So, what do we make of the folderol over the firing of Lakeside High School teacher Margaret Mudrak?
It helps, I suppose, to put things in perspective: Most people make nothing of it because they don't have a dog in the hunt, so to speak.
Typically incidents involving a public entity, like the school system or a high school, rise in importance because of some wider implication. And I suppose it's possible to make the case that Mrs. Mudrak's firing has greater implications than just one person's job loss.
Mrs. Mudrak's supporters believe she's been unfairly drummed out of a job for little more than being too helpful to students. The people who took that job away believe she'd committed ethical violations that warrant the professional death penalty.
What's the truth? Well, consider this: The violations were brought to the school principal's attention by a fellow teacher. Jeff Carney, who had at that point already been promoted to the central office, started an investigation and felt he found enough to fire Mrs. Mudrak.
Superintendent Charles Nagle agreed. Mrs. Mudrak didn't, so she hired a couple of lawyers and appealed to the school board. After a daylong hearing, the board agreed with the termination.
Since then, there have been charges that a witness lied on the stand and bragged about it on Facebook; school officials are confident he didn't, and in any event say his testimony was only a minor part of the case. They've since decided to take the legal steps to try to find out who created that page.
And they've also decided to never again use students as witnesses - not because of questions about the student's credibility, but because it subjected him to threats and bullying afterward.
Mrs. Mudrak has the right to appeal the local school board's decision to the state board of education, and if that fails, she can take her case to superior court.
She'll also have to await the outcome of a complaint forwarded to the state teacher certification body, the Professional Standards Commission. County officials, as they are required, filed a challenge to Mrs. Mudrak's teaching credentials after the hearing.
I've always felt like firing someone, and then going after their credentials, seems pretty harsh. Then again, the rest of the world expects bad teachers to be weeded out of the system, and if school officials believe they've proven Mrs. Mudrak is a bad teacher, they're obligated to prove it.
But is she a bad teacher?
Her supporters certainly don't think so, and there are a lot of them. But let's be honest: They believe she's innocent of the charges because they want to believe she's innocent. That's human nature.
I've always thought a lot of Mrs. Mudrak, though my only involvement with her has been through her dedicated work with Lakeside's lacrosse team.
Those who are outside observers likely will see that the school system is willing to police its ranks - no matter how popular a teacher might be.
Too much work
Wanda Duffie has been serving another term since November as president of the Greater Columbia County Republican Women.
She recently decided to resign the position, and called me to make it clear that she isn't quitting because of any discord in the organization.
She's just flat overworked.
"I've been struggling with it for six months," she says. "I've got, for my livelihood, to just say -that's enough.'"
She works with her husband, Gene, in clearing land for home construction, but while that has slowed down, they're having to work harder now on demolition jobs and in a new business renting rolloff trash containers. And she has a state position as second vice chair of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women.
"I just cannot handle two businesses and the state position" in addition to the local leadership post, Duffie says.
Vice President Linda Parnell takes over July 1, and the organization, which has 155 members, will keep rolling.
"I'm very proud of our ladies," Duffie says. "And there is no rift."
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)
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