Was he his own worst enemy, or was he done in?
That will be the debate at least until the Bibb County Board of Education hires a new superintendent to replace Romain Dallemand, who quit his post last week after the board agreed to buy out his contract.
It is beyond sad that the district has had to buy out a second superintendent in three years. It is sadder still that the focus will again be on the administration rather than the achievement gap that exists in the district’s schools. The students and their teachers, parents and community -- is where the focus ought to be.
We can hope both the demonization and the lionization of Dallemand will be short-lived. Like most of us, he did neither all bad nor all good. His challenges were enormous. His departure won’t change that. His leadership style didn’t take. That, we can hope, is something to address when hiring a new superintendent.
A split school board didn’t help matters. It is hard to know how to critique a board that seemed almost always to be split 5-3. Board members who opposed many of Dallemand’s initiatives and actions were most vocal.
Whether or not you bought their arguments, whether or not you believed they were out to get the superintendent, they tended to explain their positions to the public. That wasn’t so with board members who stood behind Dallemand. More often than not, they declined comment. Whatever the reason -- mistrust, bad public relations advice, a sense that anything they said would be misconstrued or misrepresented -- it was not easy to know why they voted the way they did because they wouldn’t say. Left to interpret that lack of response, some suggest these board members put more faith in the superintendent than in their constituents.
Regardless, the board is not without significant blame in how the past two years have torn at this community. The new board had better get its act together. Maybe a fresh start will hold some sway during the upcoming SACS accreditation process.
Meanwhile, the state of our union -- our school system -- is pitiful: a 51.3 percent graduation rate, a drop-out rate twice the state rate, heavy teacher turnover, and morale so low it could suck the enthusiasm out of a cheerleader convention.
Teachers need support, but they also need to recognize they may be uncomfortable with any superintendent’s challenge to the insanity represented by the status quo. Students need more academic rigor, and they need to know that school is not the place to unload the worst of the anger and burdens they face at home and in their communities. Parents and the broader community had better step up to help these young people outside regular school hours in whatever creative ways they can.
Those who say parents alone bear that responsibility do so at the community’s peril. Call it a cliche, but it will indeed take a village to lift Bibb’s public school system out of the mess it’s in. Ours is a community with huge economic, social and racial challenges. To ignore that, to sit on the sidelines, to say it doesn’t matter because some of us can afford to send our children to private schools, or have intact families, or work and don’t want to give to those who don’t -- or won’t, is at best uncharitable and at worst a path to disaster.
We give ourselves a chance if we listen -- really listen -- to those who both oppose and support the former superintendent’s Macon Miracle. We give ourselves a chance if during the search for Dallemand’s replacement we understand we may have to compromise on some things; there is no perfect candidate. We give ourselves a chance if we understand clearly that this ship won’t turn easily. We need to savor small victories while keeping our shoulders to the wheel.
No, it is no time to cheer because another superintendent has been sent packing. There is way too much work to do.
Sherrie Marshall is The Telegraph’s executive editor. She can be reached at (478) 744-4340 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow her on Twitter@shemarsh.