Supt. Thompson responds to Sellers

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson addressed board member Heather Sellers--by writing--for a second time Friday

The statement comes as another round of back-and-forth correspondence between the two women.

The message is written as follows:

October 2, 2009
Mrs. Heather E. Sellers
Post Office Box 7001
Montgomery , Alabama  36107
Dear Mrs. Sellers,

I am in receipt of your September 29, 2009 letter regarding my Ph.D degree which you used to generate a great deal of negative publicity toward our school system.  I have chosen to respond to your letter, in the same manner, you have communicated to me, through the media, board members and the public. I am keenly aware that I was not your choice for superintendent and that you have vowed to do all you can to make my tenure as difficult as you possibly can.  I would suggest that such a stance is not in the best interest of the children of the Montgomery Public School System who we are both  obligated to serve.

You, as well as anyone, know fully the status of my Ph.D studies and status.  This was a particular point of prior inquiry and comment when you so vocally opposed my candidacy. You are also aware that during the interview process I provided specific information about my standing as a doctoral candidate and that I informed the committee I was a "dissertator". Though I projected completing my dissertation by August 2009, I now realize my projected completion date was overly ambitious. In this case, I decided it was more important for me to prepare for my new job as Superintendent of the Montgomery Public School System. I also posted on the District's web site that I was still a doctoral candidate, well before you decided to create a controversy about it.

I accept full responsibility for anything printed that refers to me as "Dr.".  Before I came onto the job, I emailed instructions to the staff that I should not be referred to as "Dr.". I corrected district printings of the same when I discovered them. In any transition, oversights occur. But such oversights should not be used as a "gotcha moment" to push a personal agenda that does not benefit the children of this system or the community at large.

I do find it a little incredible and perplexing that an item that was raised and fully addressed during the vetting and interview process can be used by someone to cast a negative shadow when information provided now is the same as it was then.   Moreover, only two (2) out of the last five (5) persons who served as superintendents (or in an interim superintendent capacity) has held a doctorate degree. I am informed this was never an issue during their tenures.

Be that as it may, I will not be distracted from the job at hand and I am in this for the long haul. I remain excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.  I also remain committed to meeting the many significant challenges our system will continue to face, but I will need your support, as well as the support of the entire Board and the community.

In the short seven weeks I have been here, I have found a community that cares deeply about the children of this system.  I have found a Mayor who is very engaged when it comes to public education.  He, the City Council and the County Commission have also demonstrated their unwavering support for public education as indicated in the levels of public funding.  I have found a business community that is totally committed to the Montgomery Public Schools and its students. They have been a great partner in the past and I trust that partnership will continue.  I have found teachers, support workers and administrators who are highly capable and dedicated to their jobs.  Last but not least, I have found a board, who for the most part, wants only the best for the Montgomery Public School System and understands that success can only come through teamwork.  They understand that the board, working hand-in-hand with the superintendent, must set high standards and build a system and infrastructure that promotes excellence on an ongoing basis.

All these things provide the necessary ingredients to propel the children in our system to new heights of academic achievement.  In the brief time John Dilworth was here, he with the support of the board, did a great job in charting a path that is already yielding positive results.  Scores are up significantly from the Alabama Reading Initiative and  our Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) has improved from 48% in 2004 to 91% in 2009.  I plan to build on that foundation and continue on a path of academic excellence and success for our students.  I hope you will join me and other board members in this effort.

Since you obviously have the ability to garner public attention and mobilize the media, I hope that you will begin to use that talent to help spotlight the good things our students and teachers are doing.  You could point to things like Brewbaker Technology High School being named one (1) of the only 314 Blue Ribbon Schools in the United States or the fact that we recently had twenty (20) students recognized among our nation's  best and brightest scholars.

As of today, I consider the matter about my Ph.D closed.  How you choose to conduct yourself going forward is up to you, but I will have no further comment about the matter.

Best Regards.


                                                             Barbara W. Thompson
                                                             Montgomery Public Schools
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