locally owned since 1854

Silence not golden when it comes to school changes: Editorial

Posted 6/28/17

Three key administrators in the Middletown Area School District are changing jobs.

It’s one of the moves, however that sparked the most concern. That’s the transfer of Earl Bright from …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Silence not golden when it comes to school changes: Editorial

Posted

Three key administrators in the Middletown Area School District are changing jobs.

It’s one of the moves, however that sparked the most concern. That’s the transfer of Earl Bright from principal of Reid Elementary School to a position as principal of the district’s new in-house Alternative Education program.

The move apparently was financial, because bringing the program in-house will save an estimated $180,000 a year and is “by far the biggest contributor to the district not having a tax increase” in 2017-18, district CFO David Franklin told the board June 13.

The other moves were transferring Jeremy King from his position as athletic director/assistant high school principal to a position as a business education teacher at the high school; and transferring Thomas Shaffer from his position as principal of Fink Elementary School to a position as a language arts teacher at Middletown Area Middle School. King told us he requested the change to spend more time with his family. Shaffer did not respond to our requests for comment.

No new taxes is usually a good thing. But that didn’t satisfy some residents. Renee Buck of Middletown felt so strongly about keeping Bright at Reid that she started an online petition.

“The way you are going about this is not only wrong, it is not the right thing to do. Before you vote, ask yourselves, is this the right thing to do? Is there an ulterior motive? Do I simply play follow the leader tonight? We are asking you to do the right thing and vote no to this move,” Buck said at the June 19 meeting, before the vote was taken on the changes.

Middletown resident Dan Valley then asked that the board delay acting on Bright and the others.

“I honestly, honestly feel that the personal changes are most assuredly not the will of your constituents,” he said. “At the very least, put this vote off a little while longer, do some research, and truly, truly get a feel for the will of your constituency.”

It is a question that has plagued elected officials since the beginning of time: Which wins out when the two sides are at odds? The elected official’s own judgment or the will of the constituency?

We appreciate the passion of residents who come to a meeting and speak up. We definitely lack people who are willing to take the time to be involved in the community or with their children’s education.

What we don’t like is this: The board proceeded to approve all of the personnel moves, without comment or discussion from board President Linda Mehaffie or from any of the other eight board members who were present for the votes.

The handling of the changes was very dramatic. At the meeting, Mehaffie and the other board members left the comments to district Solicitor Jeffrey Litts and Superintendent Lori Suski.

Suski told us via email, four days after the vote, that “the district realizes that people may not understand why changes are sometimes necessary because the reasons behind them are not always explainable in a public forum. We recognize that this can be very frustrating; however, out of respect for our employees, the district cannot and will not elaborate publicly on personnel matters. To do so would violate employees’ privacy rights.”

That statement just raises more questions than it provides answers, and it can be easily inferred that some or all of the moves may have been disciplinary actions.

The proposed changes are not part of an administrative restructuring, and the moves are not tied together, Suski told us.

Do we deserve to know why this all happened? Yes. Can conclusions be drawn without an explanation? Yes. But there is a lot of gray area.

Buck can use what residents have as the ultimate remedy when they are unhappy: a vote.

“I voted for each and every one of you to be elected into these positions to do the right thing for our children. Your vote tonight will certainly determine my vote in November. I can promise you that if you vote yes today, I certainly will not make the same mistake and vote for you in November.”

That’s democracy.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment