Saturday, July 02, 2005

When Personalities Collide At The Top

This is a typical example of what happens when a district's superintendent and its governing board of trustees have a parting of the ways:
1. After a nationwide search, in 2000, Linda Powell is hired as superintendent of the Pocatello, Idaho public school system. [district website here]

2. During her relatively short tenure, there was no hint of any problems. Acting on the superintendent's recommendation, the board votes to close an elementary school and spend $2.5 million in order to bring Compass educational software into the district in order to raise test scores.

3. Suddenly, during the board meeting of July 28, 2003, the board votes to place Powell on administrative leave. The community is taken by surprise. An uproar ensues. They board must continue to pay Powell's salary as per her contract.

4. Powell and the board enter into negotiations in order to reach a settlement to avoid protracted litigation. Meanwhile, the board hires Carolyn Kennedy as superintendent.

5. Citing statutory restrictions, the board declines to give the public any reason for dismissing Powell. In an unusual move, however, Powell releases the "termination notice" that the board sent her: The board indicated that Powell didn't inform them of personnel decisions and that she was "disrespectful" to the public as well as board members. She was also accused of "hurting employee morale." Usually the public isn't told anything by either party.

6. A settlement is reached: Powell will continue drawing her $102,375 a year, plus benefits. Her job description is now "curriculum consultant." Powell requested the following items from the district in order to perform her new duties: a laptop computer; access to District resources relating to school leadership team training; access to Curriculum Director Chuck Wegner, school principals and the District Leadership Team; access to the Internet; a subscription to professional journals; and an agreement as to how many articles she would contribute to the district's newsletter.

7. The district doesn't respond to Powell's offer. In effect, she hasn't anything to do. The board continues to pay the ex-superintendent the agreed amount in monthly installments until June of this year.

8. The district cuts Powell a final month paycheck for more than $8500 in June 2005. They then terminate their relationship with her. Powell is now free to perform professional services for any district that chooses to hire her.
The Pocatello School District, is comprised of 14 elementary schools, a pre-school program for developmentally delayed students, 3 junior high schools, 1 junior high school alternative program, a teen parent program, 1 senior high school alternative program and 3 senior high schools.

While looking into this story, I noticed was that the Pocatello School District has fewer people working in their
district office than my small California elementary district has on its payroll with only 11 campuses.

One of the reasons why the school systems in California are so chronically short of funds is because of our bloated (and redundant) bureaucracies. It's too bad that the Governator hasn't attempted to do anything about them.
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