BY ITSELF, it’s a small thing. Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett has a reserved parking spot at almost all local schools.
Myers, Woodville-Tompkins, Windsor Forest, Oglethorpe, Gould, White Bluff. The list goes on and on, over 50 schools. (Ellis only uses on-street parking.)
Over 50 spaces reserved for one person.
The spots are right up front, and no one else can park there. If the superintendent doesn’t visit that school that year, apparently no one parks in that spot all year.
Up until recently, that included people with disabilities! That’s right — at one point, at least one superintendent spot was in a literal handicapped space.
- Since changed, this handicapped space once had a reserved sign for the superintendent.
The diagram of the person in the wheelchair was overshadowed by the sign saying, “Reserved Parking for Superintendent.”
At another school, apparently a parking space once reserved for a green/alternative fuel car is now the Superintendent’s spot.
(UPDATE: The school district responds that "As a matter of operational duty, the Superintendent is required to visit every school throughout the school year and attends multiple public events and meetings at school sites across the county. Yes, small parking signs were affixed in school parking lots to allow a space for parking when the Superintendent is on site.... the spaces are in fact available for other staff or visitors... When the space is not utilized, it is to be made available for use as any other parking space." Which if true begs the question, why are the spaces marked "Reserved for Superintendent" at all if they are available to others? And how are people supposed to know when they are reserved and when they are not?)
So why does all this matter, other than the obvious flouting of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
In addressing the “Imperial Superintendency,” local blogger Savannah Red writes:
“Maybe those spaces could be raffled off somehow to a deserving staff member as a Thank You.
“Maybe those spaces could go to somebody with known mobility issues—staff or parent.
“Is a parking space at every school — 50+parking spaces —confidence or arrogance?
“Is the message of ‘My Time Is More Valuable Than Yours’ the right message to send to school employees?
“Or maybe it’s a very clear message of rankism—I have the parking space; I have superior rank over you. Does that kind of rankism foster new ideas and creative ways to improve the school system? Could an imperial superintendent be challenged by a 21-year-old first year teacher?”
Savannah Red’s last line, of course, is an echo of a recent viral story on social media.
In Louisiana, a middle school teacher was handcuffed and dragged out of a school board meeting for questioning why a superintendent got a 27 percent raise but teachers got nothing.
I’m not suggesting that Dr. Levett will have teachers arrested. Nor am I even suggesting all this started with Dr. Levett.
Chatham County has set the precedent of the “Imperial Superintendency” for many years, with several past superintendents, long before Dr. Levett’s tenure.
When previous Superintendent Thomas Lockamy left the district, he was making a base salary of $204,000 a year.
He also got a yearly “performance bonus” of $40,000 — nearly equivalent to the entire median household income in this impoverished district where every school is eligible for free or reduced lunch.
He repaid taxpayers on his way into cozy retirement by supporting an official complaint which could potentially result in de-accrediting the entire district.
Dr. Levett is only the most recent participant in Chatham County’s escalating arms race to see how lavishly we can reward our superintendent, whoever he or she is, for lording over one of the poorest performing districts in one of the poorest performing states in the union.
You can call it rankism, you can call it privilege, you can call it entitlement. In any case, no matter the superintendent, it’s a question of skewed priorities.
What simpler (and cheaper) way could you show some solidarity with teachers, parents, and students than by finding your own parking space and maybe walking a few extra yards to the front door?
And aren’t we always telling children how important it is to be physically active?
Parents can and should demand better.