Two views on the Super search: Candidate Huey and Jeri Rowe

The News & Record’s Jeri Rowe has a column today on the upcoming GCS superintendent search…and so do I.

I have a Counterpoint that was printed in today’s issue as well…and look who just called me “another version of Vernon Robinson.” We’ll deal with that in a moment.

First, Jeri Rowe’s column:

Wanted: Guilford’s next superintendent

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008

Dear school board:

I wouldn’t want to be you.

You need to pick someone — man or woman — who can step into Guilford County’s top education job and run one of the largest school systems in North Carolina without getting burned on the local political griddle. It won’t be easy. You all know that. But as you bring people in, here are a few tips to think about from parents, teachers, principals and education advocates. It’s something they want you to keep close as you search for the right person to replace Terry Grier before he goes coast-to-coast this summer to San Diego.

Call them the three Cs.


Community involvement.

And our kids aren’t corporations.

You say that you want everyone who’s interested to be involved in picking our next superintendent. Well, here’s your chance to bring Guilford County together and find some common ground on a constantly divisive topic: education.

Despite recent academic gains, our school system is still smarting from its merger 15 years ago. So, public input is crucial. It worked in Charlotte. It can work here. Remember those yellow “Get Terry Grier Outta Here” bumper stickers from a few years back? They arose from your plan to reassign students in High Point. That discussion led to months of rants about race and geography that often infect our sprawling school system like a virus.

Grier wore a bull’s eye on his back for that. To many, he became the most hated person in Guilford County. He could walk in a room crowded with parents and teachers and you could hear nary a whisper.

If Grier reeked, it would be one thing. But he did a good job earning $372,000 a year, with salary and benefits.

During his eight-year tenure here, Grier saw dropout rates go down, graduation rates go up and local student scores beat out our state’s averages on federal and state tests.

Plus, he did a slew of innovative things that earned him School Superintendent of the Year in North Carolina. And we all know that work snagged him his big-time gig in San Diego.

But he also had this my-way-or-no-way mentality that created insecurity — even fear — among teachers, principals and parents.

He followed a test-to-death edict that some say sapped creativity from the classroom and sent teachers scurrying.

It’s no wonder Guilford County has a 13 percent turnover rate.

Too many standardized tests. Too many worksheets. Too many requirements in which teachers had to be on the same line of every education page. I followed Kate Finch during her first year of teaching. She was voted as one of Guilford County’s best new teachers last year. And she was making some great headway in one tough school, High Point’s Ferndale Middle.

But those end-of-grade tests — our state’s way of keeping students and teachers accountable — broke her down. When she had to ask all those boring, lecture-style questions, her students would give looks that screamed, “Oh, my God!”

Of course, teachers and students need to be held accountable. We live in a numbers-happy world. But teachers need the freedom to be creative to keep their students engaged.

And we need a leader to encourage that. We need someone teachers will see in the classroom and chalk up as an ally — not some wonky educator who sees Guilford County as a line on a growing resume.

Sure, it would be cool if our new superintendent could step into a classroom — and team-teach. What a novel concept.

But remember, it’s our kids — and their education — we’re talking about. Our school system is not a job mill. It should be a place where our kids can believe they can reach the moon.

So, here’s your chance, school board. The three Cs. Don’t blow it.

Now, to my Counterpoint:

New board should choose superintendent

The following is a Counterpoint:
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. By Erik Huey
While some are dwelling on the legacy of outgoing Guilford County Schools Superintendent Terry Grier, it’s more important to look ahead because the task ahead is far more significant.We’re now faced with the mission of selecting someone who will run the school system and, while this will be a colossal task, there’s a smart way to go about it. With six school board seats up for election this year, it’s essential to consider two things: timing and quality.On timing, an interim superintendent should be named as soon as possible. Also, I’d suggest delaying the start of any search until after school board elections this year because it’s unfair to launch a search when it’s possible a lame-duck board will oversee the process.On quality, we must acquire someone who has these traits: a proactive management style; effective leadership and communication skills; the courage to tackle the big issues; an interest in supporting the cultural arts; a commitment to a safe school environment by punishing wrongdoers and enforcing rules and policies; the belief that a teacher’s voice is important; and the willingness not to seek retribution if employees report complaints.

He or she should be someone who will turn employee morale around; who believes a well-rounded education has more value than a test score; who will take responsibility and not pass the buck; who won’t recklessly spend money; and who believes that children of any color can succeed.

This person either should come from within GCS or somewhere locally, as there is a wealth of talent from within the Triad, and no need to hire a search firm.

We must involve the community in the search process through direct forums with any potential candidates, and appoint community members and teachers as part of the search committee.

We’ve reached a golden moment in Guilford County Schools history where we can begin putting our county’s children first before all else. This is an opportunity to turn things around, an opportunity for our schools to grow and shine.

Let’s not blow it.

The writer lives in Jamestown and is a 2008 Guilford County Board of Education candidate.


Did you notice how both my op-ed and Rowe’s ended? “Don’t blow it…Let’s not blow it.”

And I see I have another “detractor” out there who won’t be voting for me…notice this comment from “The Liberal Conservative:”


God help us, if this fellow gets elected. He’s nothing short of a Vernon Robinson.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Vernon, eh?
Hmm…It’s okay, I’ll take that as a compliment.
Because I dare speak the truth of what’s happening in our schools and the constant politicking among our “elected officials” here in the Peoples Republic of Guilford County, I’m the next Vernon Robinson, according to “Liberal Conservative.”
It reminds me of some of the hate-mail I received right after I publicly announced my intentions to run in late 2006.
It’s sad that some use name-calling when they can’t win an argument, it takes political discourse to a whole new low. I actually would love to discuss the issues with “L.C.” over coffee if he/she so desires. “L.C.” can e-mail me and we’ll set it up. I’m a very nice guy in person 🙂

I have thick skin, and I know my progressive message of change and reform won’t resonate with everyone…and I’m okay with that.

I may not win this election, but in the end, I will sleep at night knowing that I tried to lead a grass-roots effort to make a change for all of the children of Guilford County. Some of our citizens (such as the Liberal Conservative) continue to worship the establishment and the status quo. That’s okay if they think the establishment can do something better. But remember that our incumbents have a record, spotty and paltry at best. Look at how the Board acted this past weekend at their retreat.

Onward…we march!


Joint coverage today from my friend Sam Hieb at Piedmont Publius.

E.C. 🙂


12 Responses

  1. Thanks for marching on EC! At least you WANT to do it. I can name at least 5 that sit on that Board of Ed. that don’t seem to even want to be there. Thanks for wanting to do it. I don’t see any other person that has been as involved as you have for the past year. Sure, it’s easy to spout negative comments from one’s blog site (Liberal Conservative) but it’s another to get out and march. Keep marching EC…Hup, two, three, four!–Vote EC for our School Board!

  2. I can name the same 5…in one note.

    Thanks “reader.”

  3. I name 6 and sometimes 7. There are only 4 that I believe are effective and stand up for the students, teachers, and parents.

  4. Nice job on the Counterpoint, Erik.

    I also liked Jeri Rowe’s column. I generally think he does a good job and tries to be fair and objective, unlike some at the N&R.

    The only factual point I’d question is his statement that “During his eight-year tenure here, Grier saw…local student scores beat out our state’s averages on federal and state tests.” I’ve seen others make this claim and many people may believe it to be true. But it’s not quite accurate.

    Actually, test scores have been a mixed bag. Some scores went up, others went down. Some scores rose one year, then went down the next. Some scores were above the state average, others were below the state average.

    If you were giving Dr. Grier a grade on academics, it wouldn’t be fair to give him an “F”, as there were some successes. But it also wouldn’t be fair to give him an “A”, either. I think a grade of “C” on academics would be about right.

  5. Erik, the Liberal Conservative and others who resort to insults are utterly bereft of ideas or common sense. You have both in great number. Keep the faith.

  6. Erik, The rumor is that TLC is an ex school board member. Two left at the last election and she was not the one that lived in High Poit.

  7. Erik,

    Yes, that rumor has been alive and well since L.C. used the Demon Deacon moniker. L.C., aka Demon Deacon’s, posts are reflective of the ex-board member’s generally negative attitude. She was not a nice person, if you ever had to have dealings with her you would know it. Truthfully, she added nothing of value to the school board during her tenure.

  8. I gotcha. If one of you will e-mail me offline and let me know who this “ex-board member” is, that would be a big help…thanks! ( Is it who I’m thinking it is?

  9. BTW, my spirits have never been stronger. One or two or three detractors will not move me away from the target.

  10. Marti Sykes is my guess. Well if true that would NOT surprise me at all!

  11. I would caution against spreading gossip and rumors, folks.

    “The Liberal Conservative” specializes in name-calling and trash talking. His or her behavior over on the N&R’s boards is really disgraceful. I don’t know if Marti Sykes is or is not “The Liberal Conservative.” I don’t even know Ms. Sykes personally. But absent any real facts, I would cool it on the speculation. If she’s not “The Liberal Conservative,” she doesn’t deserved to have her reputation trashed by association.

  12. Interestingly, it hit the fan at the N&R LTR today. Apparently, many people got fed-up with Liberal Conservative’s abusive posts, and filed many complaints. Allen Johnson made a post asking people to cool-it, but he didn’t suspend LC. This did not please most of the people as LC has been intolerable for a very long time, but AJ doesn’t seem to want to suspend him/her. I’m sure that people at the N&R know who LC is. I had one of their people indicate that they did, but would not reveal the name.

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