Superintendent Sherri Howe was nowhere to be found when the school board accepted her resignation Tuesday night.
And it was probably for the best.
The last time the public saw her as superintendent for Dickson Schools, she exited stage left into the school board's executive session.
The majority of parents and community members who attended the meeting cheered once it became official that Howe had spent her last day in a leadership position at the school. Howe, who was on a three-year contract, had come under fire in recent weeks in the wake of the criminal investigation of her daughter, Stephenie Ringwald, who is alleged to have had sex with students as well as providing them with alcohol.
Prior to entering executive session, a stoic Howe sat mere feet away from parents and students, some who held signs in protest. Some read, "Howe Out Now." Others alluded to the ongoing criminal investigation.
"I'm very happy," Bridgit Vaughn said after the announcement was made. "Coming from a piddling hairdresser, I got the job done. I'm very pleased and thankful to my husband and supporters."
Vaughn was one of the parents who approached Howe about the allegations regarding her daughter. Those complaints were later directed to the Carter County Sheriff's Department, which spurred the investigation. Richard O'Carroll, Howe's attorney, had said in a press release, "Unfortunately, Ms. Howe's daughter, who was a schoolteacher, was implicated in perhaps contributing to the delinquency of minor students. Ms. Howe demanded and obtained her daughter's resignation."
Vaughn said she had met with Howell on Aug. 20 and notified her of the allegations.
"I, myself, told Ms. Howe about the allegations, and she never investigated them. To be honest, she told me not to mention the alcohol to anyone."
During the executive session, which lasted about an hour and a half, many of the more than 100 people in attendance milled around speculating about what would happen. At 7:42 p.m., the school board and attorneys came out, but Howe was nowhere to be found. Howe's severance package was approved as well as her resignation, which was made effective Tuesday.
"We are glad, I'm just hoping it didn't cost much," Kelli Williams said. "But she's gone."
There were also a number of people present at the meeting in support of Howe, and some hoping to put the issue behind the school and move forward.
"I think it's a sad day for this community and students that this was handled in this manner," Shay Wester said. "I hope it's put behind us and people remember what the focus is, and that's our kids."
The school will begin to move forward starting Friday when a special meeting is held with discussion scheduled to name an interim superintendent. But the stains of the issues that led to Howe's resignation remain up in the air, as an investigation into the allegations against Ringwald is ongoing.
Page 2 of 2 - But for the moment, the focus can return to the kids and the job of educating them.
"I pulled my kids from this school system," Kasie King said. "I pulled them out this year, and my son is senior and had been here since Pre-K. I'm glad this happened. It's a good thing for the school and the community. Eighteen years has been too long."