http://paloaltoonline.com/print/story/print/2006/11/01/editorial-put-conflict-first-in-schools-meeting


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 1, 2006

Editorial: Put conflict first in schools meeting

Late night is no time for ìopen discussionî of crisis

The decision to schedule an end-of-agenda discussion of how to respond to management's concerns with Superintendent Mary Frances Callan is a disservice to the many staff and parents interested in what has become a major crisis in the district.

The Board of Education has opted to add the hiring of an organizational-development expert to its special meeting Thursday night, where it is scheduled to hear annual ìschool improvement planî (SIP) reports from the districtís dozen elementary schools plus Young Fives program. The plan is to hire an outside person to interview members of the district's management team and senior administrators and report back to the board.

The board leadership opted to first hear from principals -- approximately five- to 10-minute reports -- and then to get to the management conflict issue after acting on salary agreements with the teachersí and classified employeesí unions.

The fact that the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. may be a saving grace, board President Mandy Lowell says, in that it could mean the management discussion would come up by 9 p.m. or sooner. Even though past SIP meetings have extended much longer, principals this year have expressed a desire to cover the ground more quickly, she said.

The management conflict relates to a document presented to district top administrators on Sept. 6. It stated that there was a basic lack of trust of key administrators by the 48-member middle-management group of principals, assistant principals, program coordinators and school psychologists. The document conveys serious concerns.

Last week, at the request of trustee Gail Price, the board voted to discuss the matter publicly for the first time, and it was added to Thursday nightís agenda rather than wait for a regularly scheduled meeting later in November.

In the absence of a willingness to move the item forward on the agenda, if this item gets pushed past 9 p.m. for whatever reason the board should convene a special meeting next week with this as the sole agenda item. Itís that important.

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