School Superintendent - Leader or Follower


John Lemon 3 years, 3 months ago

With interest I have been reading the Roundup coverage reporting of the argument between the Superintendent of Schools and a school Principal. It seems that the Superintendent does not want administrative staff to be able to Coach for pay. At two Board meetings supporters of a Principal attended to display their support for the Principal and attempted to aggressively persuade the Board to allow administrative staff to Coach for pay. The Board voted to allow the Superintendent to make such decisions. Also, the Administrator was placed on administrative leave for some time because of his rebellious actions. My thought: the Superintendent ought to and needs to have the right to control the actions of his subordinates in such matters as are related to employment. If the Superintendent does have that power, he/she is without the power needed to change or improve the performance of employees. Without such power, changes can be stymied or ignored and the School District can continue as usual. There are limits that have to do with the scope of employment, of course, and might include times such as weekends, holidays or times when pupils are not in school. I would say this to the Principal - you are an employee! How much improved would your school performance be if you took the time you devoted to coaching and allocated that time to after-school meetings with staff, parents, community organizations, or devoted it to curriculum development. If you feel the need to Coach, do so on weekends. I would also add this : the Board and Superintendent have spoken. Refresh your recollection of the term "loyalty" and let the Superintendent lead the schools to better learning by students.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago


When I read your post I wondered if you had read the latest article. I don't disagree with your basic premise — loyalty and the need to run the show from the top are essentials in any organization. But as of the last article in the Roundup there seems to be so much more involved than there appeared to be in the first couple of articles that I have decided to adopt a hands-off attitude.

You see, I had considered putting up a string on this last week, but because the waters were so muddied I decided to wait until it the matter was clarified. And then, as of the article in yesterday's paper, the situation became so much more confused that I decided to set it aside again. It would take a Solomon to decide who has done what, much less what should be done about it.

To put it simply: This is a mess I won't touch. There does not appear to be a board policy, as required by law, for the principal to break; so he is not in violation of a policy (at least as far as I can see; things are VERY confused). And apparently neither the board nor the super has read the laws and gone by their legal requirements for a violation of policies. Also, at this point it is impossible to tell with any certainty who began the move toward the new policy. Was it the board's idea, or something that originated with the super? I just can't make up my mind. On top of that no one has said why the policy is needed. Is it needed? I don't know. Also, aren't contracts for coaching, or other paid additional assignments, made each year? If so, what's the problem? If he who is in charge does not want to award that contract to the principal, how is he (or are they) forced to make that award in any way that he (or they) does not wish to do? Where is the issue? If I am in charge of doling out the cookies, and I have the authority to make the decision who gets one, what is stopping me from making it? Why should there be any discussion? I make the decision and that's that. If I don't have the authority, and have to apply for that authority, that's a different matter. So which of those two alternates is in operation?

Also, the board appears to have said that it is not a hard and fast "rule" but should be applied with judgment (i would agree with that, by the way; as I am sure you would).

From what I gather we have a non-existent policy which is supposed to be applied only if it appears that the administrator is not able to adequately handle both his job and his coaching assignment, and we have no idea if, when, or how that determination was made — if it was made at all. And sitting atop all this we have no certain knowledge that the individual involved was ever actually insubordinate because it appears that he was not a prime mover in the controversy surrounding the actions taken by parents to oppose the non-existent rule at a public meeting.

I'll put up a little more to let you see why I do not intend to comment on the issues.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago

On seven separate levels we have a mess.

• We have no idea where the "policy" originated or who is pushing it — or why.

• We have a policy that legally does not exist because such rules are required to be written policies, and this one is not.

• We have a channel for exemptions from the non-existent rule, one which requires a close look and reasoned judgment, and we have no idea if such a judgment was ever made.

• We do not know if a judgment was made, who made it, who reported that judgment to whom, what that judgment was, and what decision was made as a result.

• We are not really sure who had the authority to make the decision to contract for the additional duty, and why it was not therefore just made to whoever that person decided upon.

• We have the failure to apply the legal requirements for handling of the punishment of someone who has broken a non-existent rule, or was insubordinate in some manner, which really muddies the waters because we now have due process problems.

• We have such a vague accusation of insubordination that it could easily come down to a question of the man's First Amendment right to simply express his opinions.

• Last but not least, it appears that the individual has not only demonstrated his ability to handle both tasks adequately, but that he has done an outstanding job with each one.

There is no way I would even consider commenting on something like that. Besides, I can't even count because that's not seven levels of confusion; it's eight.

Have a good one, John. And please do not forget that I started this post with the firm statement that I understand the need for the program to run from the top down after the decisions have been made.

But comment on this mess? Crazy I am not. :-)


Pat Randall 3 years, 3 months ago

In my 'humble' opinion it all started as a personal vendetta against the principal. Seems that happens quite often with what ever school board is in office. Maybe we could get rid of the school boards. Only one person needs to be in charge. Too many cooks ruin the stew.


John Lemon 3 years, 3 months ago

Tom, You were correct in assuming that I posted before the Friday article in the Roundup. You are also correct in thinking that the issue(s) are muddied. Unfortunately, the Roundup did us a disservice by incorrectly reporting a decision by the Board . At this point in time I am wondering if the Friday report the Roundup is accurate or not. Like Will Rogers, most of us are dependent on the newspaper for a lot of information and we can only discuss what we have read. To other points: It appears that there was a written Policy relative to no coaching for District pay. It seems that earlier Boards/Superintendents were not enforcing the Policy. The current Superintendent received some direction from the Board and was asked to enforce the Policy. When he told Mr. Dunman, the fray began with supporters attending the first Board meeting. According to the Roundup, there were meetings between the Superintendent and Mr. Dunman during which Mr. Dunman walked out. The combination of reactions from Mr. Dunman resulted in the charge of insubordination. Then the attorney for Mr. Dunman charged that proper procedures have not been followed as regards suspending Mr. Dunman from duty. The Board apparently told the Superintendent that procedures must be followed. What happens now? I am still of the opinion that the Superintendent has and must have the authority to appropriately set procedures and regulations within Board Policy and applicable laws that govern employees. If he/she does not have such authority, the leadership role of the Superintendent is nullified. In this case (from what I have read) I fully support the Superintendent. If he erred in the procedure for assigning leave as a discipline measure, I urge him to go back and do it correctly. If Mr. Dunman chooses to fight it, so be it. A school District can not have a paper tiger attempting to lead. We must have a fully empowered leader and the power to appropriately set employee regulation is crucial.


Pat Randall 3 years, 3 months ago

Do you think maybe wrong reporting in the paper has anything to do with the whole mess? Reporters don't always stay till the end of meetings they are supposed to report on. They need recorders, pay attention and stay until the meetings are over. Don't leave and depend on interviews for what was said or done. Every one seems to hear the same story in a different way . A recorder will back up what the reporter hears and writes.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago


I do not disagree with you about the need for leadership. In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with you! Having taught leadership and management for many years, my best approach to this bucket of worms is not to comment on it directly; there are too many loose ends, and too many unanswered questions. My comment will be on management practices themselves. I see this as a classical example of what happens when rock bottom management practices are not followed.

When an employee-related decision has to made it generally involves five steps or elements:

a. A policy which contains decision-making guidelines, including the process to be followed, the designation of the decision-making individual(s), decision points, and method of final approval.

b. A fact gathering process occurs; expert opinions are sought if needed.

c. The gathered facts and opinions are considered; a best fit decision is made by the authorized person(s); a pre-approval notice to the policy-making agency may be needed.

d. If required, the decision is referred to the policy-making agency for approval.

e. Announcement of the decision is made, and the decision is acted upon.

(Note: Since the policy is employee-related, a decision must be made regarding at which point the affected employees will be notified. Under no circumstances should such affected employees be notified too early in the process since they have no decision-making authority and doing so will only disrupt the process. However, once a decision has been made, the affected employees should be notified at the earliest possible time to allow them to take whatever steps they may need to take.)

Take a look at those five classic steps in any decision-making process that involves employees and tell me just where they say that an employee is supposed to be involved in the decision to keep his position open, or him or her in that position.

What I see as the causes of this conflict are too much indecision, an aborted attempt to involve an employee in the decision whether or not to cut his position, and an abysmal failure to consider the "best fit" decision points involved. If anyone is at fault, it is whoever decided to get an employee involved too soon and in a way that no employee should ever be involved.


don evans 3 years, 3 months ago

From my personal work experience in dealing with Supervisors or Management, if your going to hold someone accountable for an "existing" policy, they must do several things.

  1. Give written notice to the employee of the administrative violation written, or verbal.
  2. Give a written specific time period for the employee to correct the violation activity. (unless a crime has been alleged) or the violation would likely result in termination.
  3. If the employee continues the administrative violation after the opportunity to cease or improve notice> initiate the disciplinary process with a penalty recommendation from the Administrator/Supervisor and follow through with it.

Document, document, document.......


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago

Right, Don.

There are procedures, you think things through, you follow the procedures, you get done with whatever has to be done, and that's the end of it.

And when you say document everything you ain't just a whistling dixie!

How will all this come out?

No matter what happens the end result of all this is going to hurt the school district.

The primary question that is going to be asked is, "Who's at fault."

On that I have no comment. I have an opinion, but without having all the facts I'll just keep it to myself because the last thing I want to do is make things worse.

You know what I'll bet we see? Ever heard of the Tweed Ring where eight bowlegged guys stood in a circle pointing the finger at each other? Well, plan on seeing something like this:

Ω -> Ω -> Ω -> Ω ->

<- Ω <- Ω <- Ω <- Ω


Molly Hunt 3 years, 3 months ago

The truth will be told when Principal Dunman has his chance to speak. He is not the only staff member that is being persecuted by the Administration. Interesting that the Roundup reporter never asked him or his supporters one question, however, reported what the Superintendent said and made it sound like Mr. Dunman was a loose cannon. That, I promise you is far from the truth. This is going to get very crazy as the real truth is revealed. One would ask why the majority of the districts employees were at the meeting in support of Mr. Dunman. It is because he has integrity and is being crucified.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 3 months ago

Molly, I thank you for your post and look forward with great interest in seeing how all this ends, and I am sure the rest of the people who read this forum are equally interested.

I refer you to string number 397: "RCMS test grade improvements verify well know truths" which I posted 4 weeks ago. You can get there by going to the bottom of this page, clicking the Next Page button, and repeating that action until you see string 397 on the list of Discussions.

Here's a quote from it:

"Tom Garrett 4 weeks, 1 day ago

"Anyone who knows a little about education will nod his head and smile warmly while reading today's story about the test grade improvements at RCMS. Why? Because those improvements echo three truths of which any professional educator worthy of the name is well aware:

"• The most important thing in any teaching situation is a dedicated adult the kids both like and respect.

"• It only takes one determined individual to turn around a sagging program.

"• When an assignment is difficult or complex, time on task is the most critical factor in assuring student success.

"What the great job done at Rim Country Middle School shows is that Will Dunham is a thorough professional, a caring human being who is able to inspire children, and someone who understands that in math and science classes those who don't get it the first time around do not have to fail; they just need a little more time."

While I can't comment on the current situation because I do not know enough about it to do so, those comments still stand.


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