Something played out in Altamont over the past several days that was even more outlandish than a Jerry Springer show, and uglier than the most bone-crunching professional wrestling move.
“The Jerry Springer Show” and professional wrestling are fake. This, unfortunately, was real.
The Altamont Unit 10 school board on Feb. 8 hired David Martin to be its next superintendent. The Springfield, Tennessee, native has a bachelor’s degree from Tennessee State University of Nashville, a master’s degree from National Louis University of Chicago, an Educational Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial University of Harrogate, Tennessee, and a Doctor of Education from Liberty University of Lynchburg, Virginia.
Booked to start here on May 1, Martin is currently superintendent at the Tennessee School for the Blind of Nashville. He previously served as an assistant principal and principal for the Department of Defense Education Activity, serving at Fort Campbell and Ft. Knox, Kentucky; and in Naples, Italy, at a U.S. Navy Installation and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) base.
“I’m really looking forward to being a part of the community,” Martin said when Altamont hired him.
Now he’s not. He asked on Feb. 14 to be released from the contract, the ink barely dry. We don’t blame him.
After the hire, people snooped around his background some more, discovering that as a young man he performed as a professional wrestler under the name “Flamboyant Faron Foxx.”
More than 20 years ago, he appeared in an episode of the Springer show called “Angry Lovers Attack.” Martin portrayed a man who stole the boyfriend of his own sister. He told the Effingham Daily News this week that the segment was scripted by the show’s producers. He considered it an acting gig, using the money he was paid for college textbooks. Judging by all his degrees, all those books must have been expensive.
But some in Altamont got nasty on social media and apparently in emails and other communications to the district, and to Martin himself.
“We notified him as well that there was some opposition to his hire, because we obviously don’t want someone moving to our state and community and not be aware that there were community members concerned,” School Board President Shelly Kuhns told the EDN.
Kuhns said officials suggested he spend the week evaluating the situation and meet with the board on Friday.
“We hoped to bring him here for that meeting to address any of the community’s concerns, but the response of the community became rather excessive,” Kuhns said.
She said as the week went on, school officials continued to receive really negative criticism of Martin.
“He was uncomfortable with the community’s reaction,” Kuhns said.
If “Flamboyant Faron Foxx” and the Springer show are what upset people, that’s just goofy.
If it’s that Martin is openly gay, that’s plain shameful and ignorant.
“While I may have a colorful past, part of me believes that some of the backlash received comes from a part of me that I could not change even if I wanted to,” Martin wrote to the board in his withdrawal letter. “Being a gay man, I have been encouraged by the progress made over the last several years, but there is still a long way to go in promoting tolerance and equality. We live in a fantastic country that gives us the right to agree and disagree in all areas of society.
“That is fundamental to our democracy. It is my hope that we continue a respectful dialogue and learn to be more tolerant and respectful of people’s differences.”
That school board meeting is still scheduled for 3 p.m. on Friday. We’d have welcomed the opportunity for Martin to address any concerns during a public forum as gracefully as he did in his letter. No doubt there are many in Altamont who would have welcomed that, too — and welcomed Martin as the district’s new leader.
Instead, Item 6 on the agenda is “Superintendent Search – Update.”