To the Editor:
A participant’s abrupt exit from a public meeting typically is a statement in and of itself. It remains that it can be subject to diverse interpretation.
I want to clarify reasons for my precipitous exit from the Aug. 24 Board of Education meeting.
Four resolutions met defeat, each of which addressed the filling of positions in the 2010-2011 budget. All were strategic to effectively meeting critical student need and presented at the recommendation of the superintendent.
Reasons given for their defeat were spurious. At issue is the matter of how positions are filled.
The four resolutions in question involved (1) a special education teacher; (2) an ESL teacher, (3) the Differentiated Instruction coach, and (4) the subsequent posting of a school psychologist position at OHS.
A fifth resolution involving a physical education teacher also was defeated.
I had reason to believe that members of the board wished to circumvent appropriate procedure for hiring by advocating for candidate(s) they knew personally and wanted hired.
No one would contest hiring local candidates. All things being equal, local talent is invaluable.
The district has a process however allowing for deliberate and critical assessment of abilities and promise possessed by each candidate.
When that process is disrupted by board intervention/meddling based on personal connections, it is a misuse of responsibility.
With 2 weeks remaining before the beginning of the school year, stellar candidates presented for these positions were told, in effect, “you’re not in the budget” (which was false), or “you’re not the right person,” (because I have someone else, I want to see have this job).
Resolutions for hiring come to the board at the recommendation of the superintendent who is charged with the responsibility of implementing the policies of the district and ensuring an educational program be carried out that meets the needs of all children.
The Board of Education is charged with setting policy, approving budget, and hiring the superintendent.
It is inappropiate for board members to step outside their role and circumvent or intervene inappropriately in the hiring process.
“Insider hiring” (as in “I want this person hired”) is damaging to the board, to children in the classroom, and to the individual hired as well.
The Special Education position was one for whom 19 students are scheduled to receive services.
The ESL (English as a Second Language) position was one that is of great importance for a specific cohort of children. Their progress is also subject to critical review and assessment. Competent and experienced ESL teachers who work highly effectively with secondary students are not easy to find.
The Differentiated Instruction coach is a C4E (Contract for Excellence) funded position figuring prominently with respect to School Based Intervention on behalf of at-risk students.
It is pivotal to our responsibilities under the Contract for Excellence funding intended to increase graduation rates, as well as the overall success of high school students.
The individual who (A) previously held this position and (B) who was proposed in the defeated resolution to continue this role are two individuals who have spent their entire careers on behalf of students with special needs in our district and whose contributions and professional abilities are absolutely outstanding.
It undermines morale of district instructional staff on the eve of the beginning of a new school year, to experience the lack of mature and sensible support from the Board of Education.
It is defeating to administrators, to faculty.
Most important of all, this kind of “inaction” takes away from the best we can offer our children.
The continual undertone of criticism accented again in the Aug. 24 meeting, that instructional and administrative staff are overpaid and ineffective makes one wonder whether we are all really on he same team.
Remuneration for all staff built into the district approved budget is competitive with that of districts throughout CNY.
The dismissive attitude toward those to whom we entrust our children every day, coming year after year at the board table is destructive of the community’s image.
And blatant disregard for tenure suggests a failure to understand its origin: the arbitrary and capricious hiring and dismissal of staff driven by initiatives destructive the integrity of the educational process.
There are two overarching needs encompassing all the children in our district – their education and their health.
These are non-negotiable needs.
Every mother or father putting their child on the bus for the first day of kindergarten or watching their daughter or son complete high school studies trusts that those in the community who are providers, whether in education or health care, do their very best by their child.
For members of the Board of Education, the educational piece is inviolate.
When the process collapses for the wrong reasons, my only recourse was to walk away from the table.
This having been said, I still rest with the belief, my exit and explanation for Aug. 24 aside, that every board member, administrator, teacher, buildings and grounds, food service, transportation staff member and anyone else involved in our community’s educational commitment, still wants good things to happen, both for that kindergartner getting on the bus on day one and for every graduating senior, as well as for the parents and the taxpayers of the district.
Itâ€™s just that whatever we do, (myself included) we can always do better.
That’s what learning and education is all about everywhere.
With respect for your patience in my attempt to speak to the moment.