Lessons to be learned often take place outside the classroom as often as they do inside.
That appears to be the case with respect to John de la Howe School in McCormick County as another chapter unfolded with the resignation Friday of principal Herman Thompson. Thompson, who came out of retirement to lead de la Howe's L.S. Brice School, stepped down after about eight months of service, saying he viewed himself more as a warden than a principal. Discipline, he said, was essentially non-existent as students were stealing and using drugs but not being expelled — all, he said, in an effort to keep student numbers up and funding flowing.
What once was a model campus meeting the needs of children who would not be in the mainstream education system has fallen into disrepair.
Whether de la Howe can and will be salvaged remains to be seen. Its board voted last week to sever its relationship with President Thomas
Mayer, but even that might prove to be a little too late. The state House Public Education and Special Schools subcommittee Feb. 4 gave the school's leadership about a week to get its house in order or face temporary or permanent shuttering. Among the problems cited is the fact the school was not brought up to full student capacity the past several years, despite being handed taxpayer dollars to use toward that end. Instead, it hired more staff while the student population was at less than 50 percent. Additionally, the lack of any security on the remote campus was cited as a problem and certainly evidence exists that security was needed, not only for the safety of the students and staff, but as a means of catching students breaking laws.
The board made one right step in moving to sever its ties with Mayer, but as more news about what has taken place and apparently still is taking place on the John de la Howe campus comes to light, the school's future appears rather bleak. It will take more than the generosity of an already irate House subcommittee to keep de la Howe operating. It will take an in-depth plan that is carried out by able and capable people, a plan that comes with accountability measures and is closely monitored at all necessary levels — all the way to the governor's office, if need be. it remains to be seen whether the interim president, Viola Faust, and the current board have the wherewithal to steer de la Howe away from the shallow shoals.