District ‘practice’ must cease

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, September 15, 2012

A sign on President Harry S. Truman’s desk famously announced, “The buck stops here.” The saying is derived from the slang expression, “pass the buck,” in abdicating responsibility to someone else. The president wanted it known that there would be no passing the buck; he had the final say.

In the Vicksburg Warren School District, Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford has the ultimate final say of those overseen by the Board of Trustees, and it was refreshing to see her take responsibility for misusing school property. She was suspended for three days without pay on Sept. 6 for using a district-owned truck to help her move to a new residence.

She never tried publicly to hide her malfeasance and might truly have not been aware it was against state law, as she said in a statement.

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“At the end of the day, I’m the leader and I’m the one who has to find out,” said Swinford, who most recently was employed in a Baton Rouge school district. “We’ve been discovering what is wrong and what is right and fixing it. Instead of discovering it, I stumbled upon it and I will make sure it’s fixed going forward.

“I hope this community, number one, is able to forgive a mistake,” Swinford said. “I’m very embarrassed and apologetic, not knowing what I was doing was wrong. This district has too much to celebrate to be obscured by a mistake by its leaders. It’s a stumble along the way, but we are going to pick up the pieces and move on.”

We take her at her word.

We also believe that it, indeed, is an existing practice that has allowed personnel to “check out” district property for personal use. That “policy,” however, is against state law, and it must end. Tom Chain with the State Auditor’s Office said the practice would amount to the district “donating” the property, which is not allowed.

The Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees voted 4-1 in favor of the suspension at a special called meeting on Sept. 6. The suspension might have been a bit harsh, but the message certainly has been sent.

We’re confident the practice will soon cease.