Failing The Public Trust - Editorial

School committee member Phyllis Sprout was in the spotlight over the past two weeks following an incident at the Quashnet School in which Ms. Sprout allegedly lost her temper with two students while reading with them. Ms. Sprout subsequently resigned her seat.

Not sharing that spotlight was superintendent of schools Brian Hyde. He should have been.

Mr. Hyde reacted to initial questions about the incident by insisting that it was not newsworthy. He had strong words for our reporter and, failing to quash the story with her, called the publisher to argue the point. He issued his only comment about the incident in an e-mail in which he stated that it had been investigated and settled to everyone’s satisfaction. That wasn’t the case.

Had the incident involved a volunteer with no connection to the school system other than as a parent, it might have remained an internal affair, arbitrated by school staff and settled. It might very well not have made its way into the newspaper.

But Ms. Sprout was far from simply a volunteer. She was an elected official entrusted to protect the interests of the schools. She was elected to represent the interests of all Mashpee residents. Few if any could be held to higher standards. It is news when those standards are violated.

For starters, Mr. Hyde should have been aware of that. That he didn’t understand the seriousness of the incident or, worse, tried to downplay it reveals a serious lack of judgment.

More serious is Mr. Hyde’s statement that the incident had been investigated and settled when it was not. Not only was it not settled, Ms. Sprout had been asked to talk to police investigators. Mr. Hyde might not have thought the incident serious but the police did.

Mr. Hyde seems to be a nice person and a superintendent with ambitious hopes to improve schools. We wish him good fortune in his endeavors.

But he has some work ahead of him if he is to regain the public trust that he has surely forfeited in his handling of Ms. Sprout’s loss of control in his school system.


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