A Disservice To Readers, Community

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Editor:

As both an Army veteran of The Gulf War and a retired school district superintendent, I take exception to your editorial “Dissension in a foxhole.” Your newspaper certainly has a right to express opinions on issues of the day, but ignoring the salient fact coming from the most recent PUSD board meeting and then making a reckless analogy between military combat command structure and school district administration are a disservice to your readers and the community.

Let’s start with the facts of the school board meeting, specifically Mr. Dunman’s appeal to the board regarding the imposition of discipline by Superintendent Hitchcock. There is, in truth, only one fact that came out of the hearing and that is that Superintendent Hitchcock did not appropriately follow governing board policy in the due process required in the imposition of employee discipline. As a result, the board did not and could not make a ruling on the case, but indicated that proper procedures in policy would need to be followed, prior to any appeal being heard.

The assumptions you make regarding Mr. Dunman’s speech and actions do not have any merit, because until due process is adhered to, just as in a court of law, no judgment can be made about what Mr. Dunman may or may not have done. Not only did your editorial consider Mr. Hitchcock’s explanation to the board as gospel, you glossed over the fact that there is proof of just one wrong at this point in time, and that is the superintendent’s failure to follow policy as it pertains to employee due process.

Additionally, during the appeal hearing it was brought out that the superintendent did not complete Mr. Dunman’s annual evaluation last school year. It is the responsibility of the superintendent, as per governing board policy, to ensure that annual evaluations are completed for all employees. Mr. Hitchcock was and is Mr. Dunman’s direct supervisor and was responsible for completing his evaluation. Have you chosen to dismiss that lapse of professional responsibility as well in your coverage?

In a foxhole, in a time of war, snap decisions are made to save lives and gain the offensive. It is up to the OIC or senior NCO to make the call and for the soldiers to follow — no questioning of orders. I concur.

However difficult times may be for a school district, I can tell you school leadership is nothing like a foxhole and if it is, the school district is in deep trouble.

School districts function well when school leaders know and adhere to policy. Vision and ideas are great, but fundamentals of procedure and policy cannot be ignored or bypassed. Governing board policies are based almost entirely on state statutes. They are not suggestions and to violate the policy that clearly defines due process in imposing discipline on an employee is a serious professional misstep.

Your editorial uses an analogy to paint Mr. Hitchcock as the platoon leader making decisions in a crisis setting, but the reality is school districts are not foxholes and superintendents who make fundamental mistakes in following district policies should be questioned.

Perhaps instead of castigating a well-respected school principal, your newspaper should dig a little deeper to see if any of the other school principals were evaluated last year.

Running a school district is challenging and serious business, however the superintendent is not the sergeant major and to call into question his leadership decisions when policies are not followed is a far cry from dissension in a foxhole. It is the responsible thing that stakeholders and perhaps even the local newspaper should do.

Johnny Ketchem

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