Embattled GMC president announces "parent forum;" school offers "response letter" to letter
Many prep school parents at Georgia Military College Prep, some more enthusiastically than others, still have more questions than answers when it comes to prep school principal Steve Greer's sudden firing 10 days ago.
With this in mind, William Caldwell, the school's embattled president, on Thursday sent out an email to GMC parents, announcing that an hour-and-a-half long "parent forum" will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 13 at the school.
"We will take an hour and a half to listen and respond to any questions you may have so we all, as a group, can come back together as a GMC Family and move forward for the sake of our students. We trust this will be a time of respectful and civil discourse," wrote Caldwell.
Caldwell also used the letter to address Greer's "unplanned departure" and how "the decision was not made in isolation, but over a series of months that led to the culmination of our separation." According to the letter:
GMC Prep Parents – This past week has been hard on many of us in the GMC Family. After the unplanned departure of Dr. Greer, we have been deeply saddened by the misinformation that has been spread among our faculty and staff, parents, and the community at large. Know that we have been working to take measured steps throughout this whole process to respect the privacy of all parties involved, while we worked to answer your questions, addressing concerns, and sharing information. We understand the nature of his departure was quick and may have seemed abrupt, but we ask that you understand that this decision was not made in isolation, but over a series of months that led to the culmination of our separation. Dr. Greer did nothing nefarious during his time at GMC Preparatory School. He made wonderful relationships with many of our students and parents. We encourage those to keep in touch with him and to remember the good things he did during his time at GMC Prep.
We understand that as parents that choose to send your children here, faculty and staff who choose to work here, and community members that choose to support us, some of you want more information than you’ve been given. It has become apparent that some of the information you have received has been incomplete and, unfortunately some not accurate. Know that we are working incredibly hard to rectify this and ensure that our GMC Family is well-informed and well-versed on everything happening across the Preparatory School, Junior College, and institution.
After being notified of the Letter to the Board of Trustees, we immediately began collecting the facts to respond to this letter and share factual information. Our hope is that after reading this letter, with context from GMC, you will have a clear understanding of the great work that the Team has been doing for our students. If after reading this letter you still have questions and concerns, we will address those in-person at a parent forum. This forum will be held in the Goldstein Center on Monday, February 13th at 6:00 p.m. We will take an hour and a half to listen and respond to any questions you may have so we all, as a group, can come back together as a GMC Family and move forward for the sake of our students. We trust this will be a time of respectful and civil discourse.
On Wednesday afternoon, meanwhile, GMC's Board of Trustees gathered a quorum and held an official board meeting. WGXA/Channel 24 was in town, interviewing some parents and recording snippets of the meeting. That segment can be viewed immediately below...
The public portion of the meeting was extremely brief, however, as the board quickly voted to go into executive session. Prior to going into executive session, District 2 board member Brooks Snider said a few words and a had a brief conversation with several concerned parents.
"We are not hiding anything from anybody, we are as confused as y'all are about some things, and that's why we're meeting," Snider said.
After that, however, GMC's public affairs coordinator, Jobie Shields, shut the conversation down and said that "the Board of Trustees will not be saying anything else" and asked "that you leave."
GMC typically excels at keeping any in-fighting and internal friction insulated and out of the view of the public and the media. That's why it still seems sort of surreal to think that 26 teachers, representing 40-something percent of the teacher in the prep school, would sign a very public "Letter of No Confidence regarding President William B. Caldwell, IV." That letter went out to the media last Friday.
That entire letter, lengthy and wonky, can be read by CLICKING HERE.
Out of the 26 signatures, 21 of them were signed "Anonymous Teacher," while five of the teachers actually put their names on the letter.
Perhaps most eye-opening are two sections of the letter that describe Caldwell's perceived vanity, including "when berating administration in a meeting about an error that had occurred with the roster for a sporting event, Caldwell declared, 'I'm so powerful it's scary,'" as well as "in meetings, William B. Caldwell has repeatedly been heard to speak about events happening at the institution and how it will affect his legacy. The wording is often'How wil this affect MY legacy' instead of remaining focused on the goal shared by the faculty of this institution: educating students and elevating their character. The perception is that his focus is firmly on himself rather than on the good of the institution."
The letter also asserts that the school currently is being audited by the state government, something that pertains to "the appearance of a misappropriation of funds." According to the letter, "the audit could spell disaster for GMC."
On Thursday afternoon, however, the school sent out a "response letter" to the aforementioned letter signed by the 26 teachers. The letter matched bullet points with bullet points. This new letter can be read by clicking –> GMC Board of Trustees Directive.pdf
The letter responds to a number of criticisms, including Caldwell's perceived cozy relationship with New Day USA, his perceived vanity, whether or the prep school without the state's permission, the issue of whether or not Greer was actually fired, as well as much more.
On the subject of "the audit that could spell disaster for GMC" and "the appearance of misappropriation of funds," the response letter states that this is "completely false" and the audit is "a routine audit."
"As a State entity, GMC undergoes a financial audit, and many other annual audits, each fiscal year," reads the letter. "GMC is currently undergoing a special examination by the Department of Audits and Accounts (DOAA). We understand this is a routine audit for new legislators to better understand how GMC operates."
When it comes to Caldwell's perceived vanity, meanwhile, "the President routinely asks, "How will this decision or event affect the future leaders of GMC?" The President is a forward thinker who always makes a conscious effort to ensure that the decisions he makes now will benefit the institution and make it a better place long after he has retired. It is the legacy of GMC that the President is always concerned with, not the legacy of himself or one individual."
As for the "I'm so powerful, it's scary" assertion, "three Senior Leaders that attended the meeting recall this conversation. An error was made when a coach submitted to GHSA the roster of eligible participants for the State competition. It was devastating for all involved, the student, parent, coach, and other staff and faculty. The President called a meeting to convene those involved who could help prevent this from happening again. It was an emotional meeting in which the President stated he was not going to fire anyone over the incident. For context, he stated he said he wasn’t firing anyone and then stated that if he wanted to fire someone, he was capable, and he would ask Jill Robbins to make it happen. The quote listed in this letter is out of context and implies the President was exerting his power when in contrast, he was not asserting his power to fire someone."
Caldwell is the man who brought Greer to the school back in 2016, hiring him as an assistant principal. The men were stationed together on two different occasions during their time in the Army. Caldwell's decision to fire Greer was met with a palpable amount of 21st-century scorn by parents and Greer supporters. There was an "#istandwithgreer" hashtag on Facebook and plenty of chatter in mom group texts. One lady even printed up an "#istandwithgreer" tee shirt.
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One of Caldwell's first moves as president was kicking the Old Capital Museum out of the basement of the Old Capitol Building and building a book store. The Old Capital Museum was a passion project for several influential GMC donors and supporters, who were left blindsided.
For that and whatever other reasons, Caldwell has always had his detractors among GMC supporters and alumni. For years, local reporters have been sent news tips and old article links from people in the community about Caldwell's final few years in the military. Now, those old articles are being recirculated and sent to local reporters once again.
It's true that Caldwell was in the news on several occasions during his final few years of active duty and prior to his arrival at GMC. Most notable was in 2012, when Caldwell was accused of "of delaying a military investigation into allegations of corruption and patient abuse at the Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. Caldwell was one of the Army's top general's in Afghanistan and was Commander of the NATO Training Mission, basically in charge of training Afghan soldiers. Added the Reuters' article:
According to the Oversight Committee, the United States has spent over $180 million on operating medical sites in Afghanistan, most of which is believed to have gone to Dawood, where NATO personnel oversee Afghan medical staff.
Lawmakers have also said that $43 million in U.S. aid was “missing” at the Kabul military hospital.
Photographs taken at the hospital in 2010 showed neglected patients suffering from problems including gangrene and maggots in their wounds.
Caldwell, who is now a senior Army official in the United States, and other military officials who oversaw the U.S. training effort in Afghanistan were not invited to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.
Caldwell was hired by GMC the following year.