I’ve been at this paper for about 2-1/2 years, give or take. During that time I haven’t run across anyone as roundly or routinely vilified, talked bad about and apparently just straight out detested as Sallie Brewer.
The woman just has a knack of making some people mad and other people madder.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everybody dislikes Brewer. I’m not saying the majority of Bryan County residents feels strongly about her one way or the other.
But those who don’t like her really don’t like her.
In fact, there was enough anger -- or at least extreme dislike -- directed against the superintendent that it handily won seats at the BoE table for two new board members and a bigger seat for a third. And it finally cost Brewer her job, when those three fellows, Charlie Johnson, Dennis Seger and Jeff Morton, teamed up with Eddie Warren and voted her out on the street.
That’s their right, by the way. They’re elected officials. She works for them, they work for us. It’s not a bad system when it works the way it’s supposed to.
But you know what?
Hard as I try, I still don’t get it. Any of it.
I’ve met Brewer. I’ve spoken with her on a number of occasions. She’s been nothing but professional, pleasant and helpful.
What’s more, the schools have a great reputation and while there are a number of reasons why, I happen to think Brewer was one of them. Not the sole reason, certainly, but a big reason all the same. What’s more, I admire the woman’s guts. She doesn’t tell people what they want to hear, she tells them what she means.
Maybe that’s not the way you do it anymore, and that’s too bad. And before you shoot my inbox full of email telling me how dumb I am, I’ve heard it all when it comes to why Brewer needed to go.
I’ve heard she’s a control freak. I’ve heard her methods are out of date. I’ve heard this, that and everything else except maybe that Brewer is responsible for Al Gore, global warming, the economy, Sean Penn or George W. Bush, whichever one you love to hate worse.
And if I haven’t heard it, I’ve read it on our blogsite at bryancountynews.net, where Brewer’s critics have been blistering her from the day the site went live back in February 2007. Feel free to go do a search for her name in our community site, though I warn you it isn’t for the faint of heart.But here’s one recent sample, from someone I happen to know has long been passionate about seeing Brewer gone: "After years of hearing Sallie repeat her mantra -- "It’s all about the children" -- to justify some of her idiotic decisions, I think it was most telling that her comment to the board as they prepared to fire her was: "I’m a lot more expensive than you expected" (Bryan County News, Feb. 21, 2009). And she then demanded "a quarter million" dollars. I think we know who it was all about, all along. The children? Obviously not."
See what I mean? Not just decisions, but ‘idiotic’ decisions (the italics are mine, by the way). With enemies like those, you need all the friends you can get ....
But also let me say this: I agree with some of the criticism of Brewer, just as I understand the reasons she garners deep loyalty and support.
So who's right?
I don't know.
I do know that at the end of the day, I still hold out hope that we live in a community where people -- no matter what side of an issue they might be on -- are motivated by what they think is the best interest of the community, not their own self-interest.
Yet like many who’ve paid attention to school politics and saw the tide turning against the longtime educator, my thought was she would probably serve out the end of her contract in 2010 and then ride off into the sunset. She’s given 34 years to the school district, after all, and that’s a time many start thinking about taking up something less stressful - though given the flak Brewer’s gotten, that could be anything from bull riding to bungee jumping.
Had she instead wanted to come back for another year, the school board could have said no and saved itself from having to not only pay her, but pay another superintendent to come to Bryan County and have every decision and action hyper-scrutinized. If you don’t think that’s going to happen, you’ve got a lot more trust in the goodness of human nature than I do, never mind what I just wrote a few paragraphs ago.
But this is all water under the bridge now.
Now, Brewer won’t have to worry about working for a while -- because she will rack up a pretty tidy payday, one that will apparently be somewhere between $180,000-$250,000 once the lawyers get through with the paperwork.
Do I blame Brewer for the cost? Nope. The majority of the BoE felt it necessary to do this now, so they’ve got to live by the contract they're breaking - whatever that ends up meaning. I doubt those who criticize Brewer would do anything differently were they in her shoes.
Most of all, I hope the money that's going to be spent to send Sallie packing doesn’t come out of some kid’s education.