Friday, Jul 25th

Last updateFri, 25 Jul 2014 7am

You are here: Home Opinion Community Voices COMMUNITY VOICE: Passionate people

COMMUNITY VOICE: Passionate people

By Cheryl G. Watts

 

These comments are in response to the School Board meeting on June 9. 

People were passionate about why they were there, but one issue should have been a non-issue. Blaming the school board for the crowd of people having to stand around for more than an hour and a half, prior to being seated in the meeting room, was ridiculous. 

For some time now, the board has held their closed sessions prior to the general meeting that is open to the public. It has been clearly advertised that the closed session meets at 6, and the general meeting meets at 7:30. It was also prominently placed in both local papers’ Monday editions for that night’s meeting. 

It is the public’s right, if they wish, to show up more than an hour and a half prior to a meeting, whether to talk with each other, to speak to officials as they come in, or whatever. It is not their right to demand that the school board move its meeting to another room. When the closed session used to follow the open meeting (just as the board of supervisors does), the public had to leave and was free to return when the board re-convened in open session.

As to the main reason most people attended the meeting, I fully understand why everyone wanted to be there in support of Mr. Randolph. My first impressions when he first started here were very favorable. With my niece on the softball team, I attended all the home games. Everyone was pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Randolph there as well, as it had not been customary to see the principal at the girls’ sporting events. It was great that he consistently came to support them. I occasionally see him now, and he remains very nice and friendly.

As is always the case, personnel issues are confidential between employees and the superintendent and school board. None of us, regardless of our personal feelings toward Mr. Randolph, know what the issues are between the parties that resulted in actions being taken. 

We read in the papers what everybody else has to say if they feel that someone was treated wrongly, but we will never have any details or explanations from the officials that might explain or justify their decision. By policy they are not allowed to discuss whatever facts they have. It is always a one-sided story when any issue like this comes up. In many cases I would imagine that employees might be thankful for the confidentiality.

I am glad that the parties involved in this issue were able to resolve the issues and come to an end acceptable to both. 

In no way meant to be disrespectful to Mr. Randolph, I do not think it was good policy to make an exception relative to the accumulated days he will be allowed to take. 

According to the papers, all employees were advised two years ago of the limit of 60 days. It is admirable that he didn’t want to be away from the school, but with proper planning, no one is indispensable, as is evidenced by the fact that he will not be in place for half of the school year in 2014-2015. 

I don’t know exactly how the days from Dec. 31-June 30 are tallied, but this appears to be about 130 days, more than double the 60-day limit. How will this exception influence other employees’ retirements if they also have accumulated more than 60 days after having two years (or more) notice? 

Will they expect to be paid for those days? 

On a personal note, I left the school system many years ago after teaching 15 years. Being an art teacher with no textbooks, it was very difficult to be able to expect a substitute to carry on with the current project or topic of discussion if I was absent. I left teaching with many, many days that I wouldn’t be paid for, but it was a personal choice on my part, as it may be for some people now.

As for providing a substitute principal for Mr. Randolph from January-June next year (who we would have to pay in addition to Mr. Randolph’s salary), I suggest that Mr. Lewis fill that position for the second half of the year. 

I don’t know Mr. Lewis, except that he is an associate or an assistant principal now, but if the superintendent had the confidence in him had Mr. Randolph moved to the middle school, I would think that with half a year to prepare, he would certainly be well prepared to assume the position. 

According to what I read during the school efficiency report, having four principals meets the Standards of Quality for a high school the size of ours. I question why a new assistant was hired for next year, bringing the total back up to five. Wouldn’t this be the perfect time, having a half year to prepare, for the current principals to make adjustments as to defining their responsibilities for 2015-2016.

Mr. Lewis would have excellent incentive to do a fantastic job next spring and be deemed deserving of the principalship, and the three assistants would start the next year with clearly-defined job descriptions. Not only would we be back at the number of competent principals we should have to get the job done, but the money saved by eliminating that position could definitely be used for other urgent needs.

Generally speaking, wouldn’t it be nice if even a small portion of the crowd on hand for Monday’s meeting would take an interest in what the school system does on a regular basis to try to improve our students’ futures while also having to make really tough, many times controversial budget decisions? 

I would think that all of the people who have to make these decisions would benefit from an interested public who tries to stay informed on the issues and offer opinions and constructive suggestions.

Offering nothing prior to decisions having to be made, then reacting to a hostile or negative way if the decision negatively affects your particular interest, is not a way to help the on-going budget battle. 

It seems to me that any minds trying to come to productive conclusions would have to be better. There are always going to be hard budget decisions every single year, and tough choices will always have to be made. 

 

Cheryl G. Watts is a resident of Halifax.