As an investigation into criminal allegations against a former teacher is ongoing, members of the community are growing increasingly frustrated with Dickson superintendent Sherry Howe.
Howe's daughter, Stephanie Ringwald, is the subject of a criminal investigation, and a number of Dickson parents and residents are concerned by Howe's role during the investigation, as well as what they allege to be her failure to fully investigate the allegations internally. The criminal investigation revolves around allegations that Ringwald provided alcohol to minors and had sexual relations with students.
Thursday night and Friday morning, community members met at the Dickson Town Hall to discuss the issues and voice frustrations.
"It would be fair to say there are parents that have been chafing for a while, and now they feel they are not alone," Kelli Williams said.
"The whole community is in an uproar," Sean Maher said. "This has been going on for a while."
Among the concerns voiced by community members are changes in Ringwald's teaching assignment prior to her resignation.
One of the biggest concerns was why Ringwald was working in the office after she resigned, and why Howe allowed that to happen. Community members also expressed concerns regarding changes in Ringwald's teaching assignment, suspecting the change was related to the current criminal investigation.
"If [the administration] didn't know about it," Williams said, "why did Stephanie get moved from teaching high school English to the seventh grade?"
By attending the community meetings, Maher said his eyes were opened to some of the allegations against Howe in terms of the way she treats staff. He said entering the school year, he was disturbed about the general attitude at the school and would rather have homeschooled his kids rather than have Ringwald teach them.
"I was not aware of the extent of the bullying (by Howe)," he said. "The teachers are scared."
"She isn't supporting the community, she is supporting her daughter," Williams added. "She is out in the parking lot when the parents bring their kids to school. She knows the kids involved, and she goes and makes a point to hug them. She is so fake."
Howe was also accused of stalking areas where meetings are taking place. Williams was one of several people who said Howe drove through the parking lot during the meeting. And there was also an incident at the Carter County Sheriff's Department.
"She lied to the sheriff," Williams contended. "They had her on video driving by the department when they were talking to the cheerleaders and their parents."
Donny Raley, the investigating deputy in the case, confirmed the incident took place.
"That is true," Raley said. "I think at the time it was an intimidation tactic, because we had not opened a case at that point."
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the second part of this series, which will appear in Monday's Ardmoreite, Howe's attorney, Richard O'Carroll, addresses the citizens' meetings, a canceled school board meeting and his client's intention to remain as superintendent.