Griffin Attempts to Fire Purnell

The ongoing saga of Superintendent Scottie Griffin just got uglier. You’ll recall Assistant Superintended Laura Purnell blew the whistle on Griffin in a lengthy letter to the school board last month. Now Griffin is attempting to give Purnell the boot by eliminating her position in June, and has asked the school board to do so during their Thursday meeting, the Progress reports. In Purnell’s letter, she acknowledged that in becoming a whistleblower, she knew that she was risking her job, but felt that it was more important that she say something than that she keep her job safe. Nearly all of the officials that the Progress interviewed said that Purnell should be protected from being fired. The decision rests with the school board, not Griffin.

The letter in question, by the way, seems to have been validated: the Progress, for the first time, quotes from the letter, and attributes it to being authored by Purnell, rather than allegedly by Purnell. It’s also noteworthy that James Fernald is not the only reporter that received credit for this: veteran political analyst Bob Gibson has been brought in, a sign that this story is getting bigger and more politically sensitive.

I expect that things are only going to get worse from here. Should the overall issue of Griffin vs. some parents be reframed as Griffin vs. Purnell, the assistant superintendent may find herself painted as a liar or a racist. Some teachers, many of whom are preparing to sign their contracts for next year, may see the result of Thursday’s meeting as a sign of whether or not they should continue to teach in the Charlottesville school system. If the board doesn’t fire Purnell, Griffin may break her public silence and stop speaking through surrogates, which would certainly take things up a notch.

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