Refocus Our Priorities

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Editor:

I was part of the “overflow crowd” that attended the school board meeting on Sept. 23. I wanted to hear for myself, rather than rely on third party references, the issues that were causing PUSD so much dissension. The person who got it right that night was the lawyer for the district who suggested that the school board might choose to go into executive session to get legal advice. He then returned to the open session to publicly inform the board that proper procedure had not been followed by the superintendent.

As a former school administrator, the first person I always went to for guidance when faced with a staff dispute was the superintendent. It was by following his/her direction in regard to proper school policy and state law that contentious and embarrassing public encounters were avoided.

The mistake in knowing and following proper procedure by the superintendent himself is of great concern given that he is also responsible for leading others in this type of situation. In my experience, following proper school policy resulted in most disputes being settled at the beginning level and rarely making it to the public level. If proper procedure had been followed in this case it is possible that public outcry would never have occurred. It is also possible that had a hearing been held, both sides of the argument could have been presented in a fair manner and an acceptable settlement could have been reached.

Also of concern to me is the fact that the discussion around this situation keeps getting drawn to other issues that cause the focus to get off track and away from the central concern.

For example, it appears that both men in this situation, Mr. Dunman and Mr. Hitchcock, have been working hard to make PUSD a better educational institution, so this is not about being committed to or supportive of anyone’s educational agenda as was referenced in the paper. This is a separate issue.

And at the board meeting the focus often reverted back to whether an administrator should coach. The coaching issue is a matter yet to be resolved and was not the stated item to be dealt with according to the board agenda either. The issue at hand is that a school employee was not provided due process or the proper channel to “advocate for himself.” The ensuing public show of support was the result.

This is not a matter of defiance but rather a matter of the community coming out in support of fair, respectful and ethical staff treatment.

Enough valuable school resources (time and energy) have been wasted on a badly managed issue that should have been resolved efficiently and professionally. I would hope that we can move forward in accordance with proper procedure and that we can remove the unwarranted outside agendas and personal concerns that have gotten the issue so far off track.

Let’s once again refocus our priorities on providing quality education to our PUSD students using the talents of the successful educators and administrators that have a history of dedicated service to our district.

Monica Nitzsche

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