Principal complaint makes
e-mountain out of a mole hill

To me, e-mail is a form of communication that is suspect at best.

Think about it. How many times have you sent what you thought was a perfectly innocent, straightforward e-mail to someone only to have it misconstrued as you being a jerk? How many times have recipients of an e-mail missed your point, misinterpreted your instructions, deleted it without reading it or just plain never got it in the first place?

And how many times have you accidentally hit the ol' Reply All button or had someone else forward to a dozen people what you thought would be private communication? Have you ever forwarded something to the wrong person? I bet you have.

That appears to be what Mac Almond, principal of Statham Elementary School in Barrow County, did a few months back. He made a mistake, and the wrong busybody found out about it and complained, and now he's front page news.

First, full disclosure: My daughter is a student at Statham Elementary School. She loves her school, her teacher and her principal. My wife also likes Mr. Almond. To my recollection, I have never met the man, though I have met her teachers. I called and e-mailed to try to get a comment from Almond for this column, but he is injured and not at work. (Almond has had a rough couple of weeks. A woman with whom I spoke at the school said one of Almond's friends died last week. Almond then fell and cracked his ribs. Now this.)

Point No. 2: If my daughter wasn't a student at Statham Elementary, I would be writing this column anyway because I hate it when people try to turn unfortunate mistakes into purposeful maliciousness.

Do I think this is a legitimate news story? Yes. Anytime there is a discipline issue with a principal, the people should know about it. The magnitude of the story must be in perspective, though, and that's why I feel obliged to throw in my two cents, what with this being the Perspective page.

In August, Almond received an e-mail he has attributed to one of his Marine Corps buddies. The e-mail contained a series of comic images and slogans akin to what you would see on bumper stickers or T-shirts. They contained dirty jokes and stick figure cartoons and were certainly not appropriate for children. The e-mail did not contain pornographic images or pictures. An example of one of the tamer ones said "I'm ashamed of what I did for a Klondike bar."

One of the images was not inappropriate in any way - a cow with the caption "Deja-moo" - and it was this one that Almond apparently attempted to cut and paste from his buddy's e-mail so that he could send it along with an e-mail to the faculty and staff. You can guess what happened next.

When Almond realized that he had not just sent the one joke image but all of them, he immediately sent another e-mail to the faculty apologizing and then another one stating his extreme embarrassment and pleading with the recipients to "please delete and not view the attachments."

Almond then contacted Barrow County Schools Superintendent Ron Saunders to tell him what happened. Saunders told a Post reporter that he discussed the incident with Almond. Should've been case closed.

Enter our anonymous busybody, nearly three months after the fact. Now you can infer anything you want about this person's timing and their choice to remain anonymous. Could be a parent who had the e-mail forwarded to them by someone at the school and didn't want to get that person in trouble. Could be someone with a grudge. Could be a faculty or staff member who fears retribution. Could be Mickey Mouse for all we know. But they chose to remain anonymous. They did not choose, however, to hide their displeasure that more serious disciplinary action was not taken against Almond, and therein lies the source of my discontent.

Almond himself told Saunders about it when it happened. He begged people not to view the images. He apologized profusely and stated that he was "embarrassed beyond words."

But he didn't get fired. No one strung him up from the highest tree. Blood was not spilled, and that upsets our anonymous late-comer.

Almond has suffered the embarrassment he imposed on himself by accidentally sending the e-mail attachments. He has suffered the embarrassment of being on the front page of this paper. The superintendent has already discussed "the severity of the situation" with Almond and doesn't see it happening again.

Almond has paid for his mistake. To anonymously ask for his head, too, is just plain vindictive and smacks of cowardice and resentment.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.