Douglas School Board deserves reprimand
Oops, clerical error just doesn’t cut it here.
The Douglas County School Board of Trustees may claim an “honest mistake.” But it seems mighty convenient that the board renewed the school superintendent’s contract with little public notice just months before a contentious school election.
The Nevada Attorney General’s Office was entirely right to chastise the school board for what it called a serious offense. The board owes more of an explanation to the public than to just toss the “oversight” off as an administrative error.
The school board, without notice on the agenda, went into closed session in July to discuss Superintendent Pendery Clark’s contract. Behind closed doors and without public comment, the board apparently extended her contract for another four years. While the actual vote was taken in open session, the board pulled a fast one by not telling anyone prior to the vote.
That means that if a new board is elected – and with five out of seven seats up for grabs, that is a definite possibility – it would have to pay Clark for several extra years should it decide to part ways with the embattled superintendent.
Superintendent Clark has had her share of problems lately with teachers and parents. While some of that comes with the territory of being a school superintendent, her detractors are becoming more vocal and better organized.
As such, it is up to the board to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
But the board didn’t do itself any favors by appearing to slip one by the public.
The superintendent’s position is critical to setting the tone and leadership style of a school district. When the superintendent appears to have lost the faith of his/her staff, i.e. teachers, the board must take a critical look at the superintendent’s job performance. That includes public comment.
If the board then determines the superintendent is following the mandates set by the school board and the school administration, fine. Extend the superintendent’s contract.
But to conduct a review without some public airing of job performance is irresponsible. To extend the contract, putting the district on the financial hook for years after the review, certainly doesn’t appear in the best interest of the school district.
The unfortunate fallout from this “administrative error” is the unwitting shadow it casts over the superintendent. Superintendent Clark is entitled to a fair and accurate job review – one that isn’t tainted by board secrecy.
Claire Fortier, the opinion page editor for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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