Greeson: School board members let us down; Smith needs to go

Greeson: School board members let us down; Smith needs to go

March 10th, 2016 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Rick Smith talks with board member Joe Galloway after the meeting of the Hamilton County School Board on Monday, Mar. 7, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The board declined to take action, leaving Rick Smith in place as superintendent.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

POLL: Does Ooltewah High School need new leadership?

Monday night the school board failed us.

The flimsy five — Steve Highlander, Donna Horn, Greg Martin, Karitsa Mosley and Rhonda Thurman — voted to try to keep their jobs (by pleasing a vocal minority of constituents) rather than voting to do their jobs (and serving the students of the county).

That quintet theoretically welcomed back Rick Smith to lead a school system for possibly the next three-plus years despite a record so bad that the Washington Generals are giggling.

Scores at some schools are rotten. Teacher morale is worse. Facilities have moved beyond a laughingstock and landed right smack dab in the middle of dangerous.

I know Rick Smith. I like Rick Smith. I supported Rick Smith.

And Rick Smith's time as the superintendent should be over.

He knows it. He asked for it. We know it, too. Apparently the only folks who do not know it are the five on the school board who decided that a quarter of a million dollars is worth the current and future direction of more than 40,000 school kids.

Check the numbers, and make a case for Smith as a superintendent. Please.

If the biggest reason to keep him is you don't want to spend about 0.000675 percent of your budget, well, that's so short-sighted Helen Keller can't believe it.

And while these school board members have wrapped their stance around a hollow position of not spending a minuscule amount to reset the direction of the school system, we now are faced with the question: What does it take to remove an ineffective administrator/leader of our school system?

Before we discuss this, it would be prudent to make sure everyone appreciates the fact that the vast majority of employees of the Hamilton County Department of Education are diligent, hard-working folks who love our kids.

But the daily good far too often is shaded by the episodic, overwhelmingly bad.

So what's next?

Well, school board members now have to figure out how they are going to address problems when the leadership refuses to address problems.

If Smith can't be dismissed, what are we to expect to happen with Ooltewah Principal Jim Jarvis?

By all accounts Jarvis should have been handed his walking papers a while ago. Consider what has happened there under his watch.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The reported rape. The fallout. The criminal charges against his immediate staff. The news that the entire basketball trip was not actually approved by the school board. His awful testimony before Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw.

Now comes the news about Avery Rollins, the teaching substitute for Andre "Tank" Montgomery, who was the head coach of the boys' basketball program during the alleged sexual assaults in December.

Rollins has been accused of taking pictures of his privates and sending them to students. Not sure I could phrase that any differently or imagine anything the Ooltewah High community needs less, but that's where we are.

Rollins' case is being reviewed. But what about his boss, Jarvis? What about Jarvis' boss, Smith? What about Smith's boss, the school board?

In truth, the hand-wringing of Monday night's debacle redirects the blame as well as redefines the question about who is responsible for this mess.

We want our students of our school system to embrace accountability and responsibility, right?

Then we certainly need to start demanding it of the leaders of our school system.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com. His "Right to the Point" column runs on A2 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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