[Nameplate] Fair ~ 54°F  
High: 72°F ~ Low: 52°F
Thursday, May 5, 2016

Puckett named interim superintendent; Richmond granted LOA

Thursday, December 13, 2012 ~ Updated 1:43 AM

Dawn Puckett
Community members packed the Ridpath Primary School cafeteria Wednesday night to object to talks of a contract extension for the Greencastle Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Lori Richmond.

What they got instead was the news that Richmond is already on her way out the door.

The superintendent has been granted a leave of absence for personal reasons, the Greencastle School Board announced after opening the meeting.

The embattled Richmond requested the paid personal leave on Tuesday and cleaned out her desk.

The board granted the leave through Jan. 15, and will revisit the matter at that time.

There were indications, however, that Richmond will not be back.

"Right now, we have an accepted leave of absence on file," corporation attorney Bob Rund said, "and legally, that's all we can say."

Board president Mike Dean took it one step further.

"I don't think she'll be back," Dean said.

Pressed further if Richmond's return was a possibility, Dean reiterated, "probably not."

While Richmond's leave and likely departure from the corporation beg many questions for the community, the most pressing on Wednesday was who would be filling the corporation's administrative roles.

Besides needing an acting superintendent, Greencastle High School also needs a principal to replace Jennifer Shepherd, whose resignation was officially accepted by the board on Wednesday.

A crowd of several hundred packed the Ridpath Primary School cafeteria for Wednesday's meeting of the Greencastle School Board. Extra chairs were brought in at least twice, the crowd spilled out into the hallway and seating was even expanded into the stage area.
To fill the positions, the board went with two longtime employees -- Assistant Superintendent Dawn Puckett as interim superintendent and Assistant High School Principal Russ Hesler as interim principal.

While board members expressed their confidence in Puckett, it was a fellow administrator, Ridpath Principal Shawn Gobert, who spoke most eloquently about his faith in the interim leader.

"There's no one I respect more in the world of education than Dawn Puckett," Gobert said. "If this piece of the puzzle -- Dawn in this chair -- can't fix the problem, nothing can."

Toward Hesler, who has spent 35 years as a teacher or administrator at GHS and seen multiple principals come and go in his time as assistant principal, board members were effusive in their praise.

"Anything we have ever asked Russ to do, he's done," Dean said. "I think we need an assistant to help Russ, but I think he's a great fit."

The things the corporation has asked Hesler to do over the years have included being a teacher, coach, assistant principal, interim principal (at least four times) and interim athletic director for the entire 2011-12 school year.

At the end of the spring 2012 semester, Hesler was actually serving as interim principal, assistant principal and interim athletic director.

"I have only one question," board member Denise Sigworth said, "Russ, can you wear only one hat?"

Russ Hesler
Hesler's appointment prompted a roaring round of applause from the hundreds in attendance. It was the first of more than 20 times applause broke out during the more than two hour meeting.

The new appointments replace a plan announced by Richmond last week to move Middle School Principal Tamra Walker to the high school and appoint Puckett the middle school principal.

At that time, Walker expressed her excitement to move into the high school, but with the board and administrators stressing the need for stability, she will remain at GMS.

"We think it's in the best interest of the corporation to leave Tamra at the middle school," Dean said. "We talked to her about that and she says she's OK with it."

Puckett also discussed a desire to become a principal and work more closely with students than central office allows. While that opportunity has gone away for now, she spoke passionately about the challenge before her and the entire community.

"I want to thank the board of education for putting their trust in me at this critical time for our school community. And, I want to reassure everyone that Greencastle School Corporation is alive and well," Puckett said.

"Like many people in this room, I've answered the bell for my school in many different ways," she added. "Tomorrow will be no different. I, along with dozens of teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, instructional assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians and administrators will be up early tomorrow to serve our students with a renewed energy and a determination to reach excellence."

This impassioned family of educators, Puckett said, is the key to the ongoing success of the school corporation.

"For as long as my board needs me, I pledge to spend my time serving our students, serving our teachers, serving our administrators and serving our community and our leaders. Together, our school family can succeed," Puckett said.

She concluded her remarks by asking the impassioned crowd to keep its passion and be part of the solution. The next meeting of the school improvement committee is set for Tuesday, Jan. 29. She asked for community contributions at the 6:30 p.m. meeting.

"Please join us. Be a contributing member of our school family," Puckett said.

Further business from Wednesday's meeting will be addressed in upcoming issues of the Banner Graphic.

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on bannergraphic.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

Why don't the board go ahead and make Mr. Hesler the permanent principal. He is always taking the interim spot. He'll do as good a job as anyone else hired.

-- Posted by Jahaya56 on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 11:14 PM

Thank you Banner for not only covering these issues, but doing so promptly!

I think the school board pretty much decided that both Puckett and Hesslers interim appointment will be more permanent after the actual departure from Dr. Richmond.

-- Posted by Greencastle7 on Wed, Dec 12, 2012, at 11:32 PM

While this is indeed a huge step in the right direction, let's not lose focus. Next step is to ensure an elected school board. This community cannot allow this to ever happen again. We have seen now what strength in numbers can do. Please continue the fight for our children's sake.

-- Posted by lkcrawle on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 8:06 AM

Question posed to board last night:

"Why did you not take action in June when we had this same meeting and same concerns?"

Board's answer:

"Um, well, ah, these things take time..."


"We did not see any need to take action then, though we should have."

Second question posed to board:

"How about we ask a consultant to come in and review the schools and report back. I'll pay for it if you can not."

Board's response:

"Well, we've talked about this and maybe we need to talk about it some more."

Enough talking! What does it take for you people to stand up and take some positive action?

Best idea last night was to fire this board and get ourselves an elected one.

-- Posted by upset parent on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 8:36 AM

We do need to get an elected board!

Let the people be heard!!

-- Posted by dandygrandy on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 8:41 AM

My experience with the newly appointed leaders isn't praise-worthy. Now that everyone's eyes are open they need to remain that way. The bottom line is that the students should be put first and that was not my experience with either of these two. I sincerely hope this is the start of cleaning up at GCSC.

-- Posted by GotoutofGC on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 9:08 AM

At the expense of losing 50 dedicated staff since January of 2012, the board committed to moving forward. I heard the board promise to keep the lines of communication open, as well. Their email addresses will now be available on the corporation website soon.

The two interim appointments made last night will need assistants, and I pray that moves forward sooner than later. The wearing of too many "hats" has never been the answer. A priority must be to not overwhelm and overwork these two people.

I watched as the board listened to all who spoke from their heart, and not only did they listen, but I think they were finally open to "hearing" from teachers, staff, students and the community. Time will tell and to the board; Actions speak louder than words.

-- Posted by kbmom on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 9:32 AM

WOW!!! What an exciting evening. I have seen Greencastle Schools over the years pass over local people who have proven themselves to be good, faithful administrators in favor of an outsider who can come in and "make changes." Well, once again, that strategy has failed.

Congratulations to Mrs. Puckett and Mr. Hesler. Good Luck! You both have proven your selves in the past and why would anyone assume that will not happen again.

I do not know any of the school board personally, but there seems to be a hidden agenda as a board or several individual agenda interfering with your role as a school board member. If that is the case, get over it. You have no power individually. Your only power and authority is as a "Board." Use it wisely. You need to drop back, punt, and go again.

You have punted. Now let these good people do their job. The school board needs to "lay low" for awhile. Let's get back to the history we have as one of the best in the area. WE CAN DO IT!

-- Posted by cvilleguy on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 9:56 AM

Hey Benedick you must not have ever taken the time to get to know Mr. Hesler (which you misspelled)I have He was a teacher when I was in school and Vice Principal while my boys were there. He truly cares about the kids there and deserves the job and I think his english is just fine. He has probably picked up some local slang but thats not so bad it helps him to communicate with the common folk.

-- Posted by T.C. FATHER OF 2 on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 9:16 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: