Our School Board is experiencing a leadership crisis and is at a crossroads.

In the July 14 meeting I addressed the board regarding the reasons the Superintendent has chosen to walk away from over $500,000 of total compensation that remains on her contract. This follows the amazing accomplishments that have been achieved by her and her leadership in four short years.

What she wrote in her retirement letter about the unbecoming behavior of some members of her board should be of significant concern to all taxpayers. This behavior violates our Constitution, the laws of the State of Florida and the contract that governs the relationship between the Board and the Superintendent.

For those offended by the figurative analogy that I chose, I apologize.

For those who pressed me not to apologize, or that I should have said more, thank you for understanding the broader issues at stake. For those who asked if I have evidence of what I described, yes I do.

The evidence has come primarily from direct communications with six of the seven (including Mrs. Miller and Mr. Townsend) school board members over the last three years. They have described to me, in their words, the board’s dysfunctionalities. Most of them have gone further to describe varying degrees of feeling too helpless and or intimidated to do anything about it.

We cannot keep burning through employees at taxpayers’ expense with a manner of governance that includes bullying and character assassinations. What Mrs. Byrd has endured is unprecedented and unconscionable on so many levels. We have stood by as eyewitnesses watching her career with the district have the life snuffed out of it.

In going through this experience I have been reminded of how different the life and professional experiences of White and Black Americans still remain. We will continue to struggle to understand one another when one race of people have it strongly suggested to them by the other, that unless someone dies you should be quiet and be happy. This cannot be! It is dismissive, disrespectful and demeaning. We are better than this and should expect better of one another.

Gow Fields, Lakeland

Gow Fields is a former mayor of Lakeland and the husband of Kay Fields, a current member of the Polk School Board.