The following is to The Pilot's front-page editorial. It was written before the mass resignations were announced Saturday.
The abrupt and indefensible firing of Moore County Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey by a cabal of five school board members stinks worse than a chicken truck on a hot day.
The perpetrators who caused such mayhem and such loss of faith in the community at large should resign. Failing that, the newly elected board members who voted for this tremendous waste of time, talent and treasure should be subjected to a recall election.
Seldom in anyone’s memory has any local action ignited such a firestorm of universal condemnation. All you have to do is read the endless stream of outraged comments on The Pilot’s website. Or listen to the hundreds of angry residents who poured out for Thursday morning’s school board meeting in Carthage — so many that the fire marshal felt compelled to move the whole operation to the much larger commissioners’ chambers in the old county courthouse. And even those 400 seats all but overflowed.
Young and old, black and white, northern Moore and southern, parents and teachers, Republicans and Democrats — all were totally united in their disgust. It’s hard to imagine how this board can re-establish trust with its nearly 1,800 employees and 12,755 students, many of whom wore black on Friday in a display of solidarity for Grimesey; the Board of Commissioners, who will meet Wednesday to consider dramatic new restrictions on their spending authority; Sandhills Community College, whose convivial president John Dempsey wants to be the John Hancock of a recall election; or the legions of parents, grandparents, volunteers and other school supporters whose full faith and goodwill have been shattered.
For these five school board members, there’s a different set of 3 R’s: resign, reinstate or recall.
Even worse, now that the dirty deed has been done, all of the questionable details of secret meetings and romantic encounters are coming to light.
Grimesey’s dismissal was long in the plotting. And the five-member alliance was aided — in part — by the personal romantic relationship between board members Becky Carlson and Ben Cameron. That certainly calls into question their judgment and the integrity of the 5-3 vote to fire Grimesey.
How did the Gang of Five coordinate all of their activities without violating the North Carolina Open Meetings Law? Inquiring minds would like to know.
To all appearances, the only people who were unhappy with Grimesey’s job performance in the first place were a few educrats in the system headquarters — particularly some in high positions whose feet he held to the fire and whose contracts he limited to one year as a way of motivating them to share in his vision for the school system’s operations. (Talk about a sense of entitlement. Most of the working public would saw off a body part for a one-year contract.)
Particularly open to question is the role of Associate Superintendent Kathy Kennedy, who is close friends with board members Kathy Farren and Laura Lang. There would appear to have been some well-poisoning going on in the central office, which is simply unacceptable — and a recipe for sending morale into the basement. Kennedy’s effectiveness as an administrator has been so severely tarnished by the sad episode that she too would be wise to tender her resignation.
Farren and Lang are two of the five board members who voted for getting rid of Grimesey. The other three are Carlson, Cameron and Sue Black. Voting against were Bruce Cunningham, Charles Lambert and Ed Dennison. It is worth noting that the yes-no vote split along gender lines — except for Cameron, who is involved in a relationship with Carlson.
Cunningham deserves praise for the way he presided over the tense various phases of this meeting. The entire misbegotten procedure obviously left a bad taste in his mouth. But in his role as chairman, he did what he had to do to preserve order and keep things moving — often over yells and catcalls and boos and shaking fists.
Among the more maddening aspects of this miscarriage of justice is the fact that those who so blithely deprived Grimesey of his job gave no reasons whatsoever for doing so. Clearly, they are limited by law in what they can say. But their attitude of “trust us, we know what we’re doing” just doesn’t cut it. Their accounts of his supposed sins, gathered from back-channel sources, have proven untrue or exaggerated.
Now that this terrible damage has been done, where do we go from here?
If the five choose not to resign, then the rest of us should pursue the avenue suggested by an outraged John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College, who stood to suggest that a recall procedure be pursued.
This much seems clear: If those who perpetrated this action think Thursday’s raging storm will blow over soon, they are surely wrong in that as well.