Here”s what we know: Starkville School Superintendent Judy Couey has resigned, effective June 30. In her resignation letter, Couey cited “a need and desire” to focus on her health, saying the superintendency “is a demanding job requiring total focus on the position.”
The school board, said president Pickett Wilson, would not elaborate on Couey”s resignation, calling it a personnel matter.
Wilson maintains the board did not ask Couey to quit. Couey had already been on leave following a closed meeting of the board a week earlier. Was the leave Couey”s idea, or the board”s? We don”t know — neither side is talking. Wilson only would say that it was a “personnel issue.”
We don”t know if the board”s decisions — whatever they might have been — were the right ones, or not. This board has kept the community completely in the dark about the circumstances surrounding Couey”s departure.
All we do know — and we”re pretty crystal clear on this — is that the Starkville School Board has taken a critical hit to its credibility, and the community”s confidence in its ability to lead the district forward.
Even members of the city”s Board of Aldermen voiced their frustration this week. “Such a precipitous act calls into question their judgment and knowledge of the pulse of the school district,” Alderman Roy A. Perkins said.
Alderman Jeremiah Dumas decried the school board”s recent executive sessions, calling them a “misuse of power” that “further distance the issues at hand from a concerned citizenry.”
“We must have leadership in places that are willing to meet challenges head on, not sidestep the issue in order to cover it up or hope that it takes care of itself.”
The school board has kept city leaders in the dark, along with the rest of us.
This is the same school board, mind you, that gave Couey a glowing evaluation, a ringing endorsement and a contract extension just a year ago.
“We feel like she is the person to lead the district through 2014,” then-board president Bill Weeks said after the board voted unanimously to renew Couey”s contract. “We”re all excited about the job she”s doing, and we”re ready to move forward.”
In its evaluation, the board did challenge Couey, and itself, to make one improvement: “Redouble efforts to effectively communicate both with the community and with district personnel, as support from these groups is necessary to achieve the level of performance expected in this district.”
A year later, that support has faded fast, if it hasn”t evaporated completely.
Said Dumas: “This community deserves and demands better representation and communication.”
This we know.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.