Caucus Seeks Action Against Worcester School Leaders

NEWARK – A March incident at Snow Hill High School remains a source of concern among community members nearly two months later.

A letter calling for the removal of three top school system officials and a closed session meeting this week are both tied to the school system’s response after students reported a racially charged social media post at Snow Hill High School.

“Anytime something like this arises, our board takes these incidents seriously,” said Todd Ferrante, president of the Worcester County Board of Education.

In early April, Superintendent Lou Taylor, Chief Safety and Operating Officer for Grades 9-12 Annette Wallace and Snow Hill High School Principal Kim Purvis joined a representative of the Tri-County Mediation Center at a church in Snow Hill for a discussion regarding a social media post made in March by members of the high school’s baseball team. Purvis suspended three players — the one who created the post and the two who shared it — for a game. When Taylor became aware of the incident, however, he recommended the use of restorative circles, a technique that involves individuals talking openly and honestly together, and instructed Dwayne Abt, chief operations and human resources officer, to visit the school.

Purvis said that after Abt’s visit she felt she had to use restorative circles rather than suspension.

“I was told and I quote ‘Dr. Purvis you don’t want something like this to tarnish your 30-year career,’” Purvis said at the church meeting. “That is what I was told. What do I do with that? I was also told ‘Dr. Purvis, I’ll be very honest with you. You can take this to the board but I don’t think the board will support you.’ So what decision was I to make?”

While Taylor said he was sorry for the missteps that had taken place and that the suspensions initially imposed by Purvis were eventually carried out, James Jones of the Caucus of African American Leaders of the Eastern Shore outlined continued frustrations in a letter sent to local officials this week. The letter begins by calling for the “immediate resignation or reprimand” of Taylor, who is described as “not fit to lead.”

“Our community has had enough of the antics of Mr. Lou Taylor,” a letter sent by the caucus to local officials reads. “This incident is an indication that under his leadership he’s led Worcester County Public Schools down a deplorable and unethical path.”

The letter goes on to call for the removal or reprimand of Wallace and Abt. The letter ends with a demand for the commissioners and the state to withhold funding from the school system until the personnel changes are made.

“…we no longer live in the 1950s where White Supremacist can use their power, wealth and resources to threaten, bully, intimidate, undermine, ostracize, polarize, harass, exhibit micro-aggressive racist behaviors in the workplace, or allow quid pro quo behavior toward individuals they perceive as disenfranchised be overlooked!” the letter reads.

In an interview Wednesday, Ferrante acknowledged that the board had received the letter. A closed session board meeting is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. While Ferrante said he could not discuss personnel issues, he confirmed that the meeting was related to the Snow Hill incident.

He said the board had already had one closed session meeting related to the Snow Hill High School situation and indicated this would be a follow-up to that.

“We took this seriously,” he said. “We will be having further discussion.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.