Friday, June 5, 2015

Epic Education Fail

Recent events involving our local Board of Education -- namely the firing of well-regarded Superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey -- have stirred discontent with the potential to cause an uprising worthy of a Victor Hugo novel. 

Many parents are angry at his firing. Many community leaders are angry. Many teachers and administrators are angry (and scared). And many students are angry, while many more students probably do not fully understand the degree to which they should be angry. For many different reasons, I count myself among the angry population.

To be fair, I know very little about Dr. Bob Grimesey. His name began dropping last year after he was hired to serve as superintendent of Moore County Schools here in our heavenly slice of North Carolina. I’ve seen him, as one sees public officials, at a few school events here and there. Other than that, I’ve had no interaction with the man and, therefore, am in no position to make any arguments based on his character. I don’t know him well enough to personally vouch for him, so I won’t even go there.

My reasons for being angry at the five Board of Education members who fired the Superintendent are based on wasted resources (his contract buyout is north of $128,000), cowardice (last-minute, closed-door meetings held at times inconvenient to parents and school staff), alleged collusion (this coup has been in the planning process for weeks despite never being discussed in a proper board session), and hubris (the excessive self-confidence these board members exhibit in banding together to accomplish their pre-determined goal, regardless of the needs and wants of the children they serve and the taxpayers to whom they answer).

The harsh realities of the situation are that Dr. Grimesey is gone and likely will not be back. [NOTE: Since writing this post, and thanks to the intervention of NC State Representative Jamie Boles, we might just get our superintendent back.] It’s a nice dream to believe the decision can be reversed, but the chances of it happening are beyond slim, even if the election recall being discussed to remove certain Board of Education members succeeds. Time passes too slowly. People move on. Better things are down the road for Dr. Grimesey and I wish him well in his pursuit of them. He will thrive.

How do I know this? Because I’ve seen this kind of thing happen before.

Years ago, I worked for a company that encouraged and even congratulated back-stabbing manipulation. Fear and bullying were the order of the day. Decisions were made based on personal preference rather than sound business reasoning. Lies were told and systems meant to protect employees were abused. The short-term result of the company’s management style was good people who were treated like trash and corrupt leaders who protected, pampered and profited political allies. The long-term result was the near destruction of the company through years of turmoil until, finally, the cancers were cut out. Of those good people who were chewed up and spit out, the ones I see around town have achieved personal success and made good lives for themselves. The manipulators who made life hell for everyone have mostly fallen from power and are ostracized, in some cases even by their own family members.

The Board of Education’s vaguely justified and unpopular firing of the Superintendent has not damaged Dr. Bob Grimesey. If anything, he has been liberated to seek the employment of a school system that will embrace and appreciate him. He now has hundreds of glowing personal references available online for future employers to read and can go on his way with an extra $128,000-plus in his pocket. That’s not to say it won’t impact him emotionally. His tearful message to an audience of supporters this week clearly indicates a desire to remain in Moore County to serve the public.

The real, true and genuine effect of the Superintendent’s firing is the fact it has brought into the full light of day those five board members who hoped they could either bully Dr. Grimesey into quietly resigning on Monday, or fire him with little public attention in hastily scheduled back-to-back meetings. People who, seven days ago, weren’t paying the first lick of attention to Moore County Schools are now feverishly discussing recall elections, alleged collusion, nepotism, and potential violation of the North Carolina Open Meetings Law. Much like the leadership at that company I worked for years ago, the five members of the Board of Education and the administration they might wish to create now seem like so much detritus circling a bowl in desperate need of flushing.

Some people will overreact. Keep calm folks. 

Keep threatening language and hyperbole off the table. Accept the reality that you can’t hit the rewind button and undue what has been done. It’s time to move forward politically to remove the problem. Move forward intelligently to elect people who, to the best of your knowledge, will represent you to the best of their abilities. Move forward ethically to do whatever you are going to do in a way that will not disgrace you or your allies in this endeavor.


Most importantly, sleep well at night, secure in the knowledge you are trying to do the right thing. I’d like to think there are five people who can’t.

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