OUR VIEW: Community deserves answers on Pugh’s sudden resignation

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

On the first day of the new school year, Dr. Cole Pugh was one of many administrators and teachers holding signs at Callaway High School, welcoming students back to the classroom.

Four days later — with no public warning signs — Pugh and the Troup County Board of Education agreed to his mutual resignation. Pugh wasn’t at that meeting and he hasn’t been reached for comment by anyone in the media, including The LaGrange Daily News. The school board has been mum on why he resigned, citing the privacy of closed-door personnel discussions.

While we understand Pugh’s privacy as well as the board’s attempt to move on from the entire situation, it’s not that simple. Pugh oversaw a school system with more than 12,000 students and around 1,800 employees, according to numbers on the Troup County School System website.

TCSS is one of the largest employers in Troup County, and Pugh was the man who oversaw the entire operation. The public is rightfully concerned with his exit, eerily similar to his abrupt retirement from the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district in Texas in 2010. In that case, it appears Pugh left suddenly, with no explanation to the public and took the job in Troup County approximately seven months later.

Sound familiar?

In Texas, Pugh left with a severance package of $181,000. In Troup County, the board agreed to pay Pugh his remaining salary of $152,891.

The circumstances between Pugh’s exit here and in Texas could be completely different of course, but the fact that we still don’t know for sure is the problem.

The LaGrange Daily News put in an open record request last week for Pugh’s latest evaluation, plus any documents related to his resignation. Access to the evaluation was denied under Official Code of Georgia 20-2-210, which states that a superintendent review is not a public document. We received the resignation forms within three days, which revealed little.

On Monday, the LDN also put in an open records request for any emails related to Dr. Pugh’s resignation, in hopes of uncovering any information that may answer some of the questions surrounding his abrupt and unconventional departure. 

The superintendent of the Troup County School System touches more people in Troup County than just about any other position county-wide. Unlike a mayor or city council member, Pugh’s reach includes the entire county and focuses entirely on our students.

It’s not fair to the people he served to simply disappear. Both Pugh and the school system should do the right thing and give a reason why this mutual resignation agreement was reached.

The public has a legitimate interest and right to know the reasons for dismissal of public employees.

We haven’t been able to reach Pugh, but we would love the chance to sit down with him to hear his side of the story. We offer the same to the Troup County School Board.

The more transparent the school system is, the more public trust they are likely to gain.

At the end of the day, Pugh doesn’t work for the school system anymore, and we are confident Dr. Roy Nichols will do an admirable job in his interim role while the board searches for a new candidate, but the school board was elected by the citizens of Troup County and ultimately answers to them. Right now, the community wants to know why the man the board hired is no longer in his position.

Maybe the school system and Pugh should revisit the advice they gave students on the first day of school. The “sure, you can” sign Pugh held emphasized the ability to accomplish anything, even if it was difficult.

Can the school system or Pugh step forward and let the public know what happened?

Sure, they can.