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Oswego School Board Member Clarifies Aug. 24 Events

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.

It’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.

Jim Tschudy

3 Comments

  1. Mr. Tschudy,
    Awarding 22% raises to teachers and administrators which sucks the budget completely dry is more damaging to the school district than anything that Dunsmoor, Tripp, Hoefer or White have ever done.

    You had no mercy when you did this in November of 2007 and numerous times thereafter for the incompetent administrative staff.

    You, sir, have absolutely nobody to blame but yourself.

    This school district is in the mess that it is in due to people like you, your colleagues who joined you in approving raises, and the administration who cares about nothing but their salary and benefits.

    Because you throw another temper tantrum at a school board meeting, you need to take a good hard long look at the consequences of YOUR actions, Mr. Tschudy.

  2. Thank you, Jim, for giving us more details about what happened. People who do not understand these positions, the hiring process, or why these positions are needed should ask questions in a respectful manner. After the process has been followed and a person recommended by Mr. Crist, the board should discuss issues in private and vote in public without the public displays of irrational and rude behavior that often go on. Students are not allowed to behave this way, so why are board members?

  3. I did some of my own research. First of all, these positions were not voted down because the dissenting board members had a friend they wanted in the position. That is a preposterous allegation that has no ground in reality. Despite what Crist and Tschudy have to say, the positions were NOT budgeted for.

    Look at the video of the 8/24 board meeting. Crist and Colucci did an entire song and dance about the phys ed. position being budgeted for all along. Then look at the 7/6 board meeting video. There was an exchange between Crist and Fran Hoefer in which Crist tells Hoefer that the phys ed. position will not be replaced, and that the school district is finally attriting. Hoefer says he never thought he’d see the day. There is SPECIFIC VIDEO EVIDENCE to show that Crist and Colucci were either lying, or have short term memory loss, in regard to the phys ed position.

    The other positions that Tschudy complains about, were also cut from the budget, just like 4 administrators, but everything was snuck back in. Sneakiness is typical of the school district administration, and Tschudy takes everything they say as gospel truth.

    The school district has a very healthy balance of checks and balances and it appears its Tschudy who has a problem with the process. For some reason, he feels his vote should count more than 1/7th of the total decision, and if it is not this way, he gets up and leaves? Very unprofessional.

    If Tschudy truly cares about the educational wellbeing of the children, he surely has not showed it in the past 3 years. Increasing the number of administrators and increasing the pay of administrators and teachers directly tightens what is left for the children. So Tschudy has demonstrated that he prefers less educational opportunities for the children so the staff can get their 22% raise, and/or wants to drive the children of the district into poverty by increasing taxes on their parents for the benefit of the staff.

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