Friday, August 25, 2006

The Battle Continues Over Beleaguered School Superintendent Carlinda Purcell

Robert J. Walker wrote a guest column in the Montgomery Advertiser this morning about the bid by the board of education to terminate Dr. Carlinda Purcell's contract. I have a HUGE problem with this sentence and the view behind it, “And today every black person in the city of Montgomery is affected by what happens in the public schools of Montgomery County.” My problem is that public education is owned by all of the citizens of Montgomery--African American, white, Latino, Asian, Native American and any other ethnic groups I’ve left out. We are all affected by what happens with public education.

I have not abandoned public education. Nor do I intend to. I think Dr. Purcell failed to unite the community behind her vision and failed to address the missteps she made along the way. It's more about personality, style of leadership and performance rather than gender and race. But the bottom line is that Dr. Purcell came into a challenging situation to begin with and wasn't effective in turning things around. She alienated community members who hardly needed an excuse to be alienated since many of them had long pulled their children from public schools. Dr. Purcell did nothing to shore up relationships. She needs to leave with grace and dignity, but I question if that is now possible with comparisons of her to the two of the greatest icons of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

I don't know how we can begin to repair the bridges when threats of warfare and boycotts are thrown about and radio talk show hosts casually bait their listeners. How can we be so far apart when the issue is the best interests of public education? Can we somehow get back to that rather than focusing on a personnel issue?

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