News and Tribune

May 10, 2013

DODD: Old school education values


CLARK COUNTY — I am an old school guy. Jim Sexton is an old school guy. I personally believe we need more old school people in education and certainly not less of them. He has that rare mix with kids of being able to be a strict disciplinarian when necessary and also make kids gain self-respect and a sense of accomplishment when needed.

I do not believe anything that has been done to and about Jim Sexton has anything to do with the kids. I have had several people who were on the opposition side against Jim Sexton who have lauded what he accomplished at Jeffersonville High School for the kids. Almost universally his successes have been acknowledged. The improved discipline, the academic achievements, the support for athletics, the sciences, and the arts has all been measurable.

The reason that Jim Sexton is no longer at Jeffersonville High School nor at the Clark County Middle/High School (Alternate School) has to do with his not being able to get along with the adults in the sandbox.

The latest decision not to retain him next year as the Alternative school principal is even more apparent to have been a done deal. The staff was overwhelmingly supportive and the results again seemed to be obvious to those closest to the situation.

It was simply a done deal. I wondered why the first person that was offered the Greater Clark School Corporation superintendent position decided not to accept the offer. I asked around and know what I have been told. I encourage all Jim Sexton supporters to ask the school board members why they had to go to a second choice. If you see me in person I will tell you what I have been told both first and second-hand. Jim Sexton simply could have moved heaven and earth this past year at either school (and some supporters believe he might have just done that metaphorically speaking) and he had no chance of being retained in a principal position.

I know Jim Sexton had some teachers who were supporters that were afraid to publicly speak out as they felt the possibility of professional repercussions to do so. In that regard, I wish to publicly laud Douglas Murphy for leading a last minute charge to have Jim retained at the alternate school. That took some courage and strength of conviction. Whether you supported Sexton or not, I think anytime someone risks something to fight for their belief that is a wonderful example for our young people to follow in life. Nobody ever lost anything by standing up for something in which they believe. In fact, anyone who does that has gained immeasurably on a personal level. Being at peace with oneself has to lead to a better night’s sleep knowing one has given it their all.

As for some nameless and shameless cowards on a blog known as the Clark County Chatter, I saw just the opposite. Within the first 24 hours of his being suspended there were some absolutely libelous rumors printed for the community to read. All were baseless and untrue. Several attacks were against his personal and moral character. Shame should go out to these adults who offered up pitiful examples of acceptable behavior for our young people. Several posters if they had any integrity would send Sexton an e-mail to apologize. They won’t. Just because you type “I heard” or “someone said” before publishing a lie doesn’t make it OK.

One young person with whom I probably had a great deal of disagreement and who was certainly not a Jim Sexton supporter was an ex-student named Jesse Summerfield. He had the personal integrity to stand up for what he believed in and use his picture and actual name to debate and support his stance. I have a tremendous amount of respect for someone with the strength to publicly engage in this debate and not hide behind anonymity. I never heard this young man make any false accusations or pathetic allegations against Jim Sexton. I suspect someday Summerfield will have a chance of being a leader in this community.

I spoke to other current and former students who were very respectful toward and quite supportive of Jim Sexton. I respected them just as much.

I also would like to say that Jim Sexton has expressed personally to me that he respects Julie Straight and wishes her well in the position at Jeffersonville High School. His only non-positive comment was that he hoped she wasn’t too nice a person to run the high school. Jeffersonville High School and Clark County politics have the potential to really destroy a person too nice. I think the evidence is that a person seen as not too nice can also come out with the same ending regardless of effectiveness. As I have told Julie Straight personally if there is anything I can do to help her make Jeff the best school it can be all she has to do is contact me.

Jim Sexton did ask me to convey one thing to next year’s senior class at JHS. He promised them that before they graduated he would have them highly ranked as one of the best high schools in Indiana and nationally recognized. That did happen. His only regret is that he won’t be around to fulfill that promise in its entirety personally.

I do know one thing for sure. If Jim Sexton is in a classroom at New Washington Elementary School next year and I had a child who was a student there, I would already be requesting my child be placed in his classroom

Of course, when it comes to my own son, I am an old school guy.

Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at