, with almost every request for funds made by the school board and superintendent to the board of supervisors scrutinized far beyond what would normally be the case.
Five members of the school board did what needed to be done to change that scenario, and start down the road to cooperation and progress.
Everyone involved now has a chance to make sure such discord never happens again. We need a solid, straight-arrow superintendent who fully understands the schools, the county and the people. The school system needs a leader who always puts students first and makes sure every action taken is in their best interest, a leader who treats students, staff and the public with respect and sincerity, a leader who is up front with all issues.
And we need school board members who may disagree from time to time, but who still face the issues head-on, discuss those issues openly and not walk away from the business that needs to be conducted.
We urge everyone to be supportive of the school board and schools during the upcoming transition, and please get involved by attending meetings and giving board members input.