KNOXVILLE — A husband and wife tandem, both with deep ties to Hardin Valley Academy and the Hardin Valley community, spoke on behalf of bringing back Dr. Rob Speas as HVA principal during Knox County Board of Education’s Public Forum time to conclude its Thursday, May 4, meeting.
The only remaining varsity sports head coach/teacher from the school’s opening day in August 2008, Jennifer Galloway was joined by her husband, Keith Galloway, a former HVA varsity basketball head coach/teacher, in voicing their support to lift Speas’ indefinite administrative leave, which came a few days after criticism was voiced about the handling of an intentionally set gas leak (by a since-fired custodian) at the school March 30.
However, 6th District KCBE representative Betsy Henderson stated in an e-mail to farrragutpress, “While this incident is still being investigated, I support (superintendent) Dr. (Jon) Rysewyk’s decision to put Dr. Speas on leave until the investigation is complete. Because we do not yet know all the facts, it is important that the administration continue the investigation uninterrupted.
“… Dr. Rysewyk sent a message to parents with an update May 1,” she added. “It said, ‘As we have worked through the formal review, our process has crossed over into items that are also being investigated by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Because of the ongoing criminal investigation, we are unable to provide a detailed update at this time.’”
Once the investigation is complete, “I have requested that KCS host a public meeting at HVA so everyone can hear the facts and ask questions,” Henderson said. (More on Henderson’s thoughts later in this story)
“… 865 Ready is a new initiative in Knox County Schools, but many don’t know that Dr. Speas already started that movement in his first four years at Hardin Valley,” said Jennifer Galloway, varsity girls basketball head coach since 2008. “We are headed in the right direction to prepare our kids to be 865 Ready and for them to make an impact in the Knoxville community and beyond.
“This is largely because of Rob Speas,” she added. “And despite (having) some of the most challenging years with COVID and its aftermath, we are moving forward — and we are moving forward fast.
“We have changed our building lay-out and our schedule so that our kids have the space and time to experience all that the 865 Academies program has to offer. Rob is a leader in this movement; he is the driving force behind the innovative things we are doing at HVA.”
However, “Momentum has been halted over the last month. We are in a holding pattern as we wait for answers while our leader is being investigated, and we watch while his name is getting dragged through the mud,” said Jennifer Galloway, also freshman academy dean. “HVA and Dr. Speas have been misrepresented in the news and on social media.
”So now we wait for answers, hoping that we get our leader back — and not just another setback,” she added. “What do I mean by ‘setback?’ Some teachers at HVA are under the impression that even if Dr. Speas is exonerated by the investigation, he still may not be back at HVA next year.
“I can’t imagine why this would even be considered with as much support as he has from our staff and community. … No one seems to be willing to say that if Dr. Speas did nothing wrong, then of course he would be re-instated at HVA.”
If Speas is not re-instated, “Our 865 Ready efforts will be set so far behind it might take us years to recover,” Jennifer Galloway said.
Regardless, “We’ll find a way to be better in all we do academically, athletically and artistically — and Rob Speas, he will land on his feet wherever that may be,” she said. “But Rob is a Hawk, his own kids are Hawks … .
“So, when this investigation shows he did the right thing, please make sure the place he lands is back at Hardin Valley Academy.”
“… We are incredibly disheartened by how this whole situation is playing out with the gas leak incident …,” Keith Galloway said. “… An absolutely false narrative spread on social media, causing people to believe something happened that did not happen. … They are the loud minority and they do not represent what our community thinks of (Speas).”
Saying he’s gotten to know Speas “in multiple capacities these last few years,” Keith added, “There is no one I would rather have more as a principal at HVA than Rob.
“… He took the challenge seriously of continuing what Sallee Reynolds had successfully started (first HVA principal from 2008 to 2019), but in his own unique way. …
Keith Galloway said “it would be an absolute travesty if he does not end up back at HVA. Our community wants him there and the vast majority of students and parents want him there. … and the teacher and staff want him there. …”
More from Henderson
“This incident has been incredibly hard on our community and especially the parents, students and staff at HVA,” Henderson stated.
“… Dr. Rysewyk makes decisions based on facts in any given situation and not based on public opinion or even the opinion from a board member,” she added.
“… Parents, teachers, and students deserve to know the facts. I have encouraged the KCS staff to complete the investigation as quickly as possible without sacrificing thoroughness so our community can begin to heal.”