There have been a few developments in the ongoing travesty of governance occurring with the West Bend School Board. You can catch up with my earlier posts (post one and post two). Basically, a group of board members led by the board president are running roughshod over any semblance of process or propriety to create two new principal positions and then appoint people into those jobs instead of running through a normal hiring process.
In thinking about it over the past couple of days, I had to take a step back and wonder if I missed something. Was there an overwhelming public push to change from one high school administration to two? Did I miss the social media push, letters to the editor, feedback in public meetings, etc? I looked, and I don’t think so.
When the new Superintendent came on board last year, he spent several months doing nothing but meeting with community groups, teachers, parents, local businesses, etc. to get feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Here is link to his findings that he released in November last year. There is no mention at all of any concern about having a single high school administration. None. One would have thought that someone might have mentioned it if it were such a concern. Perhaps a person or two mentioned it, but certainly not in any volume sufficient to make it into the top ten issues for the district.
I also followed the election we had for school board in April fairly closely. I don’t recall any of the candidates speaking to any concern or anybody from the community asking anything about it in any of the various forums. We had a robust debate about the future of the district and its problems, and the issue of a single high school principal was hardly mentioned – if ever.
So why the pants on fire urgency to make this change and appoint people to the new roles? Why the sudden need to call a special session and ram it through with no public input, no cost estimate, no planning, no hiring process? Where did all of this urgency come from?
I did notice two developments since I last wrote about this. First, the board has changed its agenda for tomorrow. On Friday, it said, “Possible board appointment of East High School Principal and appointment of West High School principal.” That language has been changed. Now it says, “Introduction of possible candidates for East High School Principal and West High School Principal.”
So apparently the board has felt enough pressure to hold off on appointing right away, but will introduce possible candidates and then appoint one of them a week or so later. It is a fig leaf of process. One wonders who they will be introducing. What was the application process? Could anyone throw their hat in?
As a side note, the school board runs the serious risk of substantial legal liability by following this path. By definition, appointing someone to a job instead of having an open and fair application and hiring process means that they are arbitrarily limiting the candidate pool. The EEOC looks into these kind of things:
The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer or other covered entity from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), or national origin, or on an individual with a disability or class of individuals with disabilities, if the polices or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. The laws enforced by EEOC also prohibit an employer from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative impact on applicants or employees age 40 or older, if the policies or practices at issue are not based on a reasonable factor other than age.
The whole point of having an open application process is to not only allow the opportunity to find the best candidates, but also to ensure that the process is fair and available to anyone interested in the job. Process matters and bypassing that process is an act of arbitrary discrimination by the board.
The second thing that has happened is that board member Joel Ongert has posted a lengthy defense of the his actions on his FaceBook page. In it, he makes a couple of interesting comments. First, there’s this one:
What is also exciting is that returning to the two Principal model creates an opportunity to eliminate the (open) position of Director of Secondary Education. Those job responsibilities can easily be enveloped within the two Principal roles as was done in the past.
So is there another organizational change coming? Will there be the opportunity for public input on this one? One of the complaints about a single administration was that the principal was too busy to have a good relationship with the kids. If we take the same FTE (Full Time Equivalent) count and add in another FTE worth of responsibilities, how does that help? This position might be worth a review, but I sure hope that the board takes a serious look at it and doesn’t just accept the union’s talking points at face value (eliminating this position is a bugaboo of the union).
Ongert also makes this claim:
Not only is there no net cost to the taxpayer, there is a net savings (assuming they eliminate the Director of Secondary Education)
This is a repeat of the assertion that the decision to have two principals instead of one is a cost neutral decision. Bear in mind that they are making that assertion without the benefit of any study or cost estimate. It is a baseless claim. In fact, on the surface, it looks like it will cost more.
Right now there is one principal in five assistant principals. The working assumption is that they will now have two principals and four assistant principals – thus retaining six FTEs. But principals are paid more than assistant principals. So even with the same six FTEs, having two of them be principals will, indeed, cost more. That’s more money for administration and less for classrooms.
Finally, I return to the election we had a few short months ago. During that election, the three candidates who were running on the same platform made a big deal about transparency, research, and fiscal restraint. Then candidate Tonnie Schmidt said:
What I can guarantee is that if elected, I will request a wholesale analysis of the WBSD organization chart to ensure position redundancy is monitored and eliminated, that personnel expertise matches the position expectations and that all hiring processes are fair moving forward. I will ask the questions and set the example for accountability.
I’m running for the students who deserve equal opportunity, not forced cookie cutter approaches to education and standardized assessments.
I’m running for the employees who have missed opportunities to lead or excel because of organizational nepotism, unfair processes and bias.
I’m running for taxpayers who believed there were stalwart, conservatives overseeing their hard earned money who instead rubber stamped approvals on every suggestion.
Where is the “wholesale analysis” that was done before making this change? What about “hiring processes are fair?” When did she “ask the questions” during the board meeting where they made this decision? Why did the board “rubber stamp approval on” a suggestion allegedly made to President Larson at a listening panel? Where is the thoughtful, informed, transparent decision making we were promised?
Finally (for real this time), I have asked several times for comment from school board members. To date, the only one who has responded is Monte Schmiege, who deferred to the board leadership. While I am occasionally a critic of the school board, I am also a taxpayer and stakeholder in the district. My elected board members are refusing to even return my emails or calls. So much for constituent services or representative government. Every other elected official at least responds.