By Jesse Wood
Feb. 1, 2013. Last Tuesday – the day after Watauga County Board of Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges released a statement regarding a two-month-old conversation between Supt. David Kafitz and a week after the Mellow Mushroom incident – former school board member and current county commissioner John Welch penned a letter, sending it to members of the school board.
Welch provided a copy of the letter to High Country Press that he said he wrote after numerous citizens expressed their concerns about the superintendent. Welch was on the board when Kafitz was hired and said the recent happenings have been surprising to say the least.
Speaking yesterday, he said, “By no means am I telling the school board what to do, but when people come to a county commissioner for concerns, they need to be addressed. I’ve built a lot of trust with the community and I’ve got to work to make sure I live up to that trust. So that’s my perspective – nothing more. I’m not trying to micromanage.”
One nugget from Welch’s letter is the following: “The question is: how would this situation be handled if it was a teacher, a director, or a principal? Being that these issues involve the leader of the school system make it worse. That position should be held to a higher standard.”
Scroll down the HCP Education page for a series of stories on this issue.
Read the entire letter below:
Dear Board Members,
It is with a heavy heart and much reflection that I feel I must address some of the things that I have been hearing throughout the community. The recent events have left me very concerned with the direction that Watauga County Schools is going. I know that I do not know all sides in the incidents that have been highlighted in the media in the past week, but I do know what I hear from those in the community that have had contact with the current administration. The morale of our staff is the lowest I have seen and the perception among a large number of our community members is extremely negative.
There are a number of reasons why Watauga County Schools have been successful. First, we have recruited and maintained an incredible collection of faculty and staff that understand the gravity and importance of their work. Their sacrifices and dedication are immeasurable. Next, we have developed relationships among businesses and community members that are invaluable. The support that we receive from a variety of sources within Watauga County is envied by school systems around the area. Finally, we have parents and community members that emphasize the importance of a quality education for all of our children.
The qualities that make Watauga County Schools unique and highly successful are threatened by the negative perception that is rampant in our community. I have received calls or been approached by a number of people voicing their displeasure with the atmosphere surrounding Watauga County Schools. I have had faculty and staff members mention that they are looking outside of the district for employment because of what is happening. These folks are respected and experienced educators that have been here for years and would be great losses for the district. Just tonight, I had parents call me with concerns and voicing great displeasure in the recent events. Honestly, I cannot blame them for their reaction and I, as a parent, share their feelings. The question is: how would this situation be handled if it was a teacher, a director, or a principal? Being that these issues involve the leader of the school system make it worse. That position should be held to a higher standard.
Elected officials are charged with doing what they feel is best with the information they have been given. Although I am no longer a member of the Board of Education, I feel that I share in some of the responsibility for the current situation. My intention for serving on the Board of Education was to “give back” to the system that educated me so well and continues to educate my family today. I am disappointed in the current events because they do not reflect the vision that we have for Watauga County Schools. I do not envy your position and I hope that you are able to reset the system back to the right path. Our students, faculty and staff, partners in education, and other stakeholders deserve better.
Thank you for your service. Please feel free to contact me at any time. My family and I continue to pray for you, the Watauga County administration, and our wonderful faculty and staff during this difficult time.