FLORENCE — Jim Fisher says he stands by his decision to resign from the Florence school board for comments he made on a social web site, but he also sticks by the post he made on his Facebook page.
The posting created a fire storm for Fisher last week. In the posting Wednesday, he shared his views regarding teacher pay and funding mechanisms, and expressed his disappointment that some Florence teachers don’t know the school board is paying them above the state salary schedule. He goes on to list some of the school board-approved perks for teachers and seems to imply teacher ungratefulness.
Fisher concedes his decision to resign was an emotional one, adding he believes “it was pretty much the right decision.”
“Objectively, what I did (on Facebook) doesn’t come to this level, to the point of resignation,” Fisher said. “I know that. But under the circumstances, at that time especially, it was the right thing to do.”
Fisher said the decision to resign was his idea.
“No other measures I could have taken seemed to send a strong enough message,” he said.
Fisher said he received a text from board President Bill Jordan after the posting was publicized, asking for a meeting with him and Superintendent Janet Womack.
“I was told it was my duty as a board member to see that education is being delivered in our school system and that a dark cloud had descended over the system and teachers were so distraught that no teaching was going on in the classroom,” he said.
Fisher said he brought up the idea of resigning.
“I’m still wrestling with myself over this,” he said. “I’m not convinced that (resignation) will heal the wounds. I came across as far more sarcastic than I intended. I truly thought it was just a light-hearted, informative post. I stand by the post.”
He said when he received a systemwide email from Jordan — stating that what Fisher had said was derogatory toward teachers — he could only dispute the assertion by pointing out he stuck to facts in his writing.
“The fact is, Janet Womack has brought in $800,000 to this system in two years, our students have iPads and the list goes on,” he said. “Things are looking brighter across the system, and the superintendent’s $22,000 raise is sustainable. I just wanted to keep that leadership in place. I still believe we have a superstar superintendent.”
Fisher included the iPad funding in the $800,000 figure. The $150,000 funding for iPads came from private funding through the Anderson Foundation.
The school board will gather today in a called meeting for a personnel hearing not related to Fisher. The board is also scheduled to act on Fisher’s resignation.
Womack deferred all comments regarding Fisher’s situation to Jordan.
“It’s the business of the board, not the business of me,” she said.
According to state law, Fisher’s position will be filled by appointment by a majority of the remaining board members for the unexpired term. It is filled within 45 days from qualified candidates who apply for the board position. Candidates must reside in District 6. If the vacancy isn’t filled by the board within 45 days, the city superintendent must notify the state superintendent, who will appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
Fisher, as a result of his resignation, will no longer be the District 8 representative on the Alabama Association of School Boards. The organization will replace him with someone from another school system with the district.
The district is made up primarily of school systems in northwest Alabama.
Fisher said he has not ruled out seeking another term on the school board, saying he is as impassioned about education as ever.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.
The following is text from an Oct. 10 Facebook posting by Florence school board member Jim Fisher:
My teacher friends. The school board has been maligned in the newspaper through some of the most lopsided editorials and articles that I’ve had the displeasure of reading. We were able to clear up some of that misinformation during the board meeting last night. Perhaps I can do that here as well?
Before I begin, a big thanks to the TimesDaily for putting some excitement back into my (vastly shor...tened, thank you) political career. I’m thankful the newspaper doesn’t run the school system. Demanding mediocre pay for extraordinary leaders will not advance education in our system, TimesDaily!
Yes, I know teachers have not had a raise in years. Welcome to my world. I am amazed that many teachers do not know that their salaries are set by the state, not the local board. I am also a bit disappointed that at least some of our 255 full-time teachers don’t know that the local board (thanks to generous support of the City of Florence) chose to pay them almost 1 million dollars per year above the state salary schedule. We don’t have to do that, ya know. Many school systems in the state are dropping that supplement. Our system long ago decided not to participate in proration and your superintendent and your board will continue to fight to keep your supplement in place despite the troubles the rest of the state is facing.
Unlike other systems, we found ways to continue to provide teachers with supply money when most teachers in this state had zero. We furnished you with iPads (yay!) and even gave you a cash bonus last year. Oh, and not a single one of our teachers is drawing unemployment because of the Great Recession. So many teachers in this state can’t say that. You’re welcome teachers! We love you, too!
Would you believe that between 2006 and 2010, the amount of grants, donations and award money to our schools totaled $161,000 dollars? That would be awesome if not for the fact that Dr. Womack has raised close to $800,000 bucks in just two years. Even that amount will pale in comparison to what is to come. Our CFO/Assistant Superintendent has saved our system hundreds of thousands of dollars through expert bond renegotiations and other innovative cost saving measures. Keep this between you and me, please. Academia pays very good money for people who can raise that kind of money.
Lastly, before I was elected 4 years ago, I vowed to find a “superstar” superintendent. Yes, teachers are the backbone of our school but leadership sets their course. Extraordinary leadership will change lives. I (and the rest of our board) will continue to settle for no less than the best for our students and teachers.
The following is an e-mail from Florence school board President Bill Jordan to all Florence City Schools employees Oct. 11 regarding the school board’s position on a Facebook post by Jim Fisher, who resigned his board seat Friday.
Dear FCS Employees,
This communication is to clarify the circulating Facebook post by one Board Member. As a Board, we appreciate the contribution of all Board Members, but we do not always agree.
In particular, I do not agree, the other Board Members do not agree and the Superintendent does not agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Fisher in his Facebook post and negative comments about teachers. These comments are expressed as a sentiment of one Board member and are not the sentiment of the Board as a whole. In fact the remainder of the Board and the Superintendent believe just the opposite.
We believe in the important value provided by teachers and employees to the students of this school system. Your contributions should never be denigrated. Any comments contrary to this are not acceptable to me, to the other Board Members or to the Superintendent. We apologize that one Board Member’s personal views have been portrayed as the voice of the whole. This is not acceptable.