Monday, November 24, 2008

Managerial failures

Let me preface this by saying - as I've noted in earlier posts discussing the Oconee County Board of Education - that I know David Weeks, and I really, sincerely like the guy. We've always considered each other friends, he's helped out a couple of non-profits I support and assist, and he's got a good heart.

All of that said, I have deep concerns about his judgement and evaluations as incoming chairman of the BOE. For starters, there's the whole Superintendent-Gate thing. But now, there's this.

It's hard for me to understand how this was something worthy of being praised. If anything, it appears to be a faulty process that ought to be criticized and evaluated to prevent future errors in this area.

Oconee County High School learned of serious accusations against a member of its staff (Brian Dickens) - someone who taught and coached children of all ages - via a police order being taken out against that faculty member. Their response was to not suspend the teacher immediately, thus removing him from direct contact with the students, and then investigate the allegations ... but instead to have the principal attend the upcoming state tournament games.

Weeks argued that 'the reason (Dickens wasn't suspended immediately) is that, in situations like this, you have to let the investigation run its course.'

The fact that school officials and board members feel as if the principal attending the games is a sufficient response is troubling enough, but the notion that you can't suspend the accused faculty member - or at least remove him from the situation - while an investigation is pending seems mighty backward to me.

In fact, that's typically how investigations of this nature are conducted.

Now, to put this in perspective, this is an athletic program that runs through football coaches the way my daughter runs through diapers. They're dismissed for trivial reasons and are never given adequate time to implement their system, build up their players and produce results on the field.

Yet here we have serious allegations involving a coach's sexual relationship with a former player - a relationship that began while the victim was a student-athlete under the coach's guidance and instruction - and he's permitted to remain as head coach of the girl's softball team for the state tournament, all because the principal would be in attendance for the games.

If nothing epitomizes everything wrong with the 'win-at-all-costs' mentality that has permeated itself into our athletic culture, it's this. Dickens - accusations of stalking, violence and impropriety with students oustanding against him - was permitted to coach the Lady Warriors in the state tournament (a tournament they would go on to win).

If I was the chairman-elect, I'd say that I'm glad he's gone ... and then I'd ask the questions like 'why wasn't he suspended and removed from that position when the police order was first handed down?'

Granted, Weeks is psuedo-inheriting one mess (Superintendent-Gate) and has little direct oversight over another (Dickens-Gate), but his cavalier responses to this crises are most disappointing to me. People want an efficient and responsive school board that looks out for the safety and well-being of its students ... the BOE's responses to the past two situations don't suggest they've gotten that memo.


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