Those concerned about how the Beaufort County School District deals with its employees should be thankful former H.E. McCracken Middle School principal Phillip Shaw has asked for a public hearing on his firing.
And they should hope the hearing actually takes place. (It's expected in September.) With Shaw's case, anything's possible, as we've seen over the past 10 months.
At the hearing, the board will hear from district officials and Shaw and decide whether to uphold his firing.
Shaw's hearing before the Beaufort County school board ought to be as much about the school district's performance as his.
The whole affair has been one big muddle since former interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm walked him out of the school in November.
Shaw hasn't been back since, but he has continued to draw his $93,774 a year salary, even after not showing up in January to a newly assigned job. District officials first said he had been placed on leave while they investigated school policies and procedures and said he would only be gone a few days. That administrative leave changed later to "personal leave." The public was not told anything of note about the investigation. (There was a police report filed by district officials over an "unauthorized" bank account that turned out to be a school PTO account that had nothing to do with Shaw.)
In April, the district, with school board approval, renewed his contract, but Rosswurm said he had to settle problems with the district before he could come back to work. She also said he had refused to meet with district officials.
All the while, the public has no idea (for sure) what prompted Shaw's suspension, reassignment and now firing.
Here are some questions we'd like to see answered:
Board chairman Bill Evans claims board members have been kept in the dark about the details of Shaw's case so that they can give him a fair hearing. We suspect they know far more than they let on.
In an interview, he said, "We give the superintendent broad latitude in personnel matters. ... There has to be some place in there for trust that the superintendent knows what he or she is doing, and then go through the process, if necessary, to see if that (trust) is validated or not. We have to accept on face value that he made a recommendation that he can support."
Evans said in a written statement last week that it would be "inappropriate" for the public to contact board members about Shaw's case. How could he stop it? Why make the statement except to try to intimidate the public and board members?
He also said this: "The public has had a lot of very understandable questions about this. ... It will be valuable to everybody that there is a public hearing to clear the air on ... what has happened over the past nine to 10 months."
That's true, and so why hasn't the school district facilitated it. If Shaw hadn't asked for a public hearing, we might never have gotten any of our "understandable" questions answered. It shouldn't take this long or be this hard to sort out the twists and turns in this messy case.