Trying to reserve judgement can be a little difficult, especially when you have a feeling that there’s more to the story. I’d say this became evident pretty early on in the saga of the Park Hill School District and superintendent Dr. Scott Springston. From the moment his unexpected leave of absence and resignation became official on a Monday evening last month, you couldn’t help but wonder about the circumstances.
However, I wanted to wish him the best in his “health-related issue” until I knew more.
Gathering all of the facts took a little longer than I would have hoped, but situations like this can often be complex. This certainly became evident as documents were obtained and reviewed.
The first very public document led to the questions being asked by many.
The first oddity I noticed in the release from the school district was the lack of a comment from Springston concerning his health matter. Why wouldn’t he take the opportunity to give a generic, “I appreciate the Park Hill District and all it has done for my family. We ask for privacy while we tend to this matter,” or something of the sort?
Instead, the silence seemed to give a good indication that there was more to the story.
In reviewing the resignation agreement, a gag order, more or less, appears in place concerning the matter. It isn’t to be discussed publicly and both parties agreed not to make defamatory remarks about the other.
And what of that health-related issue?
As I pondered more on the sudden resignation, a simple question came to mind: why would someone dealing with a health issue want to give up benefits? I don’t know of his wife’s occupation, so it was certainly possible he had health insurance through her employer, if she does work. With Springston’s salary (more than $200k a year), there’s not a guarantee that she needed to work.
I’d guess his health benefits could still be used to seek help for one potential source of his resignation: a drinking problem. Hopefully, Springston will use his ability to seek help if he does have the problem hinted at in a police report filed this past February.
More details on the incident can be found in the story that starts on page A1, but I would hope his wife didn’t make such strong accusations about alcohol abuse without any substance. That also seems unlikely given the resignation and the likely tie between the two events.
This is an unfortunate situation all around.
Springston’s career likely takes a huge hit as he hopefully improves his personal situation and moves on professionally. The Park Hill School District, which opted to renew his contract about a month before the recent turn of events, will likely need to move forward with an interim superintendent for next school year.
There’s simply not a lot of time to conduct the proper search for such an important position, and the board has shown no urgency to discuss the matter in recent weeks.
That leaves a very large school district with a lot of patrons in a fairly precarious position. Patrons recently denied a tax levy question to help fund technology improvements, and Springston’s actions, which will likely remain in rumor and innuendo, will do little to help build trust.
After all, that now infamous police report hints at Springston drinking alcohol on the job. Time can change a lot of perceptions, but moving forward, the group of patrons against his hire back in June 2012 likely won’t forget what will now be viewed as a misstep.
Park Hill tried to do right in noting the resignation, citing the positives accomplished during what ended up a two-plus year tenure. The biggest mistake might have been not tackling the situation with a more direct approach, but based on the wording of the resignation agreement, there were probably limitations on exactly what could be said.
Unfortunately for both Springston and the district, those documents associated with the situation are available to the media, and reports in local publications serve the interest of the district in my humble opinion.
People were going to talk. Rumors were going to continue to circulate.
At the very least, residents in the Park Hill district have some information available to them to help answer questions. This won’t answer all of them, but it’s a start for those with a vested interest in the district’s operations.
We likely won’t ever know the full extent of what went on during Springston’s tenure, especially the final few months, but barring public comment from him, this is the best we will get out of this situation.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.