Superintendent Blog

The fan reaction to the last holding penalty call against the Eagles during last night's Super Bowl game reminded me of the scrutiny schools often face. Due to confidentiality laws protecting both students and staff, the school rarely comments on any situation or accusation made against the district. The public always sees one perspective—either the one told by media or the one told by individuals with a bias toward the situation. That bias is often to make the school look bad, retaliate against certain individuals for whatever reason, or get sympathy clicks from social media followers.

Eagles’ fans show the instant replay of the hold from the broadcast that makes it look like the refs made a bad call. But when you look at the penalty from the perspective of the ref, you can clearly see the hold that the ref saw. At that time, the ref couldn’t defend his position. Luckily for him, he was allowed to defend his position after the game, the correct view of the penalty was released, and the defender even admitted he held the receiver and he deserved the penalty. Despite these three things, there will always be those who stick to the original story that it was a bad call by the refs. Schools hardly ever get the opportunity to set the record straight when disgruntled individuals level accusations against the school. It’s like being in a boxing match with one side having their hands tied behind their back and the other side with weights in their gloves. Hardly a fair fight, but “them’s the rules”!

That’s not to say that the school and everyone in it is perfect. We're human. We make mistakes. But almost all educators go into education because they love kids. It certainly isn’t for the pay! So many times in my years here, I have seen the love for and tears shed by staff over the children we serve. Rich Hill is lucky to have so many good people working with their children.

In my 26 years in education, I have overseen around 50 employee resignations, retirements, or dismissals out of more than 500 employees for violating the law, violating board policy, poor professional judgement, substandard teaching, or violating ethical standards that we just can’t have in our schools or jeopardizing the safety of our kids. We cooperate with law enforcement, Division of Family Services, Social Services, and the courts. We provide eye-witness testimony, school and bus video footage, and any paper documentation that is requested. If an employee has violated board policy, child abuse laws, endangerment laws, or ethical practice, the board reviews the evidence and follows board policy and/or the law in regards to employee discipline. If a DFS investigation ever substantiated a claim of child-abuse against a staff member, the school board would either discipline or dismiss said employee.

For example, I once had a teacher that kept showing up late to a class she was supposed to teach leaving kids unsupervised. After three write-ups, she then physically threatened a kid in class. I investigated, put her on leave, and accepted her resignation. 

On another occasion, a school administrator was going to be dismissed for poor performance. A family friend of the administrator retaliated by accusing the supervisor of bruising their child at school four months prior. DFS investigated and obviously did not substantiate those claims. 

One day, I was in the grocery store in a small community. The student working the register and I were talking and he called me “Dr. Goddard.” The gentleman who had just paid turned and asked, “You’re Dr. Goddard?” I said I was. He said, “Meet me outside.” That’s never a good sign, but I went out and asked how I could help him. He said, “I heard you been calling us all a bunch of dumb hillbillies in the newspaper.” I asked him who had told him that. He said a lady in town unhappy with me about some decisions the school board had made had told him. I said, “I write a column in the paper every week about the school and community. Have you read it?” He said, “No.” I said, “Well, if you go read it you will see that I was talking about my respect for the hard working, intelligent people in this area because my grandparents were from a similar community not far from here. I would never talk bad about the people from this town because my grandparents were hillbillies and I'm a hillbilly.” He shook my hand, said it was nice to meet me, and went on his way. Speaking to someone face to face goes a long way toward getting at the truth and I'm glad he took time to find out before he just punched me in the face!

Finally, I had a single, veteran teacher of many years who loved her high school students. One day while teaching, a male student made a very inappropriate remark to her. Without thinking, she smacked him in the back of the head and said, “What would your mother say about you talking like that to me?” Of course, when she realized what she had done, she went straight to the principal’s office and reported herself to him, then to my office and told me what happened, and then she went to the workroom and called the boy’s mother and told her what happened. The mom said, “Well, it sounds like he deserved it.” We documented the incident in her file and reported it to the board for review. 

There are so many things that can happen in a setting with hundreds of children and many adults meeting for over a thousand hours a year. I have seen crazy stuff you wouldn’t believe from kids, parents, and staff. When a family is mad about something or hurting from a tragedy, it's easiest to point fingers at the school when the school principal, counselor, and teacher has usually been aware of and involved in helping the situation for a long time prior. We just can't tell our side of the story due to confidentiality. The things you see reported on social media are usually “A story” and hardly ever “THE story.” Ask JuJu Smith-Schuster and Patrick Mahomes.