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Short Roads Left for Burcham and Willis

Jeff Artis
Jeff Artis

Much has happened since my last column, so here goes. Through the years, I have been an outspoken critic of Roanoke City Manager Darlene Burcham. But, three things must be said about her time as city manager. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge happened on her watch. Burcham opened up City Hall to the citizens of Northwest Roanoke. She has been a big supporter of the Roanoke SCLC Juneteenth Celebration. These things would not have happened under other Roanoke City Managers. I have a great deal of respect for Darlene Burcham. Our disagreements never became personal. To be honest, she only did what Roanoke City Government allowed her to do.

A mayor without a secretary? How silly. Maybe Roanoke could have used the $48,000 it spent on two electric vehicles to keep Joyce Johnson as the mayor’s secretary instead of wasting tax dollars buying two electric vehicles that really have no practical purpose. Getting rid of Johnson is nothing more than political payback for Mayor Bowers defeating Nelson Harris in the last mayoral election. This controversy shows just how petty Harris and his crew, some of whom are still on Roanoke City Council, really are.

I taught at William Fleming from 1985-1988. During those years, I was told in writing that I failed too many students, that if I did not find a way to pass more students, my teaching contract would not be renewed. Rather than pass students who did not deserve to be passed and after being told by the Frank Tota administration to get with the program, I quit.

The 2009 William Fleming SOL cheating scandal pains me. Susan Willis, principle of Fleming at the time, is either the mastermind of the SOL cheating scandal or she has shown a complete lack of institutional control at the school. Simply put, Willis is either too corrupt or too incompetent to be in education. Either way, she should be fired. Her license to work in education should also be revoked.

As for the other four people involved in the Fleming SOL cheating scandal, I understand their situation. In education, there are instances when your principle says jump and you better ask how high. If you don’t start jumping right then and there as high as you can, you put your career on the line. I also know that it is rare when a school system’s central administration and school board supports a teacher over a school’s principle.

Still, someone has to look out for the children. Career on the line or not, no one has the right to violate state and federal law when it comes to educating our children. Also, no one has the right to violate the civil rights of our children to get a proper education, SOL test scores or not.

One thing for sure, given the state report on this controversy and the numerous complaints about Susan Willis’ management style, the discussion of merit pay for  Roanoke, Va. school teachers should finally be put to rest. Susan Willis is the best argument against merit pay for teachers there ever was.

Now on a happier note . . . To my wife, Happy Anniversary. It’s been a wonderful 23 years. Thank you for everything.

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