Rock Hill situation isn’t just black, white

Published 12:03 am Sunday, April 5, 2009

Watch out! Many Lawrence Countians have been stricken with a serious illness when it comes to talking about the Rock Hill School District.

I like to call it: Spontaneous Color-Blindness.

The bottom line is that almost anyone you talk to about the district sees things in only black and white, especially when it comes to Superintendent Lloyd Evans.

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Residents of the district seem to either love him or hate him, with no gray area in between.

The sad thing is that the district will soon be making some key decisions that will require the board members — and ultimately its residents — to see all the shades and hues of the situation.

The embattled superintendent is a lightning rod of controversy, some of which may be justified and some of which isn’t.

The school board has chosen not to re-employ Evans after at least 25 years in the district. School board officials are hesitant to cite a specific reason for the change other than saying it is time to go in a different direction. The reality is that Evans has been at odds with the board for a number of years.

A previous incarnation of the board removed him from office, but Evans contended he was wrongfully terminated.

Guess what? He was right and a judge returned him to his seat.

Later, those same board members were removed from office by a lawsuit. Surprise, surprise, they were returned to office by the voters.

And that is the way things have gone in the district for years, making it difficult for anyone to distinguish genuine concern for moving education forward from the political battles and hidden agendas that seem to be rampant.

Evans’ supporters will tell you the man is a selfless, public servant who has dedicated his life to education and helping the children of the Rock Hill District.

His detractors will tell you that he is a power-hungry bully who has hurt the district far more than he has ever helped it.

As it goes with most extremes in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, in those gray areas that aren’t so clearly distinguishable.

The reality is that Evans has overseen the district through tremendous change. From new schools to an ever changing state-mandated curriculum, it is impossible to say objectively that Evans doesn’t deserve some credit for the things that have gone right in the district over the years.

And on the other side of the coin, the man must also shoulder some of the blame for the legal problems, poor test scores and questionable decisions the district has made over the years.

Finding this balance of recognizing the gray areas when looking at Evans’ past will be important to plotting a new course for the district’s future. The teachers in the district, many of who are excellent, deserve it. The staff deserves it. Most importantly, the students deserve it.

The board is seeking applications for a new superintendent. Although there are likely several qualified candidates inside the district or even inside the county who could do a very good job, hopefully the board will consider someone who has no ties to Rock Hill and no ties to the county.

That may be the only way to ensure absolutely that the district’s new leadership is objective and looks clearly at the situation, without all the familial ties and political affiliations.

In fact, it might not hurt to do an eye test, making sure the district’s next superintendent can see all the colors of the rainbow.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at