Written in Secret and the Effort to Thwart Public Comment

I’ll admit it.  I was snookered.  The SAU board’s agenda for August 30th misled me into thinking the meeting to “finalize” the contract would resemble an intelligent discussion/debate of contract terms.  It was, in fact, a rubber stamping of a contract finalized before the meeting, with two minor changes.

Maybe you won’t be surprised to know that there was not a single public meeting at which any of the terms being offered were discussed, except when “multi-year contract with competitive salary” was decided for advertising purposes.

Every aspect of this contract was cooked up beyond the eyes of the press or any interested citizens. Had all of our minds been engaged, board and public alike, we might have achieved a superintendent’s contract that rings with our highest priority — improving student achievement.  Instead we have  a contract without any stated performance goals. These are to be determined. (Horse leave the barn, ya think?)  In fairness, the new contract is free of the most egregious terms in Mr. LaSalle’s gilded agreement, and does represent some good work by a few board members, but far from what should be expected by parents and taxpayers.

I defy the board to give me one compelling reason a contract could not have been forged in full public session before any candidates were selected. “Negotiations have to be done in private,” sums up one board member’s comments to me.  I dispute that, but it is quite irrelevant to the discussion. What we as an employer are offering to perhaps the most critical employee on our public payroll is very much of concern to every member of the public and should not have been hatched in secret and presented at a public meeting as a done deal. (And let’s hurry up about it, too. We have a welcome cake to get to.)

While I’m at it, let’s talk about the risible conceit the boards have cleverly devised of permitting public comment BEFORE an agenda topic is addressed by the board. Even elected officials pretending to be open-minded invite debate and discussion for the insight it might engender.  No member of the public is going to comment on a topic in ignorance of how the board is going to approach a matter. The Timberlane School Board and the SAU board are simply pretending to welcome public comment by requiring it before a comment is even possible.  I am calling upon each member of the Timberlane and SAU boards to immediately change their public comment policy to invite public comment after board discussion but before a vote.

The only thing approved faster than the superintendent’s contract on August 30th, was the hiring of a new biology teacher. Her name and her most recent employment were read, then she was voted in.  Presto!  Just add water and you’ve got quality education.  Yes siree.  Given TRHS’ dismal science scores, I would have thought, and forgive me again for my naiveté,  a little more interest in a new teacher’s track record would have been in order. I don’t know this teacher or her record and my comments are not directed towards her in any way.  The board may feel it isn’t their job to second guess personnel recommendations, but they are wrong and once again demonstrate their unwillingness to assert leadership over the administrative workings of the district.

Sad to say but voters get what they deserve. Stay away from board meetings and your boards will continue behaving like this – hatching momentous contracts in secret, hiring important teachers on trust, and doing their very best to thwart public comment.

Next – The new contract:  You could pass an entire cohort through what’s missing.

2012 Superintendent’s contract

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Filed under 2012 Superintendent's contract, SAU 55 Issues, School Board Issues

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