McCracken principal's case continues to be handled poorly

info@islandpacket.comDecember 20, 2012 

It's difficult to discern the point of the Beaufort County school board's special meeting Tuesday, where they heard about the case of Phillip Shaw, H.E. McCracken Middle School's erstwhile principal.

Anyone who thought the closed-door meeting of the outgoing school board would resolve his employment was disappointed. Shaw, who has been out of the school now for well over a month, remains in limbo. The board met for nearly two hours, but didn't take any action when the secret meeting ended.

Perhaps the briefing was held just to make the board potentially culpable, too, if things go awry legally with Shaw down the road. See what can happen when people are left to make up their own scenarios absent real information. Innuendo and rumor thrive on an information vacuum.

Shaw's situation makes you wonder how important a principal's job is to a school's operations. District officials seem in no hurry to either reinstate Shaw or start the process of replacing him in his $93,774 a year job. An assistant principal was put in charge when Shaw left in early November.

District officials continue to hide behind "personnel issues" and privacy concerns as reasons to keep the public in the dark, including students' parents. They also continue to cite a review of school policies and procedures, a review that raises the question of why such drastic action was taken against Shaw before it was completed.

As time ticks on, it seems increasingly likely that Shaw won't return to his job. Is the fear of a lawsuit driving decisions or the welfare of the school community? Could interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm, who still handles human resources for the district, have handled this any worse? If you think about it, dealing with people -- students, parents, teachers, community volunteers, elected officials, the media -- is what the school district is all about. Yet time and time again, district officials, particularly those at the very top, demonstrate a worrisome inability to do that in anything but a ham-fisted way.

We're told more information might be coming this week, but who knows whether it will answer the many questions raised by the district's handling of Shaw's employment.

As we said two weeks ago, district officials have done neither themselves nor Shaw any favors. Parents whose children attend that school deserve better and more timely information about what is going on. Not only is Shaw a public employee, but he was responsible for the welfare of more than 900 children. Circumstances surrounding his absence from school should not be left in doubt.

Little has changed since then, including -- apparently -- the district's ability or willingness to resolve this situation in a timely way or tell the public to whom it answers what happened and why.

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