Friday, May 30, 2008

Commentary on Contract Misstep

Thursday’s school district news, well-covered by the print media, was important but disheartening. The person selected after a long search for a new superintendent now faces questions over terms of his contract. School district officials claim there is no problem and adjustments will be made to the satisfaction of all.

The selection process was air-tight, supposedly to avoid the problem of political interference. Even when the candidate pool went from around 30 to 5, then 3 and one finalist selected by the board, the public did not learn of the outcome until the last moment. As I recall, one board member protested the hiring of Dr. Steve Gallon III in February before all contract details were finalized.

The many shifts in leadership roles since last June could provide the current leaders with an alibi, but not an excuse if the contract terms contravene state guidelines or challenge the judgment of Union County’s executive superintendent.

My observation over the past 25 years is that top school administrators expect the best in salary and perks and each time there is a transition, districts have to top their own acts. The benefits are bad enough, but the perks beat all. The culture of top school administrators is one of up-staging the last person, in my opinion.

“Upward and onward” seems to be the motto of school superintendent contract talks. But in these times, can taxpayers support this model?

Plainfield’s situation will no doubt be resolved and Dr. Gallon will be able to begin his four-year stint as chief school administrator on July 1. The contract glitch most likely will serve as a reminder of the importance of fiscal accountability in Abbott districts, as well as the need to work closely with the county executive superintendent. It may also an indication that legal counsel for the district, already under a cloud over circumstances around the hiring of former Interim Superintendent Peter Carter, has some explaining to do to the board.

The board meets June 10 for work and study, with a business meeting June 17. Times and locations are not yet posted on the district web site, but for many reasons besides this latest headline grabber, Plainfielders need to attend and keep watch as the 2007-08 school year ends and early decisions are made for the 2008-09 school year.

--Bernice Paglia

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do any members of the Board have a degree beyond High School, and do they have any business knowledge? This is not to be interpreted as a slam, but I am wondering about the overall savy of not only the Board, but the general administration - Mayor - President of the Council - on down. There seems to be a lack of general knowledge on questions which need to be asked, and working within a system. I always get the feeling that the people who run Plainfield, while well intentioned, are not particularly smart in business operations. They really appear to be people who have no vision and don't even know what vision is. They fell into their position because they can be manipulated, and the person manipulating doesn't do anything.

Again, I really believe the BOE and others have their heart in the right place, but boy do we need to start getting some smart people into office.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Melissa Logan said...

I believe the Board and the district's greatest challenge over the next four years will be less who is holding the reins and more the impending fiscal crisis that the district suffers. I am a teacher in the district, and I am already seeing cuts in services for our students (for 08-09). With class size increases and no after school funds loss of support staff, the district has cut the fat. Over the next three years, I expect to see similar budget shortfalls due to the funding freeze and increased costs. We may see cuts into the muscle- school closings, hiring freezes, etc.
Drs. Gallon, Bailey, Ebler, and whoever else is making decisions for our school district have a long and difficult road ahead. They are the experts in school law who inform the volunteer school board of the reasoning behind the actions the Board needs to take.
I hope that the school leadership and the Board can guide us through these tough times ahead and support us in our work to serve the students of Plainfield.

7:35 AM  

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