Cumberland County Commissioner John Patterson of the 9th district appeared at the Cumberland County School Board meeting last night to ask the board to reconsider not giving a new contract to Director of Schools Janet Graham. Patterson used the community comments time in the meeting to be able to address the board.
Here is what Patterson said in its entirety:
“I’m John Patterson. My address is 108 Walden Ridge Drive in Crossville. I am not a public speaker, never had a speech class and when I speak I sometimes lose focus and omit things I want to say so I will read my comments.
A few years ago a new member joined this school board and after hearing from a parent, she visited Crab Orchard Elementary. She was appalled by what she saw and smelled. There were ADA compliance issues and concerns that would make a fire marshal blush.
If you flushed your toilet in your home and sewage bubbled up from your shower drain, you would do something about it.
She asked this board, ”Where is our plan to schedule repairs to maintain our schools?”
You told her, “We used to have a plan, but we got away from it when we started using maintenance fund for other things.”
If you review the recent history of our school superintendents, you’ll know why we have “kick the can down the road” issues. You once had a good director of schools, but you let her go in favor of another who had no experience and that was a disaster. Little was accomplished. Roofs that had been leaking for many years were left still leaking.”
Next you hired an out of state person…a dud in my opinion who collected paychecks for three years and left. And those roofs continued to leak.
Then you hired Janet Graham with a wealth of experience and local knowledge of our schools and our people. She also has the leadership skills and the motivation to get things done to make our school district the best it can be. She raised the bar on expectations and accountability. Changes were made and transformations were set in motion.
She led and inspired this school board to do something about our facilities. Plans were drawn up to renovate Crab Orchard Elementary and you decided not to put lipstick on a pig of a lesser plan. Her efforts won over county commissioners to approve a $20 million school bond issue.
Thanks to her leadership we now have a beautiful Crab Orchard Elementary School….a place where our kids can take pride as they learn and thrive.
We’ve updated and fixed many things at CCHS. We finally dealt with roofs that have been leaking for decades and repaired the damage from years of neglect. Thanks to Graham’s leadership, we now have plans in place to deal with our repair, maintenance and future replacement needs.
She got rid of those awful portable classrooms. Now our kids don’t have to run through the rain or slog through the mud to get to their next class.
By any measure, whether it is improving test scores, advanced reading proficiencies, better school attendance, or higher graduation rates, her efforts have brought some remarkable accomplishments. So why are you fixing something that is not broken?
Shortly before last Election Day, I asked one of you how she managed to get re-elected with such ease. She replied, “if you want to keep your job you have to keep the teachers happy.” Now some of you will make a few teachers happy by rejecting the best director of schools we have had in many years. This should be a results oriented decision, not a popularity contest.
When I went through basic training there were a few recruits who hated the drill sergeant….hated how he did things….. but what we learned saved our butts later when things got tough in Vietnam. We didn’t cut and run….we didn’t toss a grenade into a leader’s tent.
Janet Graham faced a similar situation where a few dislike her because of how she’s done things. However, rather than bring any legitimate concerns before this school board, those few have slipped around to stab her in the back…those few have tossed a grenade into her tent.
She has done a great job and you all know it. A person of her character and leadership abilities comes along about once in a generation. In view of that, I urge you to reconsider your decision not to renew her contract.
However, if you decide to hire a new director of schools, I ask you select someone with similar experience and leadership abilities. Don’t make the hiring mistake you have made before. Don’t revert to that old kick the can down the road approach.
Our parents don’t want to see our recent student achievements diminish.
If you select a weak director of schools those accomplishments will likely slip-slide away, but it will be the students who suffer….but our kids don’t get to vote, do they?
End of Patterson’s statement
Patterson appeared in front of the Cumberland County Ethics Committee earlier this month after a complaint was filed against him by school board member Stace Karge alleging Patterson threatened action if she did not reverse her vote for denying Graham a new contract. After hearing both sides, the ethics committee threw out the complaint stating it was a “he said, she said situation” with no proof of the allegations submitted during the ethics committee meeting.
If the school board was going to take action to reverse their decision from their December 2019 meeting not to offer a new contract to Graham, it had to be last night. The school board did not talk about offering a new contract at last night’s meeting so Graham’s contract will end with the Cumberland County School System on June 30, 2020.
The school board now will focus on their search for a new director of schools and hopefully have that person in place before the start of the next school year.
105.7 News learned last night there are at least two local individuals at this time wishing to be the next director of schools for Cumberland County. Both are highly qualified for the position and are well known in the school system. Their names will be kept confidential until their official statement of intent to seek the seat is submitted to the board of education.