Editorial: Closing an ugly chapter

October 4, 2013 

East Wake Academy has been under a microscope for several months now in light of allegations that its former headmaster committed crimes. There is more to come in the courtrooms of Wake County, if the District Attorney’s office follows through with its plan to retry Brandon Smith on two counts a jury could not decide. And, of course, there remains a civil case that must be concluded. But with this trial completed, now is a good time for the school to turn the page and work to make itself a better institution.

The jury’s decision confirmed that one bad apple had caused problems that didn’t need to arise. Out of that problem grew other problems: a board’s unwillingness to heed warning signs and act properly to protect all its employees. A board that shrank from public view when the problems got too big. A board that seemed kowtowed by an administrator who viewed the institution as his own fiefdom.

School officials testified during Smith’s trial that policies toward harassment have been updated. But a policy is only as good as the enforcement behind it.

East Wake Academy board members have a responsiblity to enforce those standards and all other policies vigorously and without favor or malice. Parents who send their children to school there willingly – and they all do – have every reason to expect that’s how leaders will exercise their authority. Parents should be vocal about their expectations of the board and the board should reciprocate by being more open about its goals and actions. Lost in all of this rigamarole around Brandon Smith is the fact that East Wake Academy is a public institution, paid for and supported by taxpayer dollars.

We would not expect the Wake County school board to act capriciously and, when they have, voters have seen to it that such behavior didn’t go unpunished. Nothing less should be expected of the East Wake Academy school board.

Their behavior through this issue has been less than sterling. Now is a perfect time for them to admit their mistakes and act decisively to correct them going forward.

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