Editorials

Don't judge Jackson County superintendent before all the facts are presented

Jackson County Superintendent of Education Barry Amacker attends a school board meeting on May 14,  while a parent speaks about mistreatment of special-needs students.
Jackson County Superintendent of Education Barry Amacker attends a school board meeting on May 14, while a parent speaks about mistreatment of special-needs students. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

This is not how the Jackson County school system wants to be remembered.

A missing report that Superintendent Barry Amacker says his office sent to the state Department of Education to report the mistreatment of a special needs student on a school bus. DOE says it never received the report.

Then there's Amacker caught on video often paying more attention to his phone than a parent speaking at a school board meeting. She was complaining that she felt her concerns weren't being heard.

And there's the criminal case against two women seen abusing the child in a video captured by the bus' security camera. That case was handled quietly and mostly out of the public eye. The first inkling parents had came from a story by Margaret Baker that appeared in the Sun Herald.

Then, the school district was reluctant to allow the parents to speak to the school board at all. Now, those parents want Amacker removed. Right now, the board doesn't have that authority. But when his term ends next year, it can choose to hire a different superintendent.

We urge the Board to proceed with caution. By many accounts, Amacker has been a fine administrator. And, we doubt that anyone knows the details of this case better than he.

He should have the opportunity to explain to the Board why he handled the abuse case the way he did. And, he should be given the opportunity to show what he and his staff have done to make a repeat of the incident unlikely.

And, Amacker should do everything in his power to restore the trust of the parents. Parents such as Holly Fidele, who told Baker:

"You worry about retaliation. I don't think my son's teacher would do anything, but we all have individualized education plans in place for our children which are legal documents on what the school is supposed to be doing for our special needs kids.

"Sometimes, if teachers are unhappy about the way things are going, they can change the IEP plan, and that could mean less services for your child. Then the parents have to get an attorney. No one wants that to happen."

We certainly don't. And the district should know that we, and the parents, are paying attention. A we'll continue to report on the school district as it moves forward.

We trust the school to follow through on its promise to fully investigate the abuse and the way the district handled the case of the teacher and bus driver, both of whom were fired when the abuse came to light.

And we, the 1,000 people who signed the parents' petition to have Amacker removed and state lawmakers from Jackson County will all be watching to assure the board follows through.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.
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