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.