Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

EDITORIAL >> PCSSD vs. Nellums

One or more members of the Pulaski County Special School District Board went ballistic when Michael Nellums and Kim Forrest accused them of having a vendetta against Nellums.

So for the second time since the beginning of the year, certain members of this temperamental, erratic and thin-skinned board are having interim Superintendent Rob McGill investigate Nellums again.

Those who run afoul of the majority on this board quickly find themselves reassigned, passed over or investigated.

A lesser man, or perhaps a less stubborn man, would have thrown in the towel long ago, long before the first “investigation” into remarks he allegedly made earlier this year.

That investigation, which came up with no actionable behavior on his part, cost the district more than $10,000, billed over the course of a month by the district’s attorney, Jay Bequette.

That didn’t include the time that Bill Barnes, director of secondary education, or Debbie Coley, director of human resources, spent interrogating various other principals or teachers who might have heard an alleged slander.

Now Nellums and Forrest are being investigated because of the following sentences that appeared in a May 20 Leader article about the combining of the boys and girls middle schools in Jacksonville: “Forrest said she thought the combining of the schools was part of a vendetta against Nellums. Nellums said Tuesday he has no doubt that the combining of the schools grew out of just such a vendetta.”

Nellums’ troubles began when he refused to cave in to PACT, the district’s powerful teachers union — and increased as PACT added Tim Clark and Jacksonville board member Bill Vasquez to the board, where they had earlier placed Gwen Williams.

Forrest’s troubles began when she was appointed principal of the newly coeducational Jacksonville middle school for next year and spoke out asking for another year of single-gender education. She angered the special-interest groups by siding with Nellums.

Now Nellums is under investigation again and his attorneys, reportedly considering legal action against some members of the board, have directed him not to discuss the situation.

We think Nellums and Forrest have courageously fought for what they believed was best for their students. They’ve been able principals with a clear vision. The district needs more like them.