School Board, Administration Not Serving The Community Well



Well, the school year for students is over. The teachers have left the schools and are enjoying a well-earned respite. Most of the administrators are planning how to better serve the students of Payson. Most, but not Mr. Sandoval, Mr. Fruth or Mr. Lobik.

Let’s take a quick look at Payson High School. During the past several years the administrative team and teachers have increased the course offerings in order to better meet the needs of students.

The athletic teams have competed well and made us proud. No discipline incidents have resulted in serious injuries to students. A new, more restrictive student dress code was adopted last year.

State testing of students resulted in an award of “Highly Performing” status for PHS. At the graduation ceremony it was announced that seniors had earned over $1 million in scholarship funds — a record. The parent survey of parents revealed that overall, most parents are pleased with Payson High School.

It seems that the superintendent and board were not pleased with the objective data and the three leaders of PHS were summarily fired. The superintendent and board have said that the administration trio was dismissed as a way of saving money.

It is true that the school district had to R.I.F. (lay off) a number of people in order to trim costs. It also appears true that the saving of money was not the true reason in the case of PHS administrators. There were too many alternative methods of reaching the same goals. The board has the right to reassign staff and could have made the administrators half-time, as they later did in the case of the position of principal. The administrators could have been assigned to full-time teaching positions, part-time positions or even to other schools. There were other options, but it appears that none were seriously considered: the firings were planned.

The community is in the dark if there are valid reasons for the crass and cruel treatment of the PHS administrators. The procedures and discussions that led up to the firings were unilateral and closed.

The superintendent and board can try to hide behind the old, “It’s a personnel matter and we can’t discuss it,” but if they do, the community should ask them several questions and hold them accountable.

Why was Mr. Fruth’s job redesigned? When he applied for the “new” job, why was the position awarded to a person who has no administrative background? Why was Mr. Fruth not re-employed for at least a one-year transition to a new team? Where was the community input into a plan for well-thought-out R.I.F.s? Where was the open discussion of several alternative plans for cutting costs? Where was the coherent plan for reductions based on an educationally valid, system-wide examination of district priorities for student outcomes?

We have been told that the firings will result in a better educational outcome for PHS and students. The district has now hired a part-time principal who comes from a school of some 50 students and has no administrative experience at a large, complex, technically challenging high school. We now have a dean of students who has been a teacher at the high school, but has no experience in administration. We now have an athletic director who has no experience in administering an athletic program.

Please trust that there is no intent to impugn the new administrative staff. However, there is good reason to question the procedures and results of the board and superintendent. To go into a process to disrupting (ruining?) the lives of loyal staff and conduct business in the manner that they did is not only suspect, but also unprofessional and cruel. It smacks of disingenuousness and perhaps prejudice.

This board and superintendent should hang their heads in shame. Unless a lot of clues have been overlooked, this administration and board do not well serve the students and citizens of Payson.

Those who are elected (or hired) to serve the public must not only conduct themselves virtuously, but also should avoid even the suspicion of misconduct. It is difficult to meet those criteria from a bunker.

Those of us who think that wrongs have been done can approve, abet, or speak to the issues.

John Lemon


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