Post Independent opinion: Re-1 board taking the right steps
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The newly minted Roaring Fork Re-1 school board didn’t take long to get down to business.
In what some have described critically as pursuing an agenda, the board held a special midday meeting on Monday concerning the status of Superintendent Judy Haptonstall’s two-year contract.
But this “agenda” – to find a way to deal with complaints that some have about Haptonstall’s leadership – presumably contributed to the successful campaigns of the two new board members that ran contested races, Daniel Biggs and Terry Lott Richardson. The three new members – including Matt Hamilton, who ran uncontested – each expressed concerns about district leadership at some point during their campaigns. Their actions, therefore, could be seen as honoring a campaign promise.
But having this discussion with Haptonstall was the right thing to do in any case. Unquestionably, there are people who are very unhappy with her leadership, just as there are many who support her. The problem may be her intimidating presence and a disregard for keeping the public informed about school business. In fact, maybe she’s just doing a poor job of communicating how effective she actually is at her job.
And, clearly, part of that job is politics. Whenever voters are involved – in Haptonstall’s case, indirectly through the school board – how the public perceives you makes a big difference.
And included among the public are district employees. The board’s decision to institute a “360-degree” review will allow district staff to say what they really feel anonymously, eliminating the fear of possible retaliation. The review is a measured approach, showing that the board wasn’t eagerly sharpening that guillotine.
Aside from addressing district leadership, the board also needs to do a better job of keeping the lines of communication open than it has in the past. A good step in this direction is Matt Hamilton and Richard Stettner holding office hours, making them accessible and giving the public a chance to speak in private if they feel the need to do so.
And it should be clear that Haptonstall reports to the board, not the other way around. A board that agrees with everything the superintendent says is not providing much of an oversight service to the voters.
The Re-1 school board is starting off on the right foot by quickly addressing what some see as the district’s biggest failing, without being Draconian. The members have taken steps to improve the lines of communication in regards to the superintendent’s leadership, and they should do the same for all board business.
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