City school board did too little, too late

It appears the Clinton City Board of Education and its chairwoman Carol Worley didn’t do enough to keep superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount at the helm of the school system. Or at least they didn’t do enough soon enough.

And that’s unfortunate for a system that has shown positive strides as Blount has grown in his leadership role. His departure at the end of next month will be a detriment to the students, staff and faculty, all who have been beneficiaries of his vision and his steady work to implement that vision across socio-economic and racial divides.

Blount announced to a surprised board Thursday afternoon that he would be stepping down as superintendent to pursue other educational opportunities. He will retire from the school system effective April 1.

We wonder if the superintendent would have been as quick to pursue those other educational opportunities had the board opted to extend his contract a little sooner than they actually did?

It was only last month that the board green-lighted a two-year extension to that contract, one which would have otherwise sunseted in 2019. Though he still had over a year and a half to go, one could surmise that slow action to extend his contract could have been a catalyst to search for other pastures or listen to other offers.

And that’s why we give the city Board of Education a thumbs down. In our estimation, they didn’t act quickly enough to show their confidence in and support of a superintendent who has, without question, moved the school system forward during his tenure here. And, it doesn’t appear they tried to keep him once his decision was announced.

It’s difficult these days to find good leaders, individuals who want to be in small towns, leading small administrative teams and making a positive difference along the way. When they come along, and they become immersed in our community the way Blount has and truly care about the people they lead, it’s important to do everything you can to hang onto them.

In fairness to Worley and the school board, Blount’s decision might not have been impacted by a contract extension nor his mind changed by additional incentives. We would like to think it could have been, but we will never know now.

As it stands, the dye has been cast; Blount will leave in just over a month and the school board will have to return to the table to search for a new leader, one who, we hope, can advance the successes this superintendent has helped the system and its students achieve.

After extending Blount’s contract, Worley said, “…as we continue to move our school system forward, it is important that we have a leader in place who will make student-focused decisions to support academic success. Dr. Blount joins us in this commitment and has put together a strong team to make this happen. As a matter of fact, we are already seeing strides and expect that trend to continue.”

We hope she is right, but Blount’s departure will be a tremendous bump in that road. It will be up to Worley and the school board to find another leader with the vision, the patience and the true concern that he offered.

We hope the school board will learn a vital lesson from letting a good leader slip so easily through their fingertips.