Saturday, February 27, 2016

What I Actually Said

I take responsibility for what I say and write, but not for how I am misquoted on line and in print. This is the statement I actually read at the Feb. 22, 2016, school board meeting:

I would like to explain why I made this motion and why I am voting to end our superintendent’s contract, after this board voted unanimously every year to rate him as “highly effective,” and despite my belief that he has done more for the underserved children of our community than anyone, ever.

I am taking this step solely because a group of people has told us, in person and in writing, that they will never stop until we get rid of him, and — finally — I believe them. There is no chance he can continue to be our educational leader while under siege like this. Those of you who feel so strongly that he must go have demonstrated that you will pursue this end AT ANY COST.

And — by all that is holy — LOOK at the cost! I am not referring to the monetary cost of buying out his legal contract because we want to sever it. No, just look around you. Friends, neighbors, and relatives divided and distraught. A school district’s and a community’s reputation in tatters. Anonymous writers and commenters putting the ugly side of human nature on full display. News media which, as a parent pointed out at our last meeting, “don’t care about us” but that are willing to hype and amplify controversy because it SELLS.

Well, it doesn’t sell our schools or our community. It will take a decade to recover from this, if we ever do. We WILL lose students over the perception created of our schools, which WILL lead to budget difficulties and to staff layoffs. How has that “supported” teachers or students?

The school at the center of the current controversy is suffering. Children do not understand why picketers and police and television trucks are at their school. Teachers are in turmoil, as former employees nag them to choose sides. How can the intensely personal and collaborative profession of teaching work when the staff is divided like that?

We WILL have great difficulty retaining the talented teachers and administrators we already have, because they don’t want to work in such an atmosphere. Who would? We WILL have a hard time attracting high-quality candidates for teaching jobs, for administrative jobs, and for the superintendency, BECAUSE of the rancor and dysfunction here.

The only possible silver lining I can foresee from this utter debacle would be if the quiet, calm servant-leaders of our community step up. We need people to run for this board who can put the needs of our children first, who can commit to improving our practice so that we stop failing so many of them, and who can bring us together to work furiously and with great urgency to do better at what is a society’s MOST important job: raising our young to successfully take over from us one day. Please look into your hearts and see if YOU can advance the schools’ part in this vital work better than this board has been able to do.

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