11 February 2015: Tale of two boards and their leaders

Tale of two boards and their choice of leaders

Having followed the unfolding saga taking place within the Fire District, I can say this with certainty: I’m glad I’m not on the Fire Authority Board.  Talk about occupying a hot seat in the midst of a raging wildfire!

Having said that, I want to thank the board for dealing with the contentious issue about Fire Chief Kelly Babeon’s status in a transparent, professional manner.

Contrast the Fire Authority board’s handling of Babeon’s case with the Board of Education’s bungling of former Superintendent Todd Lancaster’s last May.  It’s a tale of two boards.

In Babeon’s and Lancaster’s cases, the protagonist has/had both staunch defenders and detractors hell-bent on seeing them go.  Further, both men have deep roots in the community and laudatory pasts—e.g., Lancaster’s military service and Babeon’s life-risking actions—adding to the complexity to their situations.

Third, in each case the leader of his respective board decided it was time for him to go and sprung his/her decision on the rest in a public forum.

What’s different, however, are the two boards’ responses to its leader’s out-of-the-blue call.

In Lancaster’s case, the rest of the school board caved to the will of President Jeanne Biggs; in Babeon’s case, the Fire Authority board didn’t rollover.  Rather, the Fire Authority board took a deep breath and instead of replacing Babeon, it replaced chair Gene Day, thus providing them time and opportunity for a more temperate and deliberate approach.

Kudos to the Fire Authority board for remaining calm in the inferno swirling around them and not allowing passion to derail Babeon’s rights; on the other hand, cat-calls for the BOE for running rough-shod over Lancaster’s.

Perhaps the school board did have “just cause” to dismiss Lancaster, but because of the shoddy way Biggs handled it and the fact two members—life-long attorney Peter Monson and Mitch Houston—flip-flopped after privately consulting in violation of the Sunshine Law after their original no votes, one questions their credibility.

At issue was the intention of Lancaster to institute major changes both in the district office and at the schools.  With declining numbers at the high and middle Schools, it was and still is financially irresponsible to employ two full-time administrators at the complex.  Either Elizabeth Gardner or Roslin Marshall had to go, and I suspect that it would’ve been Marshall, who has been officially installed, as I called it last summer, as permanent superintendent.
The perfect solution: Ax Lancaster, who was by many accounts a burr under Bigg’s saddle, and bump Marshall upstairs.  The problem is the school board’s actions have gotten them into a pickle, a Catch-22: The board cannot let Marshall go after all she’s done and they can’t keep her if they hire another superintendent; for her part, Marshall is indebted to the board for her good fortune, so not likely to bite the hand that has fed her.

There’s more.

Leading a district, even a tiny one such as Clear Creek, especially when it’s in dire straits, requires a complex, high-level skill set.  While holding personal respect for Marshall who is as wonderful a human being I’ve met, she, nonetheless, lacks the requisite credentials and expertise to reverse the ongoing decline in our schools.

Further, one of the superintendent’s primary jobs, if not his/her first, is to lead the BOE.  I’m trying to imagine Marshall going toe to toe with them.  It’s not happening.

This history calls into question Biggs’s leadership skills and style.  The district now faces difficulty in attracting a strong leader to guide it from its morass.  While I’m sure they’d deny it, another major factor in the BOE’s decision to give Marshall permanent status is that they concluded the district’s leadership reputation is so tattered, few if any top-notch candidates would apply.  That certainly would be embarrassing.

No public school district, including CCSD-RE1, belongs to the teachers or parents of currently enrolled students.  It belongs to the entire community as everyone has a vested interest in the education of our youth.  Besides, our tax dollars pay the bills and salaries.

We need a board and leader that understand the school board’s one employee is the superintendent and that once he/she is installed, that school board will allow him/her to run the show and to stick to its job of creating policy.

It’s time to end the inbreeding and for the school board and district Old Guards to step aside to allow fresh leadership and new ideas to chart a new course that will revitalize our schools and make them ones to which students flock, not depart from.

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