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This week, thousands of parents, teachers, volunteers and staff members who contribute to the success of students in the Oldham County district received a 1,000-word tirade from Superintendent Will Wells.
His message? He combined criticism of the local newspaper for publishing differing opinions with yet another pat-on-the-back for the Oldham County Board of Education’s five elected officials.
After all, four of the five board members who voted to put Wells at the helm of Oldham County’s award-winning schools now face heated opposition in the Nov. 6 election.
The problem? In his haste to blister The Oldham Era for publishing letters to the editor that criticized the school district and current board members, Wells seems to have forgotten his role as the district’s top administrator.
It’s natural for a leader to want to retain his team. But there is no place for a superintendent within a school board election, especially this late in the game.
Like thousands of registered voters in Oldham County, Wells is entitled to cast his vote for the candidates of his choice on Election Day.
But as superintendent of one of the most successful school districts in the state, Wells should keep his Election Day wishes to himself.
District resources – including mailing lists designed to communicate with parents about upcoming events – are not to be used for a political purpose.
The message reflected poorly on the district – the end result Wells is attempting to thwart.
An attempt to bully and intimidate the local newspaper is also unbecoming of a superintendent, and sets a bad example for the district employees who represent Oldham County Schools with pride on a daily basis.
He accuses the newspaper of publishing letters to the editor without regard to facts, although the school district’s longtime critics continue to provide documentation to back up their claims.
District officials have been less forthcoming. When the district contacted The Oldham Era in order to refute claims about spending and staffing, we learned the hard way that there’s always more to the story.
Take, for instance, the fact that the district has only one assistant superintendent on payroll this year.
District officials failed to mention that the previous administration had several assistant superintendents on payroll.
Recent title changes – and significant pay increases for several former assistant superintendents – kept the district’s central office staffed with many of the same faces operating under a new titles. But true to their statement, the district has one assistant superintendent.
There seems to be an unrealistic expectation for The Oldham Era to publish only positive news about the district, and little acknowledgement that the newspaper graciously allotted space in recent editions for the superintendent’s columns. In fact, last week’s edition was the first in several weeks that didn’t include a column submitted by Wells.
We’ve published five columns since September touting the school district’s success, including “Celebrating ACT, AP test success,” “District is focused on success,” “Oldham students, teachers excel” and “2012-13 school year off to a great start” – all written by Wells.
We’re certainly accustomed to publishing positive reviews of the school district, and we’ve featured hundreds of star students and hard-working teachers.
Unfortunately, we did not publish the column he submitted for last week’s edition, which touts the district’s leadership academy.
It isn’t as time-sensitive as other viewpoints we received, including letters we published from the school board’s vice-chair in defense of the district and a school board candidate reaching out to voters.
Wells submitted a lengthy letter to the editor this week, and revised it for publication. For those he reached by email, the letter you see published in this week’s edition is polished and more concise.
The superintendent left many people convinced that The Era refused to publish his views in response to recent criticism.
Parents and teachers quickly turned to The Era to ask what all the fuss is about.
The answer is this – the superintendent disagreed with our decision to publish negative reviews of the district, especially when he expected to see his column in The Era.
Email addresses collected by Oldham County Schools are intended for a better purpose than attacking the local newspaper.
We defend Wells’ right to criticize the newspaper for its decisions, but we expect better of him and the district than to bombard thousands of teachers, parents and staff members with a poorly researched rant.
We provide an outlet for many viewpoints – including those that are critical of our decision-making.
The views in this editorial are those of The Oldham Era.