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In Your Opinion:  The BOE Numbers Game – FHS Students are Casualties 

By John Felix, Somerset.

37th Day Term Superintendent; 608th Day FHS Principal; 20th Year BOE Officer 

On his 37th day as Interim Superintendent of the Franklin Township public schools, Dr. LeRoy Seitz – who returned to Education after a brief retirement – recommended to the BOE at its May 08th meeting that Mr. James Bevere, on his 608th day as Franklin High School’s 4th principal in 8 years, not be re-hired for the 2014-2015 school year. It could be argued that FHS students, staff and teachers experienced 7 leadership changes since 2005 if one considers the inclusion of previous Interim principalships of Mr. Orvyl Wilson and Mr. Ron Brundidge. Amazing!

The Board unanimously approved Dr. Seitz’s recommendation without any public discussions/debate among the 8 of 9 Board officers in attendance. And per a phone message to FHS families on Friday May 9th, Mr. Bevere’s “retirement” is effective immediately; his replacement on an interim basis is Mr. Orvyl Wilson, former FHS principal and currently Director of Student Advocacy.

Dr. Seitz, as chief education officer, is obliged to “assign staff to achieve the maximum effectiveness toward the attainment of educational goals.” He is also duty bound to “evaluate the progress of the teaching and support staff members in the performance of their assigned tasks.” Hence, his recommendations to the Board are within his fiduciary responsibilities. However, with respect Dr. Seitz, I’m perplexed that given his extremely short tenure as Interim superintendent, in contrast to the demonstrative academic success and much improved school culture at FHS during the past two years of Mr. Bevere’s leadership, that his recommendation was made, then thoroughly accepted by the Board. Has the Board, in vesting the primary responsibility for the administration of our district schools to Dr. Seitz, established total and absolute confidence in a 37-day term interim Superintendence such that his recommendations are definitive and do not warrant a public debate? Or is the more plausible explanation for his recommendation and eventual acceptance the workings/back room dealings of key Board officers to whose acquiescence an assurance of continued employment post a 6-month contract is secured? Given that the second of the two before mentioned duties has not been satisfied by Dr. Seitz, and the first is definitely not a necessity since FHS’ administrative team, under Mr. Bevere’s leadership, has achieved its academic goals and are fully engaged with FHS families to ensure that all students are afforded a quality education, why is Mr. Bevere treated so unjustly?

As previously alluded, the instability of FHS administrative leadership is endemic. With the exception the newly minted Board member, Mr. Potosnak, the current Board officers are fully aware that morale among staff and students at our flagship school is directly correlated with the continuity of strong, proven leadership. Hence, it’s terribly ironic that during a week of ‘Teacher Appreciation’ when teachers and educators are praised for their dedication to their students and commitment to their craft, our Interim Superintendent and the Board choose to unceremoniously separate a successful principal from his academically advancing school. It is a very sad day for the FHS community! The only hope is that this separation is not the beginning of a major brain drain from our schools.

Understandingly the general public, unlike Board members, is not privy to personnel information about district employees; however, it’s important, if not imperative, that reasons for the removal of a key school administrator, particularly one who has a proven success record, should be publicly debated without compromising his confidentiality. Absent of such a debate, the Board should have considered a time sensitive independent inquiry of the Superintendent’s recommendation given the combined factors of his abbreviated tenure and the principal’s long term proven leadership and success.

In the era of purported fiscal restraints, we are constantly reminded by BOE leadership and its political interest groups that central administration officials mismanage public funds; yet, we are told by our 37- day term superintendent and the BOE’s leadership, which includes a 20th year veteran Board officer, 15 as Board president, that FHS’ 4th principal in 8 years, on his 608th day as school building leader, will be handsomely paid to stay home. Sounds familiar?

In this Numbers Game, FHS students are casualties, and the common denominator is 20. Do we need to arrive at 21 to realize that the best interest of our public schools, and particularly its “fragile” pupils are not been served? The ‘Children First’ mantra is just that – a repetition!

 

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