Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia


March 17, 2012

Your Opinion: March 18, 2012

ATLANTA — The true tale of two Valeries

I do not have an axe to grind against any one person, but I would like to set the record straight on a recent article featured on the front page of the AmericUSumter Observer.

I have only bought two copies of that paper, and in reading both I was shocked and disheartened. If those two issues of the Observer are representative of the paper, the stance of the Observer is to viciously attack anyone who disagrees with its views. It seems to promote an agenda of hate and divisiveness rather than unity and respect.

While I consider many of the articles Ive read in the observer to be mean-spirited and biased, Ive never felt the need to publicly speak against the paper. Until now. This issues front page story features Valerie Duff and Valarie Grimes. It uplifts Ms. Grimes and trashes Ms. Duff. Let me give my take on the two women.

Valarie Grimes is working to promote unity in Sumter County. I do not agree with everything Valarie Grimes believes but I RESPECT HER! When I spoke at Februarys board meeting, Ms. Grimes stayed to speak with me afterward. We shared an honest, open dialogue with several other parents, who incidentally represented varied racial backgrounds. As we expressed our views and concerns, it became obvious that we did not see eye-to-eye on everything, but that we were all there in the best interests of children, not adults. Isnt that what a school system should be focused on?

Valarie Grimes is spreading her opinion the correct way. She is using grass-roots methods of making phone calls and sending letters. She is speaking publicly through recognized forums and writing letters to the editor. Always communicating her views respectfully and sharing her information.

Which raises a huge questio — Valarie Grimes has information that the rest of us were not given. She has a copy of a Justice Department document sent to Mr. Skipper in early January. If a rationale existed for the vote to rescind, why not provide it to the community? (There have certainly been many opportunities!) I received a copy of the memo from the Justice Department in the mail. Ill be honest, it raised a few questions for me. It didnt necessarily justify halting the redistricting process altogether, but it may have encouraged me to look again at the decision! So again, I ask, if this memo is the reason behind the vote to rescind, why was it not shared with the community? That effort at transparency might have prevented the mess we find ourselves in right now.

I digress, so allow me to move on to Valerie Duff. Valerie Duff is working to promote unity in Sumter County. I do not agree with everything Valerie Duff believes but I RESPECT her! (deja vu, anyone?  I worked for Ms. Duff for 5 years, (I have known her in other capacities for much longer) and all three of my children attended SCPS while she was the principal. I have found her to be honest, fair, and compassionate. Ms. Duff is one of the rare leaders who will listen to differing opinions without feeling that her authority is being challenged. She is a pragmatic leader who processes ALL information prior to making decisions  Unlike the information given in the Observer, Ms. Duff is a distinguished educator and has the background to prove it!

I asked several coworkers (of different races, because although many want to say this isnt a race issue, to a degree it IS!) for their opinions of Valerie Duff. The responses were dedicated, fair, generous, the best boss Ill ever work for, knows how to give tough love. Some parents expressed similar sentiments saying fantastic, the reason my child is succeeding. Valerie Duff does not care about where a kid came from, only where the kid is going.  With equal enthusiasm, she hugs poor kids, rich kids, white kids, Asian kids, Hispanic kids, African American kids, kids with runny noses, and kids with head lice. There is no bias!

Valerie Duff is a role model for me and a hero for Sumter County. As a principal, she answered all correspondence with for the children. Her actions continue to show that she is working for the good of ALL children in Sumter County.

The bottom line is, we dont have to choose which Valerie/Valarie we support. They are both needed to have a healthy community in which we can express differing views and represent differing backgrounds but still find common ground and compromise while respecting each other. Given the opportunity, Id vote for BOTH women for school board. Thank you Valarie and Valerie!

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