A Disservice to Students, Parents, Community
Failed Charter School Resolution Reopens Healing Wound
Last updated 3/19/2022 at 11:47am
Lake Wales has been blessed by the creation of the Lake Wales Charter Schools system nearly two decades ago. Now representing seven schools educating students in grades 1 through 12, the system has received nationwide attention for its innovative methods.
Competition between schools for the attention of parents and students has been a positive. The mere existence of the quasi-independent district was likely motivation for improvements at Polk County School System's McLaughlin Middle School, which was re-imagined as a school for the arts.
The results of the charter schools have improved the performance of students and the image of our community. Yet a change of leadership has become an opportunity for a few who would drive wedges of animus and risk that progress for political gain.
After a divisive superintendent search process, it is clearly in the best interest of our community to put our differences aside and unite behind Dr. Wayne V. Rodolfich, a highly-qualified administrator who was selected after a nearly year-long process. A call for such unity was voiced by supporters of each finalist during the selection process.
Despite the clear need for healing, a simple resolution supporting the district and Dr. Rodolfich became yet another flash-point when two city commissioners, Jack Hilligoss and Daniel Williams, put their personal rancor above the needs of the community by voting against that healing, killing a City of Lake Wales resolution in support of the district.
Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson called the resolution "a chance to welcome our new superintendent and his family to Lake Wales."
The City of Lake Wales has a vested interest in the success of LWCS. The city has a voice on that board. Passing this resolution was the perfect opportunity for the city commission to lead, and to promote sorely-needed unity. Unfortunately, the actions of Williams and Hilligoss did the exact opposite, reopening a wound that had just begun to heal.
Hilligoss, currently a candidate for mayor, has said throughout his campaign that he wants to bring people together and that he will represent all Lake Wales citizens. His vote against this resolution clearly conflicts with his statements.
The value of the Lake Wales Charter Schools system cannot be overstated. Quality schools help drive economic activity and desirable population growth. We pray that this recent turn of events doesn't deter Dr. Rodolfich from seeking community partnerships. His first year will set the direction for the LWCS for many years to come, and the assistance of the city and community can lead to trust and understanding.