Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Editorial: Leave the Man's Wife Alone!!!

Mrs. Regina Williams

Regina Williams, a member of this community, an educator, a wife and mother of three (3) children has been charged and found guilty, in the court of gossip and innuendo {sometimes called public opinion}, of the charge of being married to the man who was crazy enough to believe that he could help people in Helena-West Helena turn their woes into fortunes. By the way, she is the wife of Superintendent Willie Williams. He is the 1985 graduate of Central High School who has returned to right an ailing ship and point it in the direction of progress.

Mrs. Williams was, in my words, attacked by the lawyer for some of the person's being RIF(ed). He questioned why her name was not on the list of employees being RIF(ed) that he received. To the extent that she is being RIF(ed), her name should have been on his list. However, she is not to be subjected to attack in another person's hearing for a decision she neither made nor can defend. She cannot participate in another employee's hearing!!!

Certainly, the superintendent had never been a superintendent before he attained this job. Sure, he has made some mistakes while on this job. The board hired him into the position. He could not hire himself. When he came to this district he was married with three kids and his wife was happily teaching in the area where they lived.

Generally speaking, superintendents, like many professionals, are hired and their spouses are given a job too. They are a packaged deal. As long as the spouse is qualified to do the job, this is not a problem. The spouse should receive no special treatment beyond the fact that the spouse is a package deal on the hiring. Everything else should rise and fall on merit.

This district has done this before. Harold Chorley's wife, you know the lady who taught English up the hill and had all of those Chor-Babies, was a district employee for long enough for him and her to retire and live their lives out right here in this community. Rodney Echols and his wife Ardelia Echols, it is my understanding, came to this district about the same time. They were not hired as superintendent and wife. Mr. Echols was promoted to superintendent. His wife, Ardelia, remains in the district to this day.

Tom Cheney and his wife worked in this district, together. Earnest Simes and his wife worked in this district, together. With a little more thought and reflection, I could name more.

My point is the husband and wife tag team is not novel; not new. I actually believe it is a good idea. It promotes something positive in our community: families.

Now, Mrs. Regina Williams is being non-renewed through a reduction in force (RIF). She, in essence, is being fired. I think that this is ludicrous. It think the Board of Directors should be run out of town on a rail in a box stamped "returned to sender" freight pre-paid and guaranteed for allowing this to happen.

I might be questioned on how I reconcile keeping Mrs. Williams while others are being RIF(ed)? My answer is simple, I don't get to make all of the choices. I am concerned in this writing about one choice. I am not a board member. I don't know that I would even go through the RIF that they are doing. I do know, however, at some point, governing requires principles. Promotion of the family unit is a good principle. It might, in some way, spill over and help some of the others who are being RIF(ed). If the board approached its decision making based upon education of children and the secondary impact upon families, we might see other positive changes.

Here's how. If the board is forced to think harder. Well, let me start where I mean to start. If the board is forced to THINK, then other solutions to these problems are possible. Had the boards over the last 15 years since my return had been THINKING and acting on positive principles on a consistent basis, we MIGHT not be in this position now.

I understand how we love the boards that do what we want. When one job plays out, the board creates another job for the good person who needs a job. It has happened down through the years. We can probably point to Chorley and Cheney doing it just like Echols, Simes, Brown, Graham, Easter, Howard, and Williams have done it.

We love boards who lead us into a positive direction as a community. Well, wait a minute, what measure do we have for board performance? I guess there are no objective measures. Hell, when Harold Chorley was the superintendent and people from across the tracks had little representation on the board, we lost Mohawk and had a hugely embarrassing U.S.D.A scandal where district officials and employees; a broad swath of them, were taking food (like steaks) home which should have been feeding hungry children (when steak was not on the menu at school). Nobody went to jail and children continued to receive a quality education. That is what matters, Right?

Any Tom, Dick or Harry can be on the school board. I lost a school board race by three votes to a candidate that I believed was less qualified. My mother, a few years later, lost to his brother by three votes. We have had people who did not graduate high school serving on school boards. We have had former convicted felons whose felonies involved dishonesty serving on school boards. We have had people who could not read this editorial serving on our school boards. And we, like crazy folk, wonder what the heck is happening with the education of our children. We have consistently permitted the uneducated to tell the educators how to educate and wonder what is the problem.

At some point, grown folk need to act like grown folk. People need to pick their battles. Otherwise, we fight about everything. We forget what started the fight and don't know how to stop the fight. We have people engaging in foolish comparisons to the good ole days when those days were not so good to many people. We have people wanting to return to the good ole days and do not remember what was good about them or why we should dare return.

Finally, if the good ole days were so darned good, why and how did we end up where we are? The good ole days taught the people who are now in charge. Didn't they. Wow! This speaks volumes about the good ole days.

Back, at this time, from my commercial break or soap box as the case may be, I am bothered by the way this community is allowing the wife of the superintendent of our schools to be treated. I do not know whether she has done everything right. Matter of fact, I DON'T CARE. My point is not really about her individually. My point is that we should have some principles and some values that lead us to respect positions even if we neither like nor respect the persons.

Many of these people being critical of the superintendent and his wife walk up in church on Sunday and call the pastor's wife the "first lady." They cannot, if their lives depended on it, point you to the place in the Bible where the wife of the pastor is a "first lady." My point, however, is that we know better. We know that we should treat a person's wife with respect. We know that we should address Mrs. Michelle Obama as the first lady of the United States and Mrs. Ginger Beebe as the First Lady of Arkansas. We know that. This school district does not have a first lady in that sense. However, in the spirit of treating people right, Mrs. Williams should be treated better than the public displays I have seen.

One selfish note as I go to my seat is this: We are receiving approximately $30,000 per year in funding for the three (3) children who are slated to return to Marion, Arkansas with Mrs. Williams as she leaves here to teach in her former place called home. Therefore, those who want her forced out do so at a tangible cost of $30,000 and a split family because the husband is in Helena-West Helena and the wife is banished to Marion where, by the way, they are neither in fiscal distress nor academic distress and have NOT been.

By the way, if I were the superintendent, I would tell the dissenters: "Don't bother my wife. Your fight is with me and you can bring it on BUDDY!!!" (That's probably why I got fired as mayor).

1 comment:

  1. Well James, your last comment/sentence of this editorial was your best in that you were FIRED as mayor. However I do agree with your logic on this matter. The wife has made no decisions in this matter thus leaving her wrongfully prosecuted and convicted with gossip. Good job James, on this ONE!