Two years ago, former Woodland Elementary principal Ruth Baskerville had no reason to think her life would change dramatically. In April 2011, she was removed from her position and agreed to retire after 42 years in education, amid questions raised over outbursts with students and staff.
Baskerville and her husband, Waverly, returned to their permanent home in Florida. Waverly encouraged Baskerville to journal on her exit from Woodland. The former principal says they soon realized she had material for a novel.
Last Saturday, Baskerville signed copies of her book, “Hoodless Klan: The Racial Takeover of Pine Woods Charter Elementary School,” at Northeast Spruill Oaks Library, in Johns Creek. The back cover of the book says the story, which takes place in an affluent suburb of a major city, is inspired by actual events.
“I was a charter school principal for four years and my experiences inspired the book,” said Baskerville. “Like all authors you write about what you know. I created characters and events to move the story along.”
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Baskerville made the trip to metro Atlanta without Waverly. He died suddenly on March 13. They were married for 44 years. Earlier that morning the couple received news that Baskerville’s book would be published.
“He knew I was accepted as an author. I had every day and every night with my husband for almost a year that I would not have had if I hadn’t lost my job,” Baskerville said.
Q: Did you choose the title because of your experiences; because race is such a hot topic?
A: The reality of what happened [to me] was about the power of money. I had enough race experiences in my career to include that in the story. My original sin [at Woodland] was raising my voice to a child, so that didn’t on the face of it appear to be racial but it was a ploy because a group had decided I had to go; so they were waiting for an opportunity.
Q: What do you mean by the title ‘Hoodless Klan?’
A: There are scenarios in this country where people are in your face with racial comments and don’t attempt to hide. So my [title] was referring to the fact that they don’t even wear hoods, back to the KKK days. There are people who are hoodless.
Q: The Loathsome Letter” is the first chapter of Baskerville’s book, in which a newly hired principal learns of a letter circulating from concerned parents. When did you first feel a sense of discomfort at Woodland?
A: I had only been there four months and a community group circulated a document all over Fulton County saying that I needed to go; they needed to have a meeting to get rid of me, and I was without polish and credentials, and didn’t understand their ways. My boss brought it to my attention.
Q: What’s it like to work under those circumstances?
A: When people have a predisposition that you are no good. Nothing you do good matters, but they will take everything you do that is good. I was picked to mentor new principals almost from the day I got there. I was also on a committee to talk about how to salute retirees. We made a presentation to the board the very night the board went into closed session and voted to terminate me.
Q: What is your response to people who may think they are depicted in your book?
A: Hopefully people who see themselves [will] see themselves as wonderful characters in the book. If not, perhaps it’s their own conscience...My book is fiction.
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