Editorial: Cook’s firing was shocking. Here are two takeaways from the experience

The Visions Editorial Board presents its takeaways from former MSMS Executive Director Donald Cooks termination on Sept. 29.
The Vision’s Editorial Board presents its takeaways from former MSMS Executive Director Donald Cook’s termination on Sept. 29.
The Vision

On Sept. 29 at 2:27 p.m., the entire directory of current MSMS students, employees and stakeholders received a shocking email. Titled “My Termination from MSMS,” the email from Donald Cook suddenly announced he would no longer hold the position of MSMS’s executive director. As he described in the email, several representatives of the Mississippi Department of Education walked into his office and relieved him of his duties.

Soon after the announcement, Director of Academic Affairs Ginger Tedder said in her own email she would be stepping up from her position to serve as interim executive director in place of Cook.

In an interview with one of our editors, Tedder recollected the events of that day.

“I was approached by [MDE] here on campus at around 10 in the morning, and that [was] my first knowledge of there being an issue. In that conversation, they asked me to step in as interim executive director to keep the school moving forward,” Tedder said.

During the interview, Tedder repeatedly mentioned how complicated and unanticipated the entire ordeal was. 

“My first thoughts were complicated. You know, emails are personal to the person — their thoughts and their feelings — and that has to be respected somewhat, but it is complicated,” Tedder said. 

In a letter addressed to the MSMS community on Sept. 29, Interim State Superintendent of Education Raymond Morgigno announced former MSMS Director for Academic Affairs Ginger Tedder would serve as interim executive director after Donald Cook’s termination.

For teachers, Cook’s dismissal was also a complete surprise; no one had time to prepare.

In most cases, The Vision does not quote anonymous sources; however, because of the sensitive nature involving the situation, the Editorial Board granted these protections to procure employees’ unfiltered and unbiased thoughts. 

“The timing of it is awful; institutionally and personally. And, there was a little bit of frustration. Every director position has changed in the last couple of years, and this is the third change in less than three years. That is very frustrating. It is not conducive to a stable environment,” an MSMS teacher said. 

“I am frustrated with the instability of the director positions at MSMS. I would like for them to be more stable,” another faculty member added. 

It is apparent many people have their own opinions about Cook’s termination, Tedder’s promotion and the way the entire situation affected all members of the MSMS community.

After conducting our own interviews and research, here are our main takeaways from the situation.

Takeaway No. 1: Don’t protest getting fired

In the seven days following his termination, Cook sent two emails to students, faculty and parents. In these emails, he highlighted how unfair he thought his firing was and also attached a link leading to an online blog where he discussed the situation. Not long after, the post was taken down. 

Many faculty and staff left during Cook’s tenure as executive director — former Director of Academic Affairs Clear Moore and former Director of Student Affairs LeAnn Alexander, for example — but none were disruptive in the process of leaving. Instead, their parting emails showed appreciation of their time spent at MSMS. 

Even though Cook was most likely shocked and devastated after he was fired, by no means was it a justification to send an email calling for students and parents to band together and protest his firing.

Even though Cook was most likely shocked and devastated after he was fired, by no means was it a justification to send an email calling for students and parents to band together and protest his firing. Additionally, such a shocking call to arms most likely hurt Cook’s chances of ever getting rehired again. After all, what employer wants to hire someone who actively fights against getting fired? The Editorial Board understands there can be a lot of pain involved when losing a loved job, especially in the case of Cook, who was working at the school he always wanted to return to after graduating in its inaugural class. However, the actions taken in the process were rash and distracting to the climate at MSMS for several days, which is the last thing the executive director of a school should want to do. 

No. 2: Exercise empathy and don’t relish in other people’s pain

All members of the Editorial Board heard conversations rejoicing in Cook’s pain. Social media was populated by stories celebrating his firing. Students even reacted to the initial email with celebratory and joyous emojis. Though students exercised their free speech, their actions collectively created a bad look for all involved.

The Editorial Board would like to remind everyone that when Cook was accepted for the position, he moved his entire family away from their lives to Columbus. The firing has obviously shaken up his world and his family’s lives tremendously. Please, don’t add pain to Cook’s already traumatic experience. We all have opinions about the job he did, but there is no reason to relish in someone else’s pain.

The Vision Editorial Board consists of Co-Editors-in-Chief Sebastian Harvey and Iris Xue, Co-Managing Editor and Sports Editor Mariane Powell, Co-Managing Editor and News Editor Maryann Dang, Student Life Editor Stella Savell, Co-Entertainment Editor and Photo Editor Noah Lee, Co-Entertainment Editor Helena Munoz, Opinion Editor and Graphics Editor Levi Stevens and Podcast Editor Ray Taylor. 

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