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Morris hopes focus will shift to pupils when school opens
Sunday, July 28, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Embattled Patrick County Schools Superintendent Roger Morris said he hopes the Aug. 14 start of a new school year will bring a return of focusing on students.
“I’m hopeful that the focus will be on the children and stop being on the superintendent,” Morris said Friday. The students are the reasons he pursued a career in education, “and that’s what we need to be focused on.”
On Thursday, the Patrick County School Board approved a mutual agreement to shave a year off of Morris’ contract, pending attorneys’ approval. If the separation agreement contract is approved, the local school board will move forward with the search for a new superintendent, and Morris’ contract will expire June 30, 2014.
Morris declined to discuss the agreement further on Friday. However, he did say that he does not feel it will hamper his ability to do his job.
“There are a lot of things that need to be” completed, he said. A rebuilding project at Meadows of Dan Elementary School “certainly is a good example,” he added.
Morris has pushed for the new school to be built after an older facility was destroyed by fire.
Other goals that he hopes to attain during his final year are implementing and sustaining new programs, such as a dual enrollment program in Patrick County High School, Morris said.
“I’d like to get that off the ground and make sure it is sustained,” as well as help the school division through the transition period that will follow the hiring of a new superintendent, he said.
“There will be some transition time. Anytime there is a change in leadership, there is a transition,” Morris said. He hopes to continue working with the school staff to ensure the school division is ready, and help the next superintendent through the transition. “I look forward to that opportunity,” he said.
Much of the controversy surrounding Morris was prompted by tough budget decisions that were made by the school board, he said. “I think that I became the target because the board made some decisions” that were unpopular, he added.
The latest controversy began with the transfers of 10 teachers/staff that was approved by the school board. Two members of the board — Dan River District member and Vice Chairman Quinn Brim and Mayo River District member Michelle Day — initially supported the transfers, but have since changed their minds.
On July 18, Morris was quoted in a television news interview as saying community concerns were “small town junk.”
Three days later, he apologized for the remark.
“When I do something wrong, I admit it and say ‘I’m sorry,’” he said. “I’m not above being a human being, and I make mistakes. When I do, I ask for forgiveness, hope it’s accepted and (that) we all can move forward,” he said.
However, he said, that depends on the individual.
“It is my responsibility to ask for” forgiveness, but it is “not my role in life to determine whether another person forgives me,” Morris said. Rather, after he offers an apology, it is his responsibility, he said, “to move forward.”
Morris said that he feels he still has the support of the school board and many people in the community.
“I think that by the calls I’ve gotten this morning (Friday), I still believe that a lot of the people” who support him have remained silent because they are afraid of the backlash or becoming a target, he said.
As for himself and his family, “we’re going to be okay. A lot of friends and family have stood by my side. I have my faith and my colleagues around the state,” he said. “A lot of people have been supportive, and I appreciate that very much. I know it’s been very difficult for people to understand what’s going on. Frankly, I don’t understand.”
Morris said he always tries to “look at the facts before I make any judgments,” but there are many half truths and rumors in the community, he said.
“Someone told me one time that a lie will have its shoes on and make its way around the world before the truth will even get out of bed,” Morris said. “Maybe that’s true here.”
“ ... I just think our focus should be on the children,” he said. “I want to see us return our focus on the children and move on.”