The Payson school board capped a chaotic and discouraging series of events this week by offering outgoing Superintendent Ron Hitchcock $58,000 to quit coming to work. The board will now look for an interim superintendent to finish out the school year.
Please note another story on the front page. This one details the results of a tally by the Arizona Board of Regents that found only 15 percent of the Payson High School graduates of 2006 managed to get a four-year college degree within six years of graduation.
That’s well below the statewide average of 18.6 percent — and a pale shadow of the college completion rates in the best schools in the state. Our low university completion rate reveals an urgent challenge facing our schools. On the one hand, we’re not preparing nearly enough of our students for the kind of university education that will double their career earnings. But by the same token, we’re also not seriously addressing the career needs of the 85 percent of students who won’t get a university degree.
Now put those two stories together.
After just 18 months, dissention on the board prompted Hitchcock to resign. He put in motion sweeping reforms — but also ruffled feathers and spread uncertainty with personnel shifts and the sheer pace of change. The issues that snowballed into his departure seem superficial compared to the magnitude of the challenges.
So now the school board will have to start over, trying to find someone who can address the challenges we face. As the story about our low college completion rate demonstrates — we don’t have time to waste.
Next time, let’s hope the school board gets it right — and doesn’t sabotage whoever they finally pick.