News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


School board sending message, but what is it?

Whether intended or not, the Decatur school board this week raised caution flags about the central education office.

Specifically, it set the public to wondering about the future of Superintendent Sam Houston.

Due for an annual performance evaluation, the three-year superintendent failed to generate enough board energy to light a 40-watt bulb.

After a couple months of asking individual board members to evaluate Mr. Houston's past year performance, board President Charles Elliott more or less did the written review himself.

He submitted a letter for board approval that praises Mr. Houston and calls his performance exemplary.

The letter received 3-1 approval, with veteran member Tommy Sykes voting no. Dwight Jett, a vocal critic, was not present.

Sykes' reason was illogical. He said he voted against the letter because it gets the board away "from the process we established." He said the process is a good one, yet he declined to participate.

Perhaps the board majority is simply tired of a couple members using the process to air general complaints and saw the letter as a way to avoid more controversy.

Mr. Houston is a good superintendent. He's led the school system through the desegregation minefield and recently announced the city's two high schools will offer the coveted International Baccalaureate degree.

His relations with City Hall and some civic leaders get rocky at times, but that's often what happens to innovators.

So, was the lack of board evaluation a gentle reprimand of the superintendent or is he doing such a great job that the yearly exercise wasn't needed at this time?

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