The needler in the haystack.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Board of Ed gives students a lesson in hypocrisy


Plainfield's Board of Ed gave everyone a lesson last night when it voted to transfer all the elementary and middle schools principals twelve working days before the start of the new school year. A lesson in hypocrisy, that is.

One of the fundamental lessons taught by the schools to youngsters is PLANNING AHEAD --

  • Plan ahead, don't wait 'til Sunday night to do your homework,
  • Plan ahead, don't wait 'til the night before it's due to write your term paper,
  • Plan ahead on how to manage sports, academics and other interests,
  • Plan ahead if you want to make the Honor Roll,
  • Plan ahead when thinking of college, don't wait 'til your Senior year.
So, Tuesday night, the Board of Ed approved Interim Superintendent Anna Belin Pyles' resolution to move the principals around -- days before the new school year starts and seemingly without any PLANNING AHEAD.

How's that for hypocrisy?

While waiting for the meeting to get under way, I was thinking to myself 'this is awfully short notice, why wasn't it done earlier?'

The meeting began with what in hindsight seems to have been a carefully choreographed dance between Board President Renata Hernandez ('Walk-on items are a privilege of the Superintendent...our responsibility is to inquire and make sure proposals are for the common good...') and
Interim Superintendent Anna Belin Pyles ('We have operated without a system of administrative transfers for several years...[the proposed] decisions have been made looking at the entire District and several indicators, not at individual administrators...').

Once the Privilege of the Floor segment came, the floodgates opened, with administrators, teachers, and many, many parents speaking to the resolution.

In my pages and pages of notes, everyone who spoke agreed the District had a right to move administrators, and that change was being opposed (primarily) because of timeliness considerations, an apparent lack of sufficient advance planning.

First up was Emerson School Principal Janet Grooms, who offered a well-planned statement of five areas of concern, all hinging on the TIMELINESS of the transfers.

As she began to elaborate her points, Grooms was interrupted by the Board President who asked if she wished to waive her rights to a hearing in executive session. When Principal Grooms said she wished to speak on the public record, one of the board attorneys also interjected on the matter, to which she assured him she wished to proceed. Board President Hernandez made a face that seemed to convey disbelief or displeasure that Grooms would forge ahead, but Grooms continued.

The audience was quite taken aback when, at the end of
Principal Grooms' five minutes and in the midst of the fourth of her five points, Board President Hernandez attempted to shut her down instead of graciously asking the Board to extend her time.

After Board member Lisa Logan-Leach moved an extension, the Board granted it on voice vote and with a round of applause from the audience.

Principal Grooms finished quickly, asking the Board to retract the proposed resolution, avoid starting the new school year with chaos and disruption, and take the next year to plan for an orderly transfer.

Denise Riley, an Emerson parent and former school board candidate, echoed Principal Grooms' main points, not disputing the Superintendent's prerogative to make transfers but citing the issues of timeliness and effect on overall staff morale.

Taking aim at the members who campaigned as the 'Grand Slam' team in 2010 (Hernandez, Campbell, Abdul-Haqq and Edwards), Riley said in reference to that team's email campaign 'I remember you guys being Dr. Gallons' worst nightmare...and I'm here to tell you I will start it again if necessary...'

And so the evening went, with more parents, students, teachers and staff, including several from Cedarbrook School. When I left, comments were still being made.

I was told by someone who stayed to the bitter end that the Board eventually went into executive session and that when a vote was finally taken it was 7 for, 1 against (Ms. Gilbert) and 1 abstention (Ms. Logan-Leach) [correction, 2 against (Ms. Gilbert and Ms. Logan-Leach, per a reader].

I have several observations concerning the evening and the issue of the transfers --

  • I find it difficult to understand why the Interim Superintendent didn't make the proposal in June, giving everyone the summer to get organized;

  • I find the Interim Superintendent's explanation of the reasons for the moves vague and unconvincing;

  • In reference to the Interim Superintendent's comment on the lack of 'a system of transfers', I can only ask if that wouldn't properly be part of the Board's policy-making role and, if so, why the Interim Superintendent is taking the initiative without a policy in place;

  • Walk-on resolutions, while they may be allowable, do not inspire confidence in the public's eye and seem sneaky and weaselly and either a sign of poor management skills or an attempt to fly under the public's radar;

  • The whole matter seems to me more like something that would be handled best by a new PERMANENT SUPERINTENDENT and not an Interim, who by my lights should be essentially a caretaker pending the arrival of a new hire;

  • Regarding the question of whether the state is watching the 'needy districts' as the Interim Superintendent mentioned in her opening remarks, one has to ask whether decisions such as last night's might not also be of interest to the state and cause them to question the Board's and Interim Superintendent's stewardship of the District and its students.
Lastly, I worry about the sense of disruption and chaos the District's staff and students will be facing come September 8th, and the lesson they can draw from it: If you are powerful you don't have to be responsible, you can just make it up as you go along.


Kremlinologists among Plainfield Today readers may find the Board's seating arrangement of interest: to the right of the President are Ms. Edwards, Ms. Campbell and the three new members; to her left are the Interim Superintendent, Mr. Abdul-Haqq, Ms. Gilbert, and -- in 'Siberia' -- Ms. Logan-Leach.



-- Dan Damon [follow]

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12 comments:

Bob said...

If our current superintendent is so disorganized and thoughtless, why do we keep her. She is getting paid too much as it is and doesn't seem to be doing the kind of job the people of Plainfield require. I think these people need to be reminded on a regular basis that they work for us, not the BOE and not the superintendent. We need to vote out the BOE as it seems to be blindly following the super and not thinking for themselves. Isn't that why we voted for the "dream team"? What are they receiving to make them out "nightmare team".

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting last night and it was totally unprofessional. The board president conducted the meeting 40 minutes late and was chewing gum, along with an attitude. How professional is that? Also, politics is being played big time. Do they really think ALL parents are clueless? There is a very strong group of involved parents that are educated. We do know that this is unfair and we plan to look into this situation further.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing professional about the board president. And this is who we want to set examples for children? She sets an example for having a bad attitude and manners.

Anonymous said...

Lisa and Brenda both voted NO on that item. Please correct.

Anonymous said...

We don't have a underperforming school system because our BOE and school administrators are good at what they do.

The BOE ruins children's lives every day. I hope they never get a good night's rest.

Anonymous said...

You speak on the actions of individuals who feel that are in the driver seat with power; well let’s think about it until city hall gets their act together why should anything else in the city. I feel the administration of the city should be working with the education system within our community. City Hall is run amuck and so is everything else. Folks only can find time to come out when they want to rally how about coming out ALL of the time or SOME of the time to let folks know you aren't going anywhere. There was a crowd with Gallon he left and so did everyone else and now this rally. But I will say this Mrs. Belin-Pyles has been through alot emotionally with the lost of her husband and my prayers go out to her and the family. But I will also give her the kudos that is deserved to her through all of this; she is still holding on. God Bless

Anonymous said...

As a former employee of the Plainfied BOE, this is how they work.

No notice, day of instructions that you are being moved to another school: the custodions show up with your boxes to label, 1week and then move on.

Concern should towards the Staff and Students who have spent the summer planning for September.

Nobody cares. . . . that is why NO SCHOOL passed muster last shcvool year.

New team elected, Same old. . . same old.. . .

"It must be in the walls"

"If you keep doing what you have been doing, expect the same results"

Anonymous said...

I was at the meeting last night. A gentlemen came out around 8:05 to annouce that the board would be late. That's more respect then we've gotten in the past. As for chewing gum, well I didn't noticed but i guess it depends on what you are focused on, she is good looking. The president is a parent so I don't think she would think parents are clueless. I hope when you uncover what is fair you share it unbiasly of course.

ConcernedParent said...

I was unable to attend last night's meeting but the feedback I received regarding it was nothing positive. I am also a very concerned, educated and involved parent. I was very disturbed by the lack of responsibility, organization, and concern from the board members of the Board of Education. It appears as if they do not believe they can be questioned about the decisions they make that are affecting our children. We definitely need to make a stand against them and show them who actually runs this town.

Anonymous said...

How can some one so concerned not be there? Such hypocrisy! The BOE doesn't ruin children's lives. Apathetic parents and public ruin children's lives. If this administrators are true professionals why wouldn't they be able to make the change. I hope they don't sabotage. Now there's a real reason for "concerned parent" to get off their duffs and come out.

Randy Schaeffer said...

This measure, coming so close to the beginning of school, is poor judgement on the part of the board and the interim superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Peeved Parent,
Wake up guys. I did. I was at the meeting and I saw a set up. A principal trying to get us to fight her war. Another one pushing parents to fight for him. WEAK. As a parent, I have no problem challenging a teacher ,principal,supt, or anyone on the board to get what I need for my children.They are just people with titles. I will not be manipulated.