Saturday, February 19, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
In early January, Berkeley County School Superintendent Dr. Anthony Parker announced to the Berkeley County School Board his intention to retire at the end of the current school year. In just a few short days that decision changed from a pending retirement to Dr. Parker’s employment ending immediately and him being paid until the end of the year. As of this writing there’s much speculation and misinformation as to the reasons for his immediate retirement. I hope this column sheds some light on how this unfortunate situation came to be.
In the two short years Dr. Parker has been the leader of the District much has changed from the previous administration. The District went from building new high schools like Cane Bay High at 80 plus million dollars to models costing half or less. The current Cane Bay Middle School is targeted at less than $20 million versus the $46 million proposed by the previous administration. Dr Parker had a ten year vision and plan to build the future schools required as student population grows. The plan was based on sound data from the growth study initiated by Dr Parker and would have saved the taxpayers of this county several hundred million dollars versus the old method.
With Dr. Parker’s leadership, we went from a District with differing departments “working in silos” to a District that has a shared vision and purpose with the “centerpoint” focused on student learning. We became a District where school principals are expected to be the instructional leader, their school’s budget directly tied to their individual school improvement plan, and each improvement plan addressing the District goals set by the Board and Superintendent. We became a District that values its teachers. Instead of increasing class sizes and mandating furlough days, we eliminated 88 central office positions. We became a District that values personal growth and development, values best practices, and expects teachers to share and help each other in Professional Learning Communities. We became a District that values the dedicated hard work by maintenance, custodial and food service staff, values Dr. Parker communicated directly. These values and principles are evidenced every day just by walking into a school and seeing the way they look today versus 2 years ago. We became a District leading the way by engaging the community in decision making and the Superintendent actively participating in local education organizations such as the regional Education Foundation. We went from a District where the Superintendent spent much of his time in his office to one where the Superintendent spent much of his routine, 70 plus hour weeks, in all of the schools engaging principals, staff, and students.
Just a few months ago Dr. Parker received an annual review that was profoundly positive. In fact, Dr. Parker agreed to extend his contract period to a total of five years. All was relatively well until Dr. Hinson and I left the Board. Both of us would have stood steadfast against attempts to micromanage Dr. Parker. I suspect the minor level of interference increased dramatically since November and Dr. Parker decided he could not effectively lead in that atmosphere. The District and Dr. Parker entered into an employment agreement when we hired him that spelled out each other’s responsibilities and included provisions for either side to terminate the agreement. Since the District is paying Dr. Parker to the end of the year I assume he had cause to be paid. I would not be surprised if there is a non disclosure clause in the agreement announced at the special meeting on the 13th. His departure is certainly a failure of the Board’s leadership.
I will be offering a strong letter of recommendation for Dr. Parker in whatever endeavor he may choose to pursue. He has proven to be an effective educational leader and if he decides to continue as a Superintendent in another district they will reap the rewards of his talents and work ethic if they will let him do his job. As for Berkeley County we will have a hard time explaining Parker’s departure to prospective new superintendents so I sincerely hope the Board considers this in their treatment of future leaders.