The Florida Times-Union reports that the Clay County school district has lost an unusually talented superintendent.
Ben Wortham closed his office door behind him last week ending a 43-year journey that has taken him from the classroom to superintendent of Clay County schools…
Three weeks after he became superintendent in 2008, the state cut the district’s funding by 5 percent. That was a $16 million loss in the middle of the school year. It was the first in a continuing series of similar state funding cuts to school districts statewide…
He said the district’s weathered the financial storm “with just a minimum of disruption to our district in the way of classroom and personnel.”
Clay is designated “an academically high performing” district by the Florida Department of Education. It’s one of 17 such districts statewide.
It also ranks 12th by student achievement statewide. It has an overall grade of “A” from the state. Clay’s graduation rate is 94 percent, while its dropout rate is 1.2 percent annually.
He was defeated by a fellow Republican who made a campaign issue out of “See You At The Pole” prayer rallies.
Like his opponent, outgoing superintendent Wortham is a supporter of the student-led prayers on school grounds. The issue was whether or not the school district should have a say in which outside groups were to be allowed to come on campus as part of See You At The Pole.
To this day, he said, the majority of people don’t fully understand the position he and the majority of the School Board took.
For 25 years Clay students could go pray around the flagpole before school hours “if it was student-initiated and student-led.” It was called “See You at the Pole,” he said.
“The greatest majority of the people, I still believe, think that we took See You at the Pole away from them. And we didn’t,” Wortham said. “We’ve done nothing to stop See You at the Pole. It’s still going on.”
The real issue, he said, was safety regarding having people come onto campus to lead or participate in the prayer. The board in a 3-2 vote adopted a policy placing restrictions on groups wanting to use school facilities.
And on that basis, the Good Christians of Clay County kicked out a competent and successful leader, and replaced him with a superintendent whose number one priority is making sure outside groups are free to proselytize on campus. Care to guess where Clay County schools are going to be ten years from now? Wortham gives all the credit to the teachers and staff, and they’re still around, so things will hopefully hold steady for the next few years. But a bad administrator can do a lot of harm, given enough time.