A failure of leadership in the Fayette school system
Wednesday evening just after 6 p.m. the Fayette County Board of Education came out of a session closed to the taxpaying public and voted 4-to-1 in favor of a “mutual termination agreement” for Jeff Bearden, for two years the superintendent of the local school system.
One day later, we — meaning the media, the 3,000 school system employees, some 20,000 students and tens of thousands of taxpaying residents of Fayette County — still are in the dark about what happened in that three-hour secret session to bring all of us to this point: A system in crisis, now leaderless.
UPDATED 6:29 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20 — Here's what 24 hours of high-priced legal and educational talent produced:
“At a specially called meeting on Sept. 19, 2012, the Superintendent and Board of Education agreed, in accordance with the terms of the Superintendent’s employment agreement, to a mutual termination of that agreement effective Jan. 1, 2013.
“The Board of Education expresses its appreciation to Dr. Bearden for his leadership and many initiatives that have improved the School District during his service as Superintendent.
“Dr. Bearden expresses his thanks and gratitude for the encouragement and most of all the support of the staff, parents, and community.
“The Superintendent and all Board members are committed to a smooth and productive transition, continuing to address the needs of the School System and providing the best possible education for the students of Fayette County.”
That's it. The official word has been dispensed from the Board of Education’s absentee Gainesville attorney Phillip Hartley, the system’s central office, and the elected five school board members.
The official word. That basically says nothing.
So — what happens next?
We are assured it will be a "smooth and productive transition." But no official word on why there is suddenly a transition, when just this past summer Bearden's contract was extended through 2014. Why did Bearden resign? Or face termination?
Not one official word on what will happen to the parallel processes of redistricting and budget-cutting committees.
Not one official word about who might lead the system beginning Jan. 1, when Bearden will officially be an ex-superintendent.
Not one official word of any substance. Nothing. Nada.
Just vaporous platitudes.
This displays a leadership vacuum of troubling proportions among the people to whom we taxpayers send more than $170 million of our money each year.
Platitudes are no substitute for truth. Taxpayers pay these folks; taxpayers deserve an accounting from these "leaders."
[Cal Beverly is editor and publisher of The Citizen.]