COVINGTON — Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews issued a statement to citizens during Tuesday's monthly work session addressing web comments about Alcovy HIgh School, its principal and her husband.
After the work session and following an hour-long executive session, Mathews read the statement during open session and also e-mailed it to his e-mail list:
"Dear Citizens of Newton County:
During the past many months, hundreds of comments have been registered through anonymous blogs of the Newton Citizen related to Alcovy High School, its principal, and the school system's deputy superintendent for operations who is married to Alcovy's principal. And, from my perspective, respecting all others who might dissent from my own view, I do not believe our community — nor a sense of what is right, good, and honorable — is well served by anonymous assertions that cast dispersion and derision towards school officials without an overt factual basis.
If, as bloggers have asserted, there is missing funds or a principal purchasing 'tequila' on a student trip, then such complaints should be lodged in my office. To date, no one has offered such for my investigation. Nonetheless, regarding both of these anonymous claims, the public must know that we audit school financial records each year through an outside agent (Susan Allie, Financial Audit Services, McDonough, Georgia). To date, no missing funds have been recorded by auditors and brought to my attention related to Alcovy. Additionally, I have asked the Alcovy principal directly as to these anonymous assertions and she categorically denies each.
During the course of the last two years, I have made a dozen or more visits to Alcovy High School unannounced in addition to several visits when others knew of my presence ahead of time. At no time, during any of these visits, have I witnessed the out-of-control school environment that a number of bloggers have asserted. Nonetheless, like other schools in Newton County and elsewhere, there have been food fights, fist fights, and other misbehavior by a very small contingency of students, who seem to forget what school is for and the kind of civil conduct that school demands. And, while I may not be aware of every discipline incident at Alcovy or any other school for that matter, what I do know is that Alcovy's principal has acted swiftly to enforce a safe and orderly climate within the school in all matters of which I am directly aware.
On the matters above, the (Newton County Board of Education) and I are in unanimous agreement.
I have always respected the right of citizens and employees to speak their mind and have always encouraged this as a school leader. It is the way I have conducted budget reduction hearings, leadership team meetings, and teacher forums. Those who know my leadership style, know that I encourage debate of educational issues. We learn more from each other through such dialogue. That said, there may be a proverbial line that even anonymous bloggers should not cross for the sake of civility and what's moral under God's creation.
At this point, given Principal Carpenter's lawsuit requesting that the Newton Citizen give up the identities of the anonymous bloggers, the legal process may have to determine what's permissible and what's not.
Gary S. Mathews, Ph. D."
The school board also unanimously passed a recommendation from Mathews to approve items discussed in executive session with the exception of two that the board and he talked about, which he did not make public.
On the personnel recommendations provided after the vote, Mathews noted that the board approved the transfer of Chris Haymore, current assistant principal at Alcovy High School, to assistant principal at Mansfield Elementary School, effective July 16 to replace Lynne DiNardo. DiNardo was previously approved to replace outgoing Mansfield Elementary Principal G.W. Davis.
He also noted that Gabriel Burnette, who was working as assistant principal on assignment at Alcovy and Newton high schools, will be assistant principal at Alcovy High effective July 16, replacing Haymore.