Ruckus over school chief’s emails spills over into Pulaski Council meeting

The ongoing local ruckus over comments made in several emails from Pulaski County School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers to state Department of Education officials spilled over into Tuesday’s meeting of Pulaski Town Council.

The comments were discovered recently through a Freedom of Information Act request and were made public via local media and social media pages and at public meetings of the School Board.

Some of Siers’ comments were seen by many locally as being disparaging to county citizens and the Sheriff’s Office.

Councilman Jamie Radcliffe, a member of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, raised the subject during the council comments period of Tuesday’s meeting.

Radcliffe said comments made in the emails by Siers were, “Comments everyone here should have taken offense to.”

He said he supports the statements made last week by the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors in response to Siers’ comments.

He called on his representative on the school board, Becki Cox of the Massie District, to “pull that microphone down and take care of that problem.”

Radcliffe promised he would be going to school board meetings “from this day forward until the next election.”

Councilman Greg East asked if Radcliffe was looking for a motion in support of the Board of Supervisors’ letter to the School Board concerning Siers’ comments?

Radcliffe said he could get his copy of the letter and council members could support it if they chose.

“I am supporting the Board of Supervisors, my great sheriff and great sheriff’s office,” he said.

“May I ask a question Jamie,” asked Councilman Michael Reis.

“What exactly did he (Siers) say that was wrong and insulted the sheriff’s office,” Reis asked.

“He personally called out the sheriff in his comment,” Radcliffe replied.

“In what comment,” Reis asked.

“In the comment he made about…,” Radcliffe began to answer.

Reis interrupted, “I’ve looked at the emails and I don’t see any reference to (Sheriff) Mike Worrell in any of them.”

Radcliffe responded that Siers didn’t mention Worrell by name.

Reis replied, “You said he (Siers) personally called him (Worrell) out.”

Radcliffe argued that “if you talk about the sheriff’s office, you talk about him (Worrell).”

Reis continued, “Here’s the thing that I see. There was a report issued five years ago that said black students in this county were two to four times more likely to be suspended, that students from poor socio-economic and minority backgrounds are under performing in state standards on reading and other state tests. And you might disagree with Dr. Siers – his methods, but I don’t see anything in any of the criticisms of Dr. Siers – besides the fact that he wrote some emails that people didn’t like – actually addressing these underlying issues.

“The county should have a goal, and the town should have a goal of increasing our population. And people by and large are in support in this country, this state and probably in this county even, if you just ask them, whether or not people should be treated with dignity and whether students who are underperforming should receive more attention. Then they say, ‘yes, they support that.’

“I don’t see in any of the criticisms of Dr. Siers anywhere acknowledgement of those issues. And so, I want to say, since it’s been brought up, there are criticisms of certain emails that Dr. Siers has sent. I think he’s apologized for those, but I think at the end of the day we ought to be addressing these issues because the quality of the education our students are receiving effects their success in life and effects the success of this town and this county.”

Reis added that “if we’re only arguing about whether somebody said something that was offensive, then we’re missing the point.”

He noted that the outcome is not “whether or not we get a new superintendent, the outcome is if we don’t address these issues the state – our regulator – comes in and takes over and no one wants that to happen. We all want to run our own schools and our own school board, and we have to measure up to some minimum standards.”

East said he’s watched numerous hours of school board meetings [on YouTube recordings] and he said he’d never seen anything during the meetings that resembled a Klan meeting.

“I saw our local community come out in opposition to something that they feel very passionate about. At no time did I see it as being racist or anti-anything or anti-anyone. It was very pro-education, very pro-children.

“When you put parents in a position to where they’re going to have to guard what their children are taught in the school environment, they’re going to have protect their children from things you find offensive, then people are going to be passionate. That’s what this country is about – being passionate. More people need to be passionate about these issues. And quite frankly, I find Critical Race Theory (CRT) to be completely offensive.

“What part of it,” asked Reis.

“It’s divisive,” East responded.

“What part…,” Reis asked.

“I’m not going to argue, I’m going to make this statement,” continued East. “It’s divisive, and the part that is divisive is everybody is very aware of what color they are. I think that is extremely unfortunate. Children aren’t racist by nature. So, teaching young children to be very aware of skin color and you’re either the oppressed or the oppressor is a destructive philosophy and teaching.

“CRT basically undermines everything that this country is founded on. Our founding documents are called into question in CRT. That to me is disgusting.

“So, to sit here, and I realize this isn’t our issue as a board, but as a father in this community it is an issue to me. As a father of a child in the Pulaski County School System I find it offensive.

“I think the fact anyone would try and condone a statement like calling passionate parents or relating them to being at a Klan rally … I find that offensive. And I find it disgusting.”