Originally created 07/27/06

A drama's final act



We know what Richmond County school Superintendent Charles Larke is holding out for in his contract negotiations. More money.

But what in the world is Board of Education member Helen Minchew holding out for? Why was she on the losing side of a 5-3 vote to start Larke's termination Tuesday night - especially when it will take six or seven votes to ultimately terminate him?

Simple, she says: It would be cheaper if everyone agrees to terms on the embattled superintendent's departure.

We agree. It would avoid an ugly public hearing, at which all manner of unpleasantness may be ferreted out. And it would avoid costly attorney fees for the likely legal action.

But if Larke won't agree to the board's offer, he just won't agree.

Board members Marion Barnes and Eloise Curtis support Larke blindly and unconditionally - no matter what the conditions of the district's schools. But the superintendent needs to know that Minchew and at least five and maybe six of her colleagues will surely vote to terminate him unless he agrees to the board's offer.

Minchew said the two sides are just three months' pay apart - but it's a psychologically huge three months: Larke is said to want 12 months' pay for staying nine months. The board is willing to let him stay nine months, but only for nine months' pay.

Larke's position is outrageous, especially considering his record: All 10 middle schools are on the state's "needs improvement" list, the district lost half a million, including attorneys' fees, in a racial discrimination lawsuit against him and - well, the shortcomings are well-known by now. This gentleman has no business trying to drive a hard bargain.

Five of her colleagues have already said so. Now Helen Minchew needs to make it clear as well. And she'll be able to walk away with a clear conscience, having tried everything humanly possible to reason with Larke.

If no agreement can be reached now that the termination process has started, its conclusion cannot be in doubt: Larke needs to know he's on the way to being fired.

If it ends up messy, we'll know whose fault it was.