Public, Shaw deserve better from school district

info@islandpacket.comJanuary 17, 2013 

The Beaufort County School District's handling of Phillip Shaw's employment continues to baffle.

Shaw, who had been principal of H.E. McCracken Middle School in Bluffton, has been reassigned to lead the district's alternative school program for students who have been recommended for expulsion.

Why he can no longer lead the 900-student middle school and why he is a good choice for the alternative school remain a mystery.

And as of Monday, he hadn't shown up for his new district job, which started Jan. 2. All this while he continues to be paid his $93,774 annual salary.

Denise Gibbo, the secretary who has been on paid leave from the school since Shaw's leave began Nov. 8, also is not back at the school, interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm said.

Another mystery.

District officials should deal with this situation directly, forthrightly and with some common sense. Little of which has been in evidence so far.

Something went wrong at McCracken Middle School or Shaw would still have his job. What happened? Parents of children who attend school there -- not to mention parents of the students the district has now put him in charge of -- deserve some answers.

The people who pay his salary deserve some answers.

Are district officials worried about a lawsuit from Shaw? Are they trying to transfer him to a job they think he won't want in an effort to get him out the door?

Or do they think he's the best person to lead the Right Choices program and its 25 students?

What did the district's review of policies and procedures at the middle school find? After more than two months, we're told by Rosswurm that it's only "pretty complete," and she wouldn't say whether any problems came to light.

In the midst of this muddle, the district announces that its new website has received a high mark for "transparency" from a nonprofit group that rates government websites. The A-minus grade, the district tells us, was based on the availability of such information as budgets, audits, public records, academics, board meetings and directory information for elected and administrative officials.

Funny, board members are pictured and listed, but no contact information is readily apparent on the website. (We couldn't find it.) You can click on the name of the board's executive assistant to send an email. But if you're trying to find out how to contact individual board members, good luck.

That's hardly transparency, and it should be fixed quickly. Nor are other examples we could offer, such as excluding pertinent email messages from Freedom of Information Act requests related to Shaw and the failed Strive to Excel program at Hilton Head Island High School.

Open government is more than just building a website and posting data.

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