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Reposted: Penny Toney and Kelly Self Respond (A few readers complained that the forum became too cumbersome to locate these comments. It should be noted that this blog will provide equal opportunity to those who disagree with Ms. Toney and Ms. Self, but reposts will only be considered for those who use their real names). Penny Toney said...

When I saw that Lamar had posted a thread about Bolton, I was curious about what would be said and why. There was a time when I desperately wanted a spirited forum about our school and how to save it, but my efforts fell short. The superintendent was supportive of John Sams who saw me as the problem, and although I detailed “my side” in a registered letter to the superintendent, I doubt that he ever read it. He certainly never acknowledged a single point I made. The alumni association was formed too late to save my job and unknown to them, too late to save any semblance of the Bolton we all loved. All the years and time we spent growing a learning community were discounted and the volunteers who had led so many of the programs were summarily labeled as “my clique.” No mention was made of the fact that every leadership meeting was open to whoever wanted to attend and that we were about progress, not power. It is not hard to see that Bolton is involved in a mighty power struggle, one that has turned colleague against colleague. Those left there working for progress will be drowned out by those who are about power. It was apparently not enough to get rid of me. Those powers loose around and in the school have not stopped there. They have worked over the last year to have me reassigned to the most impossible situation. Failing that, they had me removed from summer school because John Sams did not like my bumper sticker. God knows what he will create for me when he loses the mayor’s position. I know, and can present witnesses, of several times John Sams has implied that not only am I gay, but that I maintain such a relationship with first one colleague and then another. He even shared this lie with the superintendent. He is always careful to phrase it as a question—Is it true that PT has a long standing relationship with ______? Did you know that Ms. Toney and ________ are together? It is done with intonation, with malice, and with glee and then it spreads. And there are several of his minions craving power who follow his lead and who will do whatever to shine in his eyes. I know all that and have depended upon the good people who know me to read between the lines. But even those people--do they know me well enough to know what goes on in my private life? Well, here it is. I am divorced. After my divorce, for some years, I lived alone until I moved in with my parents, my father being in poor health. I remained with mother after Dad’s death, and she and I live together. I am not in a relationship of the sort for which John Sams so wants to credit me. I do have friends, both male and female. I like and love many of them. In reading this blog, I am so reminded of my association with John Sams. Much of what is on this blog is the exact way he speaks of others. No matter how good a person might be, John is always able to say something hurtful and negative in the hope of having a lasting and damaging effect. I do agree with the blogger who says, “woe be to his enemies when he loses the election.” The hatred he had for the Bolton grads that created the Rapides Foundation, the hatred he had for Ron, and then me, he has enlarged to encompass the school. Forced by the alumni to clean the outside, he redoubled his efforts to rot the school from within. You have only to read this blog to see and feel his success. With human respect to those who are, I submit to you that I am not gay and am not in a “special” such relationship with anyone. I consider this just another hostile lie to hurt me. It was not enough for John to have the superintendent remove me as principal, or to have him interfere with my new job several times this year already. Now, he wants to make life so hard for my friends that he can make me and them lepers in our community. Lamar, before John Sams came along, Bolton was a great school. Now you can see what his association can do. No wonder so many say, “Anyone but Sams.” I hope that Bolton can regain its footing and become a school of academic excellence where students can enjoy successful football. Even during my tenure, we did exceedingly well in swimming, soccer, tennis, and other sports, but never in football. I hope that learning can once again be the focus in a school where people are treated with respect and with rights, where fear does not rule the day and where people are not afraid to express their real feelings. A risk-free environment must exist for people to try new methods and change education to meet each child’s needs. We cannot stay tied with Thailand. We need to be competitive with the world, a position we are swiftly losing. We need to maintain our democracy, something else of which I fear the loss. I wish Bolton the best. I am proud to work for Mr. Allen Bozeman, Director of Secondary Education. We work daily with 100% positive effort to make a difference, to help teachers in every way we can. My Bolton days are over. I am focused on this day and the future. I ask that all bloggers stop the recriminations and look for solutions to the problems that face a once great school. Whatever happens to Bolton, the education of Rapides Parish students must be the primary focus of all of our efforts. After graduating from Bolton, teaching there for 28 years, serving as curriculum coordinator for three years, and being principal for nearly five years, I am steeped in Bolton philosophy. I carry that with me. This is the one time you will read me on this blog because I will not let John’s sort of trash talk stand with strangers for who I am. I will go forth to the polls, with honor and with pride, and I will do my all to elect a man with optimism, youth, courage, and a positive plan for our city to lead us forward. The cure for corruption we most need is a moving van pulling away from Sam’s residence for good. Penny Toney Bolton Class of 1967

Kelly L. Self said...

I have just finished reading this forum and am disturbed by its hostility, innuendo, and plain meanness. For twelve years, I was blessed to be a teacher at Bolton High School. I served two excellent administrators in Ron Akins and Penny Toney. I loved my time there until last year. That year began in June when newly appointed principal, Mr. Higgins, called in the leaders under Ms. Toney to tell us he had the right to transfer us but was giving us a "chance,” even though we had been associated with the prior administration. John Sams had identified us as “the clique” and labeled us as dangerous to Mr. Higgins. On that day, I told Mr. Higgins that I would be loyal to Bolton High School but never to John Sams and that if I needed to request a transfer, I would. I believed in what we had created at Bolton: a learning community, full of opportunity for all students. I wanted to stay. But in staying I subjected myself to a horrific experience: the learning community fell apart, politics became a major factor for favor, and students dropped out of the center of the school’s attention. I hated to see all the years’ of the Rapides Foundation Initiative work simply disappear. We had made great strides in student learning and had the documentation to prove it. I was miserable as we abandoned practice after practice, not even having a faculty meeting all year. I am not perfect. I have flaws like anyone else and have incurred the wrath of the Sams’ supporters, but I have always had the best interest of students at heart. I have never been bitter nor vindictive. But I am impassioned and I refuse to compromise on certain issues. On July 18, this summer, Ms. Sharon Miller, personnel director, called me in to tell me Mr. Higgins was transferring me. I was surprised since every time I had seen Mr. Higgins, he had said my job at Bolton was safe; nor had he contacted me to tell me personally that he was ridding himself of me. I went to him that day, but he offered no real reason for my transfer except for my dislike of Nancy Monroe and my obvious hatred for John Sams. He had no complaint about my work and had, indeed, given me an excellent evaluation. While at Bolton, I devoted my passion for teaching to my students and served on state level committees, building the comprehensive curriculum, setting grade level expectations for each grade and developing a new and improved statewide assessment. I believe in education and represented my school well. I am proud to have been a part of the Bolton faculty when students were key and learning was the central focus. In July, I talked with Mr. Moreau and have been happily at ASH ever since. It is a privilege to teach without John Sams breathing down my neck and to work with an English department chaired by the kind and erudite Helen Hemingway, who recognizes modern methodologies and student-centered instruction. I look forward to serving many students as I put my passion to teach to work at Alexandria Senior High. Many have questioned the validity of these claims against John Sams. I, as many others, have verifiable evidence of these accusations, which will appear in a different forum at a different place and time. I am glad that Lamar is allowing people to voice their concerns and their experiences. I am sorry that some feel compelled to deal in innuendo and slurs. I believed in Ms. Toney’s approach to education; I admire her for her years of service to Bolton High School and to our community and for the way she has continued to do her best for the students of Rapides Parish in her new capacity. I am proud to call her my friend. Those who hint of other than a sincere friendship simply do not know either Ms. Toney or me very well at all. I am not a part of this “new” Bolton, nor do I want to be. The Bolton I believed in is long gone. I am involved with my present and my future, both of which are positive. I am sad for those who remain in the turmoil there, particularly the students who will suffer the most from all of this. However, John Sams was slighted by this school, and he has had his revenge. As with much of what he does, there will be no going back. As this blog continues, it will do so without me. I simply wanted to clarify my position. I do not want my life to be cluttered with hatred and meanness. I have put Bolton behind me and I am resigned to letting Nancy, Charlene, and John finish the job of tearing the remains apart. As for me, I am once again part of building a program that puts learning at the center. Bloggers: Write about those who still care about your plight. Kelly L. Self