The last thing any school district needs is a fresh supply of manufactured drama, especially when there already is such a thin margin of error in the stewardship of limited human and financial resources in Idaho.
Drama distracts from the real education issues:
• the implementation of new Idaho Core Standards and the methods districts will choose to accomplish that.
• addressing growth and the overcrowding issues it spawns.
• getting teachers, students and their parents on the same agenda for success in the classroom.
• and, unfortunately, raising money through bonds and levies to keep one’s district afloat.
Sadly, the Treasure Valley has had more than its share of school board/superintendent drama in recent years. We reference the troubles in Nampa a few years ago, and more recently in Kuna and then Caldwell.
And now it appears the West Ada School District — the largest in Idaho, with 37,000 students and a roughly $200 million budget — seems hellbent to inject drama into a district that ought to be thankful for the service of longtime Superintendent Linda Clark instead of “clashing” with her, as the Idaho Statesman reported Wednesday, during the first meeting between Clark and the new trustees.
Though Clark had no say in the one-year extension she was awarded by the outgoing board at its June meeting, the new trustees are pouting over the extension granted during the eleventh hour. One trustee wondered whether that action should be reversed.
Instead of pressing Clark on matters about her evaluations and those of other administrators, they should have been happy she would be around for three more years (with the extension) and asked what they could do to help.
Clark is widely respected among her peers around the state. She served in critical roles, including leadership, on Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education. She regularly performs near-miracles stretching the district’s finances. Clark was recognized in February as one of 15 education “Leaders to Learn From” by Education Week because of her ability to get the most out of scarce resources.
We were not happy to learn the “new majority” board — as one of the newly elected members referred to it — has apparently adopted the approach of shoot-now-and-ask-questions-later instead of taking a more measured and responsible approach of calm, methodical assessment of the district operations. An adversarial atmosphere between a superintendent and its board breeds mistrust and can affect the way parents and teachers feel about a district’s stability — and might even lead to a failed bond drive.
Lest we fall into the same trap ourselves, we’re going to give the new trustees a mulligan and be optimistic that, over time, they will come to better understand the district challenges and appreciate the dedicated efforts of the administration to meet them.
For its part, the administration ought to be ready and receptive to a new board’s sense of accountability. These are duly elected representatives charged with the proper education of our children, our future.
That said, we will not sit by and suffer a trustee agenda that chooses drama over competent management and puts students at risk because petty, punitive politics are taking the place of the best-outcome goals and excellence to which Clark has always aspired.
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