Viewpoint: Lack of School Board accountability could be a risk for District 833Regardless of how one might feel about Mark Porter, the issue is no longer about his performance, but the board’s performance. Are they to be trusted? We believe the answer is no.
By: Vicki Strong, South Washington County Bulletin
Is there a dividing line between legal and ethical in public service? How do we hold elected officials accountable when what they do is legal but not necessarily ethical?
The hot issue of ethics and fair representation has come home to District 833 after the School Board’s decision to not renew the contract of Superintendent Mark Porter.
While the Bulletin has raised questions about the legality of the board’s timing in releasing information on their decision, it is within the board’s legal rights to not renew the superintendent’s contract without cause, as Chairwoman Leslee Boyd uses as her defense. However, the process by which it was accomplished demonstrates a lack of transparency, due process and accountability to voters.
We believe that fair representation cannot exist when processes are circumvented. Any time the interest of a larger community is ignored in favor of personal, neighborhood or small group considerations, we should be outraged. Regardless of how one might feel about Mark Porter, the issue is no longer about his performance, but the board’s performance. Are they to be trusted? We believe the answer is no.
The lack of accountability and transparency, the timing of their decision and the performance review delay until after the election suggest that there may have been one or more hidden agendas. Whatever the reason, the board dismissed a groundswell of community criticism, saying critics are not representative of the community at large.
The facts are these: District 833 has done well under the direction of Mark Porter. We live in one of the highest-performing districts in one of the highest-performing states. Administration and union relationships are respectful and effective. Our financial situation is strong. We are closing the achievement gap among various groups. And the district has just launched an aggressive, well-constructed five-year strategic plan.
We are advancing on the performance excellence journey. Why would we want to bring in a new leader when our district’s performance is so effective? Why would we change leadership at the beginning of a long-term strategic plan? Why try to fix something that is not broken?
Why indeed? Because the die has been cast and the board took an action that they refused to reverse, regardless of public feedback.
We cannot stand by while the board governs by their own principles and their own conscience. We need to be watchful and we need to be engaged.
We must support board members Jim Gelbmann and Laurie Johnson, who courageously stood against the rest of the board. We must remember the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of board members Boyd, Marsha Adou, Tracy Brunnette, Ron Kath and David Kemper in upcoming referendum and board election votes.
Lastly, between now and the next election, we must speak loudly so that, just maybe, our voices will be heard. We need to make sure that the board understands that being legal is not good enough; ethics matter, too.
The consulting firm searching for Porter’s replacement has conducted interviews of community stakeholders, and we hope they heard what we did: Our community wants leadership that is visionary, a superintendent who is a strategic thinker, a hard worker, a model of integrity and honesty who develops effective community relations, and most of all, who delivers improved educational outcomes for all students. Someone very much like the leader that the School Board recently dismissed.
We are establishing an organization called 833 Citizens for Accountability and invite you to join us (see www.833cfa.weebly.com).
Our goal is to encourage community involvement and input so that our elected School Board members will have clear direction from those they represent. We hope this involvement will help our board govern with honesty, integrity and transparency, and that they and the new superintendent will continue the forward progress our district has made under the competent leadership of Mark Porter.
Strong wrote this viewpoint with fellow 833 Citizens for Accountability members Jim Blass, Dixie Ewing, Barb Fleming, Beth Neu and Tim Reimann.