Questionable hiring begs for answers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2006

R-C News-Herald Editorial

Is perception reality?

That would seem to be the question for the Hertford County Public Schools.

Two members of the school board – John Horton and Ron Baker – seemed to have a solid plan. The two wanted to bring George Norris back to the district as an interim superintendent.

Norris has served the students of Hertford County before. He knows the district and much of the politics of the county.

Three members opposed the move. They were David Shields, J. Wendell Hall and the Rev. Patrick Young.

Then something that causes more questions than answers happened. On a motion by Hall, the board voted 3-2 to hire Dr. Mary Jo Allen as interim superintendent.

The former Alamance County Schools’ superintendent would obviously seem qualified for the post. Dr. Allen has an impressive resume that includes a doctorate from Duke University and roles as superintendent in both Perquimans and Alamance counties.

Dr. Allen has been a principal, central office director, assistant superintendent and chief operating officer of two school districts.

She is qualified to lead Hertford County Public Schools.

Having said she is qualified, the questions came in when Dr. Allen said she was the wife of a manager at a restaurant owned by school board chairman David Shields.

While there is nothing that would stop Shields and the other board members from hiring anyone should they so choose, the questions began to surface in Hertford County.

Was there a plot even before the former superintendent’s contract was not renewed? Is the hiring of someone so closely connected to the board chair morally right?

The answers to those questions are known only to three people who sit on the school board.

We do not believe Shields, Hall or Young did anything wrong. They simply disagreed with two other members of the board and many of the county residents. Because they chose Dr. Allen does not mean there was a conspiracy or that they did something morally reprehensible.

Despite that fact, the questions will plague Dr. Allen throughout her stay in Hertford County. They will be at or just below the surface with her staff in the district, parents and those who are interested in seeing the district succeed.

By all accounts, the district’s test scores are not very good. There is a lot of work to be done to get Hertford County where they need to be.

Our question is this: if there is so much work to be done, couldn’t an interim who wouldn’t have questions to answer about how they got here served the district better?