Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Sad, but Funny, Fall of William Combs

Hibbett School sits in a quiet residential North Florence neighborhood. Built over 25 years ago, the school consolidated Gilbert Elementary and Appleby Junior High Schools and was named for Rufus G. Hibbett, a former Coffee High football coach, superintendent, and founder of Hibbett Sports. When the name of Hibbett School is in the news, it's usually in connection with its outstanding teachers or an award for excellence in some field. That wasn't the case late last week.

As soon as it was announced that William R. Combs III, the principal at Hibbett for just over a year, had resigned, we began to get e-mails. All were supportive of Combs; apparently he was considered a great guy who ran his ship well and made friends wherever he went. Coming just five days before the start of the 2012 fall term, our readers questioned the motive behind a resignation rumored to be at the request of Superintendent Janet Womack.

All schools in Alabama come under the jurisdiction of the state department of education. Local systems may have the freedom to implement or discontinue many programs and policies, but some they don't. This was the case of  I-Now, a scheduling program that the state implemented at the beginning of the 2011 school year.

A core job of middle school principals is to maintain records in I-Now. A knowledgible source told us that if records are entered in a timely fashion, producing a teacher/student schedule for a new year is 80% done by the end of the old year.

Was I-Now user friendly? It seems unfriendly doesn't even begin to cover it, but it was the program selected by the state, and principals in all other Florence City Schools buckled down and learned how to use it. Bill Combs did not.

Why didn't he ask for help? Surely no one would have faulted him for needing help with a new program. Instead, Combs assured teachers at Hibbett that the new schedules would be delivered shortly. Instead, last Wednesday, Combs announced that nothing had been done on the 2012 schedules. With less than five days before the start of the new school year, teachers and administrative personnel rallied together to produce the schedule. This was not part of their job description, and we're going to call them our local heroes of the week for saving the day at Hibbett.

Was Combs asked to resign because he hadn't been able to decipher the new program or because he had continually stated all was well in that area when it most certainly wasn't? We're going to guess the latter played a much larger role than the former.

Why is this funny? Perhaps that's not the best choice of words, but some men never learn to ask for directions even when they're hopelessly lost. Why is it sad? Florence has lost a competent leader/administrator, or at least one with the potential to become one. Combs is now in the position of looking for work elsewhere, and his family will again be uprooted in the process.

We commend the school board for taking care of this situation. Here's wishing Dr. Womack and the board the very best in finding a new leader for Hibbett.

Tomorrow: A look at Florence's new equestrian team.



  1. Mr. Combs has been sorely missed here for sure. He was not asked to resign. He did so because his special needs child wasn't going to be allowed to attend Florence City Schools because of the new policy that Janet Womack implemented. He took a position in the district office where he came from.

  2. Mr. Combs has been sorely missed here at Hibbett. He took a position back at the district office he came from before coming to Hibbett. Dr. Womack implemented a new policy which affected his special needs child NOT being able to attend Florence City Schools. This new policy affected several employees. He was not from here, so when he got his opportunity to leave after this decision, he did so.