By Victoria Purvine. Corbett community member and past CSD school board member.
In a recent posting on a closed Facebook group called “Corbett Area” there were a lot of comments regarding hate and the final question posted to me was, why do some people hate every Superintendent we’ve had here in Corbett.
I have only had experiences with two Superintendents in Corbett and while I did not agree with everything they did, I personally had no feeling of love or hate for either one. I believe they are there to do a job, and the Board is there to make sure they are doing it.
What happens is those who “love” an individual see any person who is questioning that person’s job, or disagreeing with the direction they are going, as being “hateful”. It’s simply not true.
Instead of addressing the questions or concerns, there becomes a mantra of “can’t we all just get along”. The simple answer is No. As humans with our own set of ideals, morals, thoughts and behaviors we are not geared to “just get along”. It is dangerous to blindly follow any path without questioning the direction you’re going, or bringing the experiences you’ve had in life into the equation.
In the decision making process it would be very helpful if we took out the name of the District and referred to it as ABC. Take out the name of the Superintendent and refer to that position as X. If we are looking at a project, program, person, performance, etc and we say “In ABC District they are saying/doing this” or “Superintendent X is saying/doing this” and look at it that way, I think we may make different choices or have different reactions.
For example: When I was first elected to the Corbett School Board…..
I said in an e-mail (that I cc’d to the Superintendent so he knew what the person’s concerns were and how I was responding), that we needed to change the tone and the culture of the District and it needed to start at the top. People were asking for transparency, accountability, answers to questions, etc. and since the Board is responsible for how the District is seen, it was apparent we needed to make a change.
However, that e-mail did not stay between the three of us, and at the next Board meeting staff and supporters showed up, people wrote letters, and the word was out that I wanted to get rid of the Superintendent. (I checked with the person I actually was conversing with and they had not shared it out.)
Four things came out of this:
- Turns out the Superintendent was being blind carbon copied all e-mails sent to Board Members and the District was not notifying anyone of this practice. (They now do in red).
- I had a public complaint filed against me by another member of the Board as it was understood that I was bad-mouthing the Superintendent behind his back (keep in mind I had sent him my response personally, but this fact was missed due to the blind carbon copying practice.) This complaint was dropped just before we went to the next board meeting as I wanted it to be a public hearing, although not until after a two hour meeting with the one filing the complaint and the Board member assigned to direct the process.
- The ability for me to effectively do what I was elected to do was damaged because every action I took was viewed by staff and others that I was out to get the Superintendent.
- It was Very apparent that staff and Board members did not see themselves as being at the top, but rather the Superintendent.
Would you be okay with these behaviors if they were happening at ABC District, or would you question them?
Another example: When I got on the Board, Superintendent X’s contract had a rolling three year clause in it. Also was the paragraph allowing that if Superintendent X was let go without cause the District was responsible for payout for the remainder of the contract. So, it was possible that depending on timing, if the Board decided they wanted to go a different direction, the District would be responsible for up to three years of payout.
Would you consider this contract a good one for District ABC if you heard of a neighboring district doing this?
I did not believe this was in the best interest of a small District that was running an ending fund balance around the amount of money that would need to be paid out. I had been told rolling contracts had been removed in all but one other District in Oregon and was not considered “best practice”. If we had a rolling contract it would be good to put a “no cause” clause in to protect the District. So, I asked for a “no cause” clause, limiting the amount of payout to 3-6 months based on contracts in districts similar to our size but the Board was not interested in discussing this option. At contract extension time I would state why I was voting No on extending the Superintendent’s contract, and then would vote No.
Again, staff and supporters would show up at meetings to support Superintendent X, because I was “going after” X.
My final year on the Board, and Director Gorman was given the direction to work on X’s contract. At my last meeting he said he had spoken with an attorney and after going over the contract said we needed to put a clause in limiting the payout to the Superintendent to protect the District. His question was how we felt about that? My response “I’ve been trying to get that for the last four years!”
No staff or supporters showed up to that meeting to support the Superintendent, I heard no comments about Director Gorman going after X.
The point to these examples is this: If you removed personal names, or organizations names that you are associated with, are you okay with these practices and behaviors? Is the person trying to respond to the community when they ask questions, and trying to protect the financial interest of the District the one who is “Anti-AcmeTown”, or should some of these practices of defending the one we “love” without question be looked at a little closer?
Do we want to do what is legal, right and in the best interest of the whole Community, or do we want to look the other way and say “its for the children”?
And if that is the way you choose to go, please ask yourself what example you are setting for the next generation, because they are watching.