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John Welch. File photo.

Originally published: 2013-02-01 16:55:32
Last modified: 2013-02-01 16:55:32

Former school board member chimes in on conflicts

County Commissioner John Welch, a former Board of Education member, is urging the board to return Watauga County Schools “to the right path” after recent notoriety.

In a letter sent to school board members Tuesday, Welch described the concerns he had heard recently about Superintendent David Kafitz, a leader Welch helped hire.

Welch said Friday that although he is no longer on the board, numerous community members had contacted him recently, leading him to draft the letter.

“In no way was it meant to pile on or micromanage, but I do have that obligation to let people’s voices be heard,” Welch said. “I had heard a lot, and it got to a point where I couldn’t just ignore it.”

With a wife who works as a school counselor and a child who attends Mabel Elementary, Welch said he also approached the issue as a parent.

“The recent events have left me very concerned with the direction that Watauga County Schools is going,” Welch wrote. “ … The morale of our staff is the lowest I have seen, and the perception among a large number of our community members is extremely negative.”

Welch said that Watauga County Schools have been successful because of dedicated faculty and staff, invaluable relationships with businesses and community members, and parents who stress the importance of education. Those positive qualities are being threatened by recent events, he wrote.

“The question is: How would this situation be handled if it was a teacher, a director or a principal?” Welch wrote. “Being that these issues involve the leader of the school system make it worse. That position should be held to a higher standard.”

Welch said that he shared in some of the responsibility for the current situation and ended by encouraging board members.

“I do not envy your position, and I hope that you are able to reset the system back to the right path,” he wrote. “Our students, faculty and staff, partners in education, and other stakeholders deserve better.”