Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson gave his one year’s notice this week. Actually it was more like 16 months.
While the news did not come as a surprise Tuesday to the Board of Education, it was not expected among the majority of the school system. It’s disappointing that Wilson is retiring after just one term, and I question whether the Board of Education would have overlooked him if they were armed with the knowledge he would be done after one term. Of course, he probably didn’t know he was going to retire four years ago and even if he was planning it he most likely wouldn’t have disclosed it. It is a shame, however, because school systems need stability at the top.
Along with other unique educational issues at that time, such as the introduction of the Common Core curriculum, Wilson came here in an unenviable position, replacing long-time Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes, who was beloved and appreciated by many in the school system. He was inevitably going to be compared to the affable Andes, who gained the respect of many in his 16 years at the head of schools.
With Wilson’s announcement this week, the school board made it clear it will conduct another national search to find his replacement. Some in the community privately questioned that move, suggesting vocally in some cases that Lou Taylor, who currently serves as Chief Operating Officer and was the former 17-year principal at Stephen Decatur High School, would be the logical choice to replace Wilson. Taylor was after all one of the four finalists in the last superintendent search, along with current Somerset Superintendent John Gaddis, an Ohio superintendent and Wilson.
While it’s yet to be determined if Taylor would even be interested again in the post, what is clear is there will be no internal promotion without a national search evidently. In other words, there will not be anything new on this front for about a year most likely. Personally, I like the idea of Taylor, or someone of a similar ilk, becoming the next superintendent. Wilson’s replacement has to be a collaborative-type of individual who understands this unique school system’s numerous strengths and its areas of shortcomings as well as the current dynamics between the Board of Education and the County Commissioners. It’s this last point that I could see Taylor making some headway in. It’s no secret relations between these two boards has never been worse. There’s a level of distrust currently among the two bodies that is unhealthy and that does not appear to be changing anytime soon.
I like to think I learn something from every question-and-answer interview we publish. That has perhaps never been truer than with this week’s interview with Michelle Freeman. I encourage our readers to give it a read and even better listen to the conversation through our podcast on our website.
The most charming thing about Freeman is her openness. For someone of her stature, she does not shy away from talking about the ups and downs she has experienced in her life. She acknowledges the grief she went through when her husband and later her new beau tragically died in accidents. She is an inspiration and a role model to many because of the way she carried herself through those sad times and credits her faith with giving her that strength.
“When I think about the last 10 years, what I think is that on any given day after a tragedy, you have a choice to either let the tragedy define you, or who you have become after the tragedy define you. That is literally a choice. I think that I live that on a daily basis, and there are days, especially since Matt’s (Haley) death, where without the faith that I have without the belief that I’m here for a reason, it all would have been overwhelming. And quite honestly, there were days in the last 10 years, and in the time post Matt’s death, which has been almost two years, people say ‘you’ve had two tragedies, how do you come out of that?’ I say, you wake up in the morning, you ask God for strength, you ask God to help you continue to find purpose and then you walk the walk. I think that is the most defining thing,” she said. “What grief does is stop you short of living. You can stay in grief so much that a part of you dies, and what grief can do is keep you from moving forward.”