'Hartsell should retire'
Some members of the Hartselle City Council are calling for the retirement of the system's long-time superintendent and the resignation of school board President Susan Puckett.
Council members Allen Stoner, Frank Jones and Dick Carter are calling for Dr. Lee Hartsell to retire and for Puckett to resign.
Hartsell has been the system's superintendent 18 years.
Each said they would hold off pushing the issue further, however, until a planned school board work session on May 6, when members have promised to address council concerns.
The controversy erupted in March when two students at Hartselle High School – each a member of the school's successful baseball team – collapsed. The students were taken to Hartselle Medical Center where they were tested for drugs. Hartsell originally said the results of the tests were negative, but later acknowledged one of the students tested positive for marijuana.
Hartsell's acknowledgement of the positive test results came after baseball coach William Booth, parents and players came to a council meeting and accused it of unfairly targeting the athletes by calling for an investigation into the matter.
Hartselle's city council makes appointments to the school board, but has no control over board's actions. The council is currently accepting applications for the school board.
The resignations are needed, Stoner said, because of the lack of response to the incident by Hartsell and the school board.
"We have to ask if he (Dr. Hartsell) is as effective as he once was," Stoner said. "There comes a time when there ought to be some change and I think it's time for Dr. Hartsell to resign."
Stoner was also critical of some members of the school board.
"The school board has lost its ability to act as a check for the superintendent. The school board members have forgotten that their job is not just about teamwork. There ought to be room for honest debate and disagreement. There seems to be none of that on that board."
Jones agreed, saying the superintendent and school board didn't handle the incident correctly.
"It's the attitude of the school board and the superintendent that everything will be handled in house that has caused these problems," Jones said. "Susan Puckett should resign, too."
Carter, the third council member who spoke out against the board, said he thought Hartsell, Puckett and HHS Principal Jerry Reeves should be "admonished."
"We took a raking over the coals and we knew the (drug test) results and couldn't do anything about it. The way this was handled sends a message to the kids that you can do what you want and if we like you, we will cover it up."
The push to crack down on the school board wasn't shared by all council members. Councilman Tom Chappell said the council should worry about city business and leave school matters to the board. Councilman Don Hall agreed, saying he didn't feel Hartsell "had any intent to deceive the public."
Mayor Clif Knight – who's son-in-law Jeff Gray was the only school board member that sided with the council in its push to discuss the incident during a closed-door work session – said he, too, is willing to wait to see how the school board will respond before calling for any resignations.
"I think adopting a statement of no confidence is premature because I'd like to see what they will come up with at their work session," Knight said. "I'm not optimistic things will change, though. We have one appointment coming up and that's a step in the right direction."