Marshall County's School Board last week was asked to resolve discord and move forward for the good of the children.
A recurring theme during the public comments was the defense of Schools Director Roy Dukes who's recently faced his annual job performance evaluation.
"Let Mr. Dukes do his job," Dr. Larry Thomas said at the board's January meeting. "Don't tie his hands. We've got a good director. Let's finish this two-year contract.
"What's wrong with stability and unity?" Thomas asked.
Thomas dismissed the recent findings by the state auditor that resulted in repayment of nearly $4,000 as a "minor glitch," and reminded board members there had been much larger audit findings in previous years.
"Let's get beyond racism and hatred," concluded Thomas, whose wife is Dr. Patsey Thomas, is the supervisor of attendance and testing who filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the school system, alleging discrimination based on race, color and retaliation.
The second speaker was Arnold Quarles, who taught in Marshall County for 41 years. His first years of teaching were in the building that is now Central Office, when it was the all-black Jones School, but Quarles is best remembered as a highly successful band director at Marshall County High School.
"I've never seen so much divisiveness and animosity at board meetings," Quarles said.
He said schools director Roy Dukes and federal projects director Linda Williams-Lee had been "tarred and feathered" over the audit problem. At the same time, nothing was said about the $38,000 the school board had spent on legal fees, or about the EEOC complaints, or about the compensation paid to the two previous directors when their contracts were terminated.
"Take the time to do the job you were elected to do," Quarles told board members. He repeated former board member Dee Dee Owens' remark that she hoped someone would replace her "who will think about the children and not the other stuff."
The final speaker was "Spook" Clark, known not only for his 57 years as a postal employee, but also for coaching girls' softball.
"I am for the children of Marshall County," Clark announced. "We need to have as good a school board as we possibly can.
"I've known Mr. Dukes for more or less 40 years," Clark continued. "He's doing a good job; he needs to be given a chance."
The remarks came too late for board members to change their evaluations of Dukes. They'd already been tabulated and scored by attorney Sam Jackson's staff.