News and Tribune

October 27, 2012

DODD: Sexton succeeded in his mission

Local columnist

“You’ve tried it your way for years, and your kids can’t even pass the State’s Minimum Basics Skills test. That means they can barely read. Now they’ve given me one year to turn this school around- to get the test scores up- so the state will not take us over to perform the task which you have failed to accomplish- the task of educating our children. So forget about the way it used to be. This is not a damn democracy. We are in a state of emergency and my word is law. There’s only one boss around here, and that’s me.”

— Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark in Lean on Me.

They make movies about principals like Jim Sexton. People like Morgan Freeman star in them and people cheer. But in real life, usually they are run out of town.

Jim Sexton was assigned to clean up Dodge. He did that.

He was assigned to make academics the No. 1 priority at JHS. He did that.

He was assigned to make Jeffersonville High School a safe environment where you didn’t have to worry about the student’s safety. He did that.

He was assigned to do a makeover at Jeffersonville High School where status quo was not acceptable and he did that.

What he also did was step on a lot of toes, butt heads with the teacher’s union, make enemies on the Greater Clark County Schools Board of Trustees, and this past week was reassigned to another position in the system.

Jim Sexton was given an impossible task — and he accomplished it. The only thing that surprised me about Thursday’s decision by Greater Clark Superintendent Andrew Melin was that Jim lasted 2 1/2 years at JHS. That was longer than the previous principal Steve Morris, who was a good man. Morris was too nice of a guy for JHS. Jim Sexton was too mean a guy for JHS. Hopefully, the next principal chosen will be a Goldilocks principal — perhaps they will be just right.

Jim Sexton became a friend of mine. I understand completely why some people did not like him. He did things his way or the highway. He had a vision of making JHS the best high school in the state. He was not a nice guy if you disagreed with him. People who are asked to turn around any operation are not nice guys. Jim Sexton did not finish last.

Neither did Jeffersonville High School over the last couple of years.

Jim Sexton knew he couldn’t trust very many people in Jeffersonville High School circles. He had a target on his back from day one.

The saddest part about this whole scenario is that Sexton’s contract was up in May. That was not good enough for those on a witch hunt. All things related to former Superintendent Stephen Daeschner must go.

November 6 will be a very interesting day for Clark County. I hope anybody voting for a school board race will educate themselves and hear all sides of the story. There is no cut-and-dry when it comes to Jim Sexton. He has supporters and detractors. Real life is kind of that way.

The only disappointment that I have regarding Jim Sexton’s tenure at JHS is that his supporters were not vocal. Those who were against him were and certainly had a goal. As they say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

I do wish Jim could have done some things differently. However, I have always said that being principal of Jeffersonville High School in today’s culture is an impossible job.

Thanks, Jim, for doing an impossible job as well as I think it could have been done. You made a lot of enemies. I also know you made some friends. I am one, but I know of many others and one administrator who even commented to me just this past week that they were never a big fan of yours, but attended a day-long meeting at JHS recently. This person could not believe the difference in the atmosphere, the student behavior and overall what a powerful positive effect you had on the place.

You made mistakes, buddy. If I could point out the two biggest reasons for the decision, you were hired by Daeschner and Bob Redman was hired as a football coach. And you were not always lovable. In fact, you could, I am sure, at times be a real son of a gun.

I know one thing for sure, you will always be remembered by friend and foe alike. As another old saying goes, “It’s tough to follow a legend!”

They haven’t won, Jim. The kids have lost. You know the mantra: “It’s all about the kids.”

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at