The Galway school board pulled by what all appearances was a bait and switch last week, and its vice president’s explanation for it doesn’t make the offense any more palatable.
As reported in Thursday’s Gazette, the board had placed the discussion of a controversial plan to grant early tenure to three administrators on the agenda of its May 23 meeting a few days before the meeting took place; then, on the day of the meeting, it posted a revised agenda online with the item no longer present — leading at least some members of the community who wanted to speak against the plan to simply skip the meeting. But the board took the issue up after all, and approved the plan, 4-2.
The vote granted tenure to two principals and an associate principal, all hired last summer, as of July 1. It’s a highly unorthodox move that Thomas Rumsey, the board’s vice president, says was justified because the district has been having trouble keeping administrators. Early tenure was a way to provide some much-needed stability a year after the superintendent and all but one administrator left the district.
It’s hard to argue with that goal, but it seems unlikely, frankly, that without such a drastic step, lightning would strike twice in successive years. After all, the previous administrators left for a variety of reasons — they weren’t all dissatisfied with the district.
State Education Law stipulates that administrators, like teachers, are supposed to serve a three-year probationary period before being granted tenure. Exceptions are permitted, but they are usually reserved for those who have been on the job for two years, Jay Worona, general counsel for the state School Boards Association told a reporter last week. Understandably, a good number of Galway residents opposed the move, and wanted a chance to let the board know. But they stayed away from the meeting after it appeared the item had been taken off the agenda.
Rumsey says the switch wasn’t done to mislead the public. He insists he meant to move the item from the “consent” (i.e. rubber stamp) agenda to “new business,” and blamed the omission on “clerical error.” If that’s the case, though, why did the online agenda specifically indicate the item had been removed?
Under the circumstances — both the agenda snafu and the fact that it knew there was opposition within the community — the board simply should have tabled the item after the discussion so as to give the full public fair a chance to weigh in on it.
There was no valid reason to have rushed a vote last week.