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Another Voice: Lack of trust undermines efforts in the classroom

By Carolyn Gierke

The decision of the Williamsville Board of Education not to meet with the teachers’ and support staffs’ representatives is wrong. Ignoring a volatile situation will not resolve problems in the district. Taxpayers and parents should be concerned. Time devoted to disputes between adults is time diverted from teaching and learning. The children pay a high price for the adults’ distraction. The longer this goes on unchecked, the worse it will get.

I know this firsthand because employees at the Sweet Home School District lived through similar circumstances in the 1990s, when we had a difficult superintendent. The fact that Williamsville’s issues have been made public indicates that the differences between staff and administration are significant. At the very least, there may be a lack of trust. This can undermine what occurs in the classroom. The unions are trying to follow protocol by going to the Board of Education. It is the board’s job to hear them out and take the necessary actions to mitigate the situation.

The taxpayers should have an even louder voice, because the board serves at their pleasure.

My guess is that many of the current board members hired Superintendent Scott Martzloff. In effect, they are married to him and won’t allow themselves to see reality, because they would have to accept that they might have made a decision that was a poor fit. If they are depending on the superintendent as their sole source of information on the issues, they may not know all the facts. Sticking their collective heads in the sand is no way to save face. The same thing happened at Sweet Home. As a result, the voters replaced all of the board members as their terms expired. Be ready for that.

If the situation is not resolved in a timely fashion, the district can expect that some residents will vote with their feet. Clarence is close by and mighty appealing.

This School Board should convene a committee of stakeholders that will select and hire an independent consultant to gather and evaluate feedback from the schools and the community, preferably not a retired administrator. Have the consultant present the findings, and have both sides agree to follow any recommendations.

At Sweet Home, our new School Board did exactly that. A committee of concerned stakeholders chose to have our study conducted by a professional.

Our consultant did a thorough job of interviewing all stakeholders, and determined that there was little trust of the superintendent. He finally got the message and moved on. Once that happened, and with a new superintendent in place, we were eager to return to our primary task – educating the children of the community. It was money well spent.

Carolyn Gierke is a retired high school librarian from the Sweet Home School District.