Perspectives on David White’s termination

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

It was moving at this week’s Hillsboro Board of Education meeting to see all the current students, former students, former teachers, current teachers, a preacher and other community members rally in support of Choral Director David White.

What they were rallying about was Superintendent Tim Davis’ recommendation to the school board that it consider the termination of White’s contract.

Evidently (there were plenty of posts on social media), White had some of the Hillsboro Symphonic Choir students on a four-day field trip get off a bus in New York City and move a smart car that was parked illegally and blocking the path of the bus, resulting in the bus causing a long traffic jam on a one-way street.

After a one hour and 56 minute executive session, which the majority of the crowd sat through, the board voted 3-2 in favor of the superintendent’s decision.

I would like to say that I have no dog in this fight. But the fact of the matter is that I do. So let’s throw all the cards on the table. I consider Tim Davis a good friend. I know David White and have worked with him on many stories. A grandson my wife and I are raising was one of the students that helped move the bus. My wife is a teacher at Hillsboro.

So you see my predicament.

I covered the school board meeting this week for this newspaper. As a reporter, I am supposed to remain neutral and have no opinion. But as a columnist, opinions are generally the point. The fact of the matter, though, is that I can see points on both sides of the argument. So I am going to express my opinion, and I hope that everyone respects it — just like I respect many of the opinions I have heard on both sides of this incident.

When I saw on social media that my grandson helped move a parked car in New York City, I was not happy. I mean, it is The Big Apple, and not little Highland County. I wondered about all kinds of things that could have happened to him if the upset owner of the vehicle showed up while they were moving his car.

Then I thought back to my high school years and how quickly, afforded the opportunity, some of my friends and I would have moved a car if someone had parked it illegally and it was blocking our bus, prohibiting our progress on an exciting day in New York City.

But, unfortunately, it is not the 1970s anymore.

From what I have been told, calls were made from the bus seeking help in getting the smart car moved, but those making the calls were told no help was available.

That being the case, it seems only sensible to me that the next phone call, if I had been Mr. White, would have been to my boss (aka Mr. Davis) before I made the rash decision to have students move a vehicle. It might have been the easy and simple solution, but there were many things to consider.

On the other hand, part of the superintendent’s statement for recommending Mr. White be fired is that he has a past record of questionable judgment. If that is the case, why was he put in charge of a large contingent of students traveling to New York City? And why did the school board approve the trip, likely knowing who was going to be in charge?

Should the administrators not be held accountable if they knew Mr. White had a questionable past?

Then again, I am certain the Hillsboro administrators know much more about the situation than I do, and much more about Mr. White’s past interaction with his students.

Flipping the coin again, anyone at this week’s board meeting would have had to be comatose not to feel the emotion of Mr. White’s supporters when they were begging the board not fire the choral director. Over many years, I have been to school board meetings at every Highland County public school except one, and I have never seen such an outpouring of love for anyone.

What I saw at the board meeting is that David White has made a difference in kids’ lives. Lots and lots of kids’ lives. He has been doing it for years. He gives them a place of refuge, a place where they can be themselves, and helps them rise to heights they did not know they were capable of rising to. His students routinely receive superior ratings at competitions, and his dramatic productions are outstanding.

He makes students better people.

That is rare. And it should be weighed heavily in determining David White’s fate.

Did he make a mistake by having his students move the car? In this day and age, I believe so. Was it enough to cost him his job? I cannot tell you. Some of the past charges against him seem petty. Some could be serious. But I do not know the details.

Is there room for forgiveness; a second chance? Second chances are hard to come by when you’re dealing with children’s lives.

David White says he plans to fight the board’s decision. I have a feeling this saga is only beginning.

I have one hope as it moves forward. That is that everyone involved makes their decisions with an open and clear conscience. If that happens, everything else will take care of itself.

Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist