EDITOR'S NOTE: In the first part of this series, which appeared in Sunday's Ardmoreite, community members contended that "the whole community is in an uproar" over what has transpired at Dickson Schools since the start of the school year, alleged criminal actions by a former teacher and actions by the superintendent.
Even as the Carter County Sheriff's Department launched its investigation into allegations against former Dickson teacher Stephanie Ringwald, community members and parents have become frustrated.
That frustration erupted into public condemnation of Ringwald and her mother, Dickson superintendent Sherry Howe, during meetings Thursday night and Friday night at the Dickson Town Hall.
Howe refutes allegations which have been leveled against her, and deferred all questions to her attorney, Richard O'Carroll, who is based in Tulsa. O'Carroll was interviewed by telephone, and followed up with a press release. In the press release, O'Carroll said:
"Sherry Howe has been an efficient, effective, hard-working, unblemished and correct superintendent for Dickson Schools for 18 years. Unfortunately, Ms. Howe's daughter, who was a schoolteacher, was implicated in perhaps contributing to the delinquency of minor students. Ms. Howe demanded and obtained her daughter's resignation. That matter is now an issue for law enforcement and the courts. No one is suggesting Ms. Howe showed any favoritism to her daughter; to the contrary, Ms. Howe was harder on her.
"Ms. Howe had just recently been awarded a three-year contract. Although she had done nothing wrong in the slightest, last week, Ms. Howe attempted to clear the air over her daughter and either get a vote of confidence from the board, acknowledging she had done nothing wrong, or else Ms. Howe wanted to negotiate a settlement package consistent with her new contract. This was proposed on the agenda, and then withdrawn. There has been no agenda on this issue since. At present, and likely for the long-term, Ms. Howe will continue in her job in her usual fashion, secure in the knowledge that for every disgruntled naysayer found by television producers, there are 10 grateful parents for the work she did to help their children to succeed."
In an earlier interview with The Ardmoreite, Howe said she was unaware of the rumors regarding her daughter's actions, and indicated her daughter resigned because of an incident where Ringwald encouraged a high school student to bully other students. The incident took place on the first day of school, prior to the beginning of the criminal investigation.
The agenda item for the executive session on Sept. 18 referred to in O'Carroll's release stated the purpose was solely to consider "Proposed severance package from Superintendent Sherry Howe." No mention of discussion of a criminal investigation for a former employee was made.
Following the interview with Howe on Aug. 30 and the subsequent story published on Sept. 1 about the criminal investigation, Howe sent a text message to Ardmoreite reporter Michael Pineda with the request, "Michael, please let people know that I will do what is right?"
O'Carroll was asked, "What does Howe consider as the right thing to do?"
His reply: "Sherry is completely intent on continuing her duties, not withstanding a vocal minority that is found in every school district. She is much beloved and well respected and never had a bad review. That is the position that she is taking. She is capable of continuing her duties and she tried to explain her position. She has done nothing wrong. To the contrary, she tried to clear the air and has been unable to get it done. All this behind-the-scenes grumbling has created a potentially untenable position."
O'Carroll's statement that Howe intends to stay in her present position sends something of a mixed message following the canceled meeting on Sept. 18. In an interview with The Ardmoreite, Howe asked that a big deal not be made of the canceled meeting, and promised a big story in the upcoming week, which she also promised to KTEN.
Nothing materialized other than the community gathering to discuss the issue. An effort to reach school board president Kent Donica was unsuccessful.
O'Carroll did offer his intentions, should the school board choose to take action against Howe.
"If they come after her because of her daughter, I am going to own them, and you can quote me on that," he said.