At the recent meeting of the Perry County School Board, the firm stance of Charlene Miller, James Ritchie, and Jerry Stacy to employ KSBA to do the search for our new superintendent can only be described as noble, historic, and potentially far-reaching in positive consequences for the future of Perry Countians. The KSBA search can be expected to net a multitude of very qualified candidates.
As Eastern Kentucky goes, we should be considered attractive. We have decent to upscale and new facilities, a good tax base even in bad times, and we appear to be looking for a reform-minded leader with credentials and background experience that prove his fitness for the task. To the three very valiant members of the board I would say, “As I’m sure you are aware, the fight has just begun. KSBA finds, transmits, and recommends qualified applicants from beyond our district borders to you.”
To Interim Superintendent Jonathan Jett I would say, “You are to be highly commended for your leadership in mending fences with the Hazard Independent School District and paving the way for collaboration and sharing of resources and ideas with them. Your efforts to refocus on academia instead of athletics will be heartily endorsed by parents and taxpayers. You do not qualify for the permanent superintendency at this time for the following reasons (stated non-accusatorily and very objectively): We need to shed baggage and we intend to start a new chapter, as clearly signaled by three members of the board. You were penalized with temporary de-certification for involvement in some capacity in the 2010 Perry Central testing scandal. You were a key player in administrative oversight of Perry Schools’ academia throughout several years of dismal performance on test scores. You were oversight in some capacity when we rocketed to the top statewide, only to be discredited by ACT officials.
As a mentor for the position, you had the former superintendent John Paul Amis who oversaw the aforementioned disaster, and was ultimately forced to retire. You came through the ranks with members of central office staff who were declared to be incompetent by KDE audit, along with the pronouncement that these individuals were incapable of ever providing the necessary oversight to bring about the needed improvements. Upon assuming the interim position, you were logically responsible for initiating a pathway to replacing these individuals with capable, qualified administrators. Notification deadline date for termination, transfer, or other means of remediation of the problem is shortly forthcoming. What have you done so far and what do you intend to do?
In one failing school, you have propped up a failing principal/referee with a very competent retired administrator — a short-term fix, but still a band-aid for a cancer. For Robinson Elementary (failed principal recovery center) you passed over a veteran with a record of outstanding accomplishment in favor of evicted Perry Central Principal Estill Neace. Mr. Neace was the hands-on (or off), immediate supervisor of the tragic, chaotic downfall of Perry Central academia.
The logical conclusion to be drawn is that you have obligations that must be met at our expense, or you make poor decisions. Either way, we are the losers. We should not have to wait for the next superintendent to begin the clean-up of central office. Robinson Elementary students, staff, and parents should not have been denied the veteran principal with a 25-year record of huge success in that school and at Perry Central.
Under the leadership of a genuinely qualified, serious educators and leaders, both of you, wherever you are, will bear close monitoring because of the tarnished résumés. We are all responsible for protecting our own reputations and résumés. Both of you were allowed to stray, but as adults were responsible for protecting yourselves. Both of you logically bear major shares of blame for the horde of young graduates who left so illy-equipped to function in society, as well as our near-million dollar payout to KDE personnel for their three-year stay to clean up the Perry Central mess. Due to those circumstances, neither of you should be in the focal-point positions of leadership you currently occupy. It sends the wrong signal to those coming along behind and embitters those deserving ones who were passed over.
So, to you I say, don’t be angry or bitter. Consider yourself fortunate if you land a lower-tier administrative position under a qualified superintendent, and make yourself a vital player in the cleanup of our district and your own résumé.
In closing, to Charlene, James, and Jerry: you have an idea of what will be forthcoming. Stay strong and follow through. It won’t be easy. In return, we will love, honor, and respect you to our dying day.
Eddie N. Campbell,
Lost Creek, Ky.