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Girard schools should act quickly to restore trust



Published: Sun, May 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



If the reported allegations against Joseph Shoaf, former Girard schools superintendent, of drug use and corruption of minors are true, at least one question must be answered. In a small, closely knit community like Girard, how could no one in authority have known what was going on?

We would rather expect that someone must have known, must have observed some of the tell-tale signs, must have been concerned for behavior that in retrospect can be seen as erratic. But no one spoke up.

After all, who would they tell? The superintendent is at the top of organizational chart. He is supposed to be the go-to guy, the one to be trusted, the one to solve the problems. Thus it's understandable that a student or a staff member would hesitate to come forward, afraid of being brushed off or of retaliation.

Hostility and suspicion in the Girard school district -- between parents and the school board and between faculty and the board -- lingers over environmental and health problems of the new intermediate school, the appointment of Shoaf as intermediate school principal and the perceived demotion of Robert Foley over the objections of many parents and teachers, with resultant suits and countersuits.

Girard scandals

In fact, both the city of Girard and its school district have been going through incredibly rough times, with the city's finances being overseen by a state commission, and the intermediate school still not certified for occupation. The last thing Girard needed was another scandal to undermine the community's faith in its leaders.

In any regard, the Girard Police Department must get to the bottom of the lurid story of a hitherto respected school administrator who descended into the depths of drugs and depravity.

Of particular concern to the board of education should be a close examination of all decisions made by Shoaf since he became superintendent. The thinking of any individual impaired by drugs must be suspect. If Shoaf was, in fact, a cocaine user as has been alleged, and if board members were unaware of his condition, then it is doubtful that they would have scrutinized his service as superintendent -- particularly as it relates to the intermediate school.

Drug testing of union employees in the district cannot be mandated without negotiation, but we would imagine that the vast majority of school employees, who have rightfully earned the respect and trust of children and their parents, would want to distance themselves as much as possible from allegations of drug use.

There is nothing to prohibit every adult involved with the Girard schools system -- from the new acting superintendent, to the faculty, staff and board members -- from lining up for voluntary drug testing before school starts again in the fall.

The academic achievement of Girard schoolchildren is a tribute to the excellence of their teachers and the trust the students have in their faculty and have had in the schools' administrators. One, or even a few, bad apples can't be permitted to spoil the bushel.




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