School Board, 7.22.19: 13 Points

The Whitewater School Board met on Monday, 7.22.19, and from the agenda there was a brief discussion about the learning that is fundamental to any educational program (about which I wrote yesterday). See School Board, 7.22.19: One Worthy Question.

Today, a few other points to consider:

1. It’s a mature board: most members have been on for years (the board’s two principal officers among them), and having watched years of school board meetings, it’s reasonable to conclude that past is prologue.

2. Whitewater’s middle school principal (Tanya Wojciechowicz) recently resigned, with notice after July 1st, and so under district policy owed $1,000 in breach of her contract. The discussion made clear that she notified the district only on 7.10, conceded that she was in breach of contract, and that she owed a breach penalty.

3. One board member (Stewart, who’s been in public office for something like half his life) contended that it was community knowledge that she would resign, that she had been a six-year employee, and so on the basis of her tenure she should not have to pay a contract penalty (despite her admission that she was in breach and owed the money).

4. Under that principal’s leadership, the middle school has been a troubled program for years, to which both the board president and vice president later alluded during the 7.22.19 meeting, however euphemistically. For my own references to these problems, see The Canary in the School District’s Coal Mine and Changes at Whitewater Middle School.

5. It’s unsurprising that an aged, local career politician would insist (without any other justification) that tenure alone entitled an administrator who knowingly broke her contract to receive a waiver from established policy

Tenure, apart from any claim to success or achievement, is empty of value beyond merely getting up in the morning and clocking in.

6. As these board members (at least some of them) know that there have been problems at the middle school, and (at least some of them) should know that the principal of a school is accountable for the school’s performance, a vote to waive the contract penalty isn’t simply a vote for tenure alone — it’s a vote for tenure in spite of repeated problems on that principal’s watch during her tenure.

How many teachers, who resigned after the official deadline, and had not a single question about their performance, had to pay their contract penalties?  If even one received less consideration than this administrator, then this board has decided wrongly and unfairly.

7. A majority (Stewart, Judd, Davis, Ganser) voted to waive the breach penalty; three voted to uphold the district policy on notification and enforce the penalty (Kienbaum, Linos, Ryan).

8. If a majority of this board thinks that a principal leaving a troubled school deserves an exception from her contract’s provisions even as she departs, then it’s worth considering and explaining in detail the troubles of the school she’s left behind.

The board majority opens the door to a public accounting that they, themselves, have failed to make.

9.  Nothing says Old Whitewater better than the selective enforcement of policies based on little more than personal likes and dislikes.  A board member (Stewart) asks to waive a contract penalty and rely on common knowledge and not written notice, but demands adherence to written policy in how the vote should be conducted (by Robert’s Rules).

Hobbes understood motivated reasoning even before the term motivated reasoning was coined: “the Thoughts, are to the Desires, as Scouts, and Spies, to range abroad, and find the way to the things Desired.”

10. The district rushed to hire its now-former middle school principal in the same month that her predecessor left, but one board member feels that this hiring process isn’t going fast enough, while it never seems to occur to him that the rushed process last time contributed to the hiring of this most recent, inadequate principal.

11. The district had a process underway for selecting a new middle school principal, but one member wrote up his own ideas (placing himself, among others, into the interviewing process).  And yet, and yet, although he argued for inclusion as the basis of his proposal, that very proposal recommends concealing the names of the final candidates from public notice until the last possible moment.

Open when it’s convenient, closed when it’s convenient, all depending on the who’s invited to the dessert cart.

12. Perhaps strangest of all is a board member’s offer – with no sense of irony or embarrassment – of prospective interview questions (and answers!) that he found on the Internet.

If a local district cannot craft its own questions (as fortunately some employees in the district were already doing), then it cannot do much, and should be doing even less of what it is doing.

A properly educated high-school student – let alone a properly educated man or woman – does not crib term papers or interview questions from websites.

Honest to goodness.

13. One should take this board member seriously, but not deferentially. Lesser standards are a serious matter; they do not, however, not merit high regard.

Good work benefits from good examples.

8 comments for “School Board, 7.22.19: 13 Points

  1. Sue
    07/25/2019 at 12:08 PM

    I CANNOT BELIEVE that anyone would make an exception after SO MANY PROBLEMS. Do these people know how many kids were miserable plus how some teachers quit because they couldn’t stand it?
    This is what OUT OF TOUCH looks like.

      07/25/2019 at 3:12 PM

      The district has had so little scrutiny that much of what they say is a monologue. The reporting that’s been done hasn’t been reporting as much as public relations. Years of that leaves people talking to themselves or assuming that there’s no one else to talk to in any event. There are some fine people who are underused, almost wasted, in a political culture where Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss. The group mostly reaches out to the familiar, seldom beyond, and contrary opinions are often disfavored . See Administration, Council, and the ‘Tenth Man Rule.’

      One could see this last night – they’ve not cultivated many names for interviewers, etc. (Some see that, rightly, as bug, but others as a feature.)

  2. A Town Squire
    07/25/2019 at 12:48 PM

    A buddy (“attendee”) predicted this followup. Guess years of the DU guy made them think anything goes. We don’t agree on all but this is a counter weight to other people. Depends on how consistent someone is. It also matters that some of the best ones get pushed around by the other board member. They know it’s crap but they don’t stick up for themselves. Then it turns out like this.

      07/25/2019 at 3:19 PM

      Yes. Yet, if people only chose their own conditions, this wouldn’t matter. It’s a problem, because the price of flattering a person’s risible pride is highest for those outside the room, not inside it. No one in the boardroom has lately missed a meal or struggled to succeed despite threadbare clothing or loss of electricity.

      The real damage is at a distance.

  3. J
    07/25/2019 at 2:55 PM

    The description in the beginning explains why so many good colleagues of mine live elsewhere. They have a sense of how things go on the city side, and feel that they’ll have more equitable outcomes in another place. When they show up, no matter how good their ideas, they are told to take a back seat because the veterans will run the show.

    The talk about the internet questions is legitimately embarrassing. It is not a shock but it’s embarrassing in the lack of self-awareness from an educational setting. That’s why I said yesterday that developments were sad but not surprising.

    Reading this website is always interesting because it describes the city back to itself with powers of description the city doesn’t usually show. The blog is on the city side but it obviously operates on a university level.

    Actors can be cast for leading roles in a drama but what if it turns out someone else has been cast as the one-person Greek chorus? That changes the play no matter what the leading actors think.

    Yesterday was the bigger picture but today is on target about the social ramifications of Whitewater.

      07/25/2019 at 3:44 PM

      Reading, listening, and writing – in that order. Doing one’s best to appreciate what one has read (of those who have come before), applying it to what one hears (from those who are here now), and thereafter expressing the result in writing. That’s how each day begins, progresses, and ends.

      If there’s a role to be named for that daily routine, then I’ll leave it to others to do the naming. Blogging does seems a good name in our time, as pamphleteering was for the routine of an earlier American era.

  4. X
    07/25/2019 at 8:30 PM

    Thank you for putting up the names of 4 board members who gave an extra special break to an administrator they liked. We will remember when they come in smiling about how pro-teaching they are. There have been teachers who had to pay the penalty who had no problems at all.

  5. Attendee
    07/25/2019 at 10:17 PM

    So a dumb vote plus some bonus internet surfing? Yeah, that was a mess. I did predict you would write more and you did! The consistency Town Squire is talking about is whether these decisions get consistent attention in the community. This was dumb because people will pass it along and not forget. They may not say speak up but they will talk about it with each other. The other comment is correct about that. I can totally see Jim pushing for this. LMAO. Even so that leaves 3 others who should have been smarter about the circumstances after all. There are too many people who feel like the school wasn’t run right. This tells them STFU you don’t matter. Real dumb.