• 61°

Superintendent’s critics plan push at meeting

Graffiti directed against Brookhaven Superintendent Lisa Karmacharya appeared near the school district office Thursday morning even as some of her critics are preparing to push a new round of complaints at the next school board meeting.

A square of cardboard with the spray-painted words, “Dr. K, Leave Our School District!!! Ole Brook” was placed in the front yard of a home next to the Technical Center, across the street from the Brookhaven School District Central Office.

The sign was apparently present without permission or knowledge of the homeowner.

Daisy Smith was in front of the home Thursday and identified herself as the mother of the home’s resident.

She wasn’t happy with what she had discovered in the yard.

“I want it gone,” she said of the sign. “We don’t fight with the school.”

Smith’s son works as a trucker in the North Dakota oilfields and left for work Sunday morning; his mother said she went to check the mail at the home about 11:30 a.m. Thursday and saw the sign.

She promptly called the Brookhaven Police Department. A police officer came and removed the sign about noon.

The sentiments of the protest poster come as long-simmering tensions between Karmacharya and some in Brookhaven’s black community have ratcheted up into much harsher and more direct criticism and now includes a more diverse crowd of opponents.

Speaking Thursday afternoon, Karmacharya described the anonymous sign as a distraction from the district’s mission.

“I think it’s sad that so many adult issues take precedence over what’s right for children,” the superintendent said. “My agenda has always been and will always be what’s best for children.”

She continued, “I think maybe some adult feelings have been hurt, and they’ve reacted in a way that they feel is the right way to react. Certainly, I’m sorry that people feel this way, but I want our conversations to be about children and teaching and learning.”

Several critics are preparing for the first time to publicly address the board regarding Karmacharya and planning a show of force.

David Culpepper, a parent within the district, and Rita Rich, a retired principal, both discussed their intent to speak before the May 28 board meeting of district trustees.

The message will be clear.

“We’re not on a witch hunt, but we think it’s time Brookhaven changed top leadership,” Rich said.

Said Culpepper of the superintendent, “She’s got to go.”

Suzanne Britt, another district parent, has been working through various means, including a Facebook event page, to rally a crowd to attend the May school board meeting.

Rich and Britt both found the anonymous protest sign timely.

“Sometimes, you need to get someone’s attention,” Rich said.

She wasn’t concerned the sign was placed without permission.

“Whether it was private property or not, it got the message across,” Rich said. “The right venue? I guess that’s everybody’s opinion. Some would say yes, some would say no.”

Britt allowed that the exact placement of the sign may not have been “appropriate” but went on to praise the person behind the action.

“I would like to tip my hat to them,” she said.

Longtime Karmacharya critic, the Rev. Larry Jointer, was a little quicker to say that while he supported the message of the sign, he couldn’t support putting it in someone’s yard that knew nothing of it.

“Not without permission,” he said. “That’s a no brainer.”

More than a year ago, the superintendent’s black critics began to charge her with not promoting qualified black personnel within the district.

She has additionally been criticized for hiring too many administrators, both black and white, from outside the district and Brookhaven community.

Criticisms of the superintendent have since begun to proliferate, including complaints regarding her interaction with teachers, the use of consultants and the selection of the administrator of the year.

Britt said “cumulative” actions during Karmacharya’s tenure have resulted in what she sees as widespread unrest.

“We can’t be in this perpetual quagmire of people being upset,” she said. “It’s just a really horrible roller coaster to be on.”

Britt said the plans for the May 28 school board meeting follow a private meeting of community members held last week and organized in part by Culpepper, Rich and Jointer.

Culpepper said he’s requested the school board hold its May 28 board meeting in an auditorium so as to accommodate the crowd he expects.

Clarification

On Friday, May 10, The Daily Leader quoted David Culpepper as having said of the Brookhaven superintendent, “She’s got to go” in reference to a question about the upcoming school board meeting. The comment was made to a Daily Leader reporter while Culpepper was conducting business in the newspaper office. The comment was made in what Culpepper said was a private conversation and he did not expect to be quoted.

The Daily Leader is happy to clarify the issue for Mr. Culpepper.