A Dispiriting Debate

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Passionate.

That’s a fair minimum description of the voracious discussion of Payson Schools Superintendent Ron Hitchcock’s bungled attempt to discipline Principal Will Dunman for “insubordination.”

Elsewhere on this page, you’ll find letters castigating the Roundup for an editorial that lamented the bitterness and name-calling that have attended Hitchcock’s effort to enforce a school board policy proposal that put strict limits on administrators who want to serve as coaches.

Well, we do love a good debate — especially when it involves important issues. Make no mistake, nothing’s more important than our children.

Mr. Ketchem objects to our use of a military metaphor about the importance of the chain of command. But he misses the point of the metaphor. The district faces a crisis and the superintendent relies critically on the active, creative, wholehearted support of the principals. And while we admire Mr. Dunman and honor his dedication to our children, it seems beyond dispute that this debate has gotten blown grotesquely out of proportion. As a result, it has created division and bitterness when the district so badly needs unity and support.

Mr. Tenney chides us for making too much of the way people talked to the school board — whether it was muttering that they were “stupid” or pounding the podium on the desktop. Then he faults us for not quoting Mr. Dunman — who understandably enough has declined comment.

In truth, we’ve worked to report the controversy fairly and completely. At the moment, both sides have retreated into silence. We wish they’d done that earlier.

But here’s the heart of our sorrowful response to this dispiriting confrontation. We need a good debate. Class sizes are increasing, enrollment trends are confusing, the curriculum’s in upheaval and the high school’s not offering calculus.

But what are we actually debating? Whether principals should coach softball.

Passionate, no doubt. Just not useful.

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