By William C. Singleton III
A State Department of Education report appears to vindicate the Hoover School System regarding complaints about low employee morale and a poor work environment.
Hoover Board President Paulette Pearson earlier this year asked the State Department to conduct an independent investigation into “persistent, often anonymous complaints about the work environment at Hoover City Schools’ Central Office.”
Among those complaints was that employees were ready to walk off their jobs because of the work environment and poor treatment by administrators. A memo by Warren Craig Pouncey, chief of staff to State Superintendent Tommy Bice, names Hoover School Superintendent Andy Craig and Cathy Antee, chief school financial officer, in particular. Pouncey visited the Hoover school system in February and interviewed several employees regarding the allegations.
“I am of the opinion that the complaints that have been reported as being pervasive throughout the system are not supported by my findings,” Pouncey’s memo states. “The accusations of employees wanting to walk off their jobs in mass are unfounded. Quite the contrary, Hoover schools have been able to attract a number of talented applicants for each position vacated.”
Pouncey acknowledges perceptions of the Hoover school system’s poor work environment could be a result of its financial struggles.
The Hoover school system has been running a deficit over the past few years, which resulted in school officials borrowing nearly $17 million from other funds to balance the 2013-2014 education budget. A majority of the school board voted to eliminate bus service for most of its students starting with the 2014-2015 school year but rescinded its decision following community uproar over the initial decision.
However, school officials have promised more cuts are on the way as they grapple with fewer funds and an ever-increasing student enrollment.
“Due to the lack of adequate financial support from the state and an increased and ever-changing student population, the Hoover City School System has had to take an in-depth and long-term look at its current model of operations…Anytime this occurs the uncertainty of possible outcomes creates a nervousness among people,” Pouncey’s letter states.
Pouncey also vindicates Craig and Antee in his report.
“The office and the staff appear to be very businesslike and professional in carrying out their duties,” Pouncey states in his memo. “Mr. Craig and Ms. Antee have a vision for what the system will be faced with 10 years down the road.”
Pouncey notes that some employees are disgruntled because of changes the Hoover system is undergoing but states “our interviews overwhelmingly supported that the vast majority of the employees feel like they are treated with respect, and that they can express their opinions even if they differ from their supervisor.”
Pearson welcomed Pouncey’s report with open arms.
“As board president, I am heartened and encouraged by Dr. Pouncey’s report,” she said. “We are grateful for the time and effort Dr. Pouncey and his staff expended to clarify issues that were disserving our school system. “
In other news, the Hoover City Council is taking applications for candidates for a school board position. Pearson has served two five-year terms, and her present term expires in June.
Interested Hoover residents can obtain an application from the city clerk’s office at City Hall. Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. March 21. The council expects to interview candidates and appoint a member to the board by April, Hoover Council President Jack Wright said.
For more information, call the city clerk’s office at 444-7557 or email City Clerk Margie Handley at email@example.com.