2014

11 June 2014: School Board owes Clear Creek public an explanation

School Board owes Clear Creek public an explanation

Stunned, like so many in Clear Creek.  Todd Lancaster, home-grown superintendent unceremoniously axed in a chaotic forum that according to several accounts resembled more of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first” routine than a dignified deliberative body.  We, the public, having had little or no inkling of irresolvable division within the leadership and ranks of our schools were blindsided.

If Todd had done something illegal, law enforcement would be involved and the matter would be on District Attorney Bruce Brown’s desk.  That is apparently not the case, so all that remains is that he was at loggerheads with the Board and other players in the drama.  If that is the case, there is no reason for all the hush-hush and full-court press by the Board and a cadre of teachers with their letters to the Courant immediately on the heels of Todd’s dismissal.

Not only am I at a loss, but I am not, along with many others, willing to take the Board of Education’s official comments, which lack specific details about not only Todd’s out-of-the-blue axing but also the way it was done.  “Trust us,” no longer resonates.

From the outside based on reports in the Courant as well as by some who were present for the decapitation, it appears a coup d’état with the four of the six District stakeholders—BOE, administrators, staff and teachers—complicit in the affair with only the students and public playing no roles.  I want to be wrong, but my gut and the evidence suggest other.

A few weeks ago, it looked as if the writing was on the wall for one of the two principals at the overstaffed high/middle school administration: Either Elizabeth Gardner or Roz Marshall would be gone.  It looked also there might be a reorganization of the District’s staff.  Now, however, the implementer of those possible changes is gone and one of the potential “departees,” Roz Marshall, is in charge.

Good luck, Roz, given the life span of a CCSD superintendent.  Yes, Doug Price and Bill Patterson had to resign due to health issues, but to express it in the vernacular, the turnover rate sucks.

Todd’s firing circumstance isn’t passing the smell test.  It smacks of either cronyism in concert with underhandedness or incompetency at the highest level.  This is, after all, pretty much the same BOE that hired him two years ago after a nationwide search and told us he was the best among the applicants.  Now the BOE says they were not only wrong but also to trust them to get it right this time.

Sorry, but with all due respect, the credibility of all the players right now is languishing in Richard Nixon territory and will remain there until there’s a thorough public hashing.

The CCSD for years has been fragile, struggling with a dwindling population.  To the BOE’s credit, it, along with other county leaders, has been addressing the issue.  A most critical piece of the puzzle is bringing in a dynamic superintendent from the outside with no vested interest in protecting community sacred cows.

Todd was sold to us as that leader: Close enough, given his early life in and being Clear Creek educated, yet skilled and detached enough to make the assessment and devise a plan.  Change, however, comes with a price and usually involves seeing familiar faces and traditional ways of doing stuff gone.  Organizations that do not adapt by resisting change that reflect new realities are doomed.

The long-range implications of this mess are not good, for I cannot foresee any quality applicant being willing to step into what must seem like a dysfunctional community.

The BOE owes the citizens and taxpayers of Clear Creek a complete public accounting, and hiding behind its attorney and issuing blithe statements such as “it’s a personnel matter” or “Todd wasn’t a good fit,” won’t cut it.  There’s much to explain, immediately, not as one appalled citizen has written me, “in three months.”

“The three board members,” he writes, “obviously don’t understand the problems the county is having in attracting real people to live here, and the county’s efforts to position itself as an authentic close-to-metro-Denver mountain community for living and recreation.”

Indeed.

The dust won’t settle on this because school’s out for summer.  My hope is the BOE and the teachers who penned the letter will explain their actions in a public forum aired on KYGT.

Personal credentials: I am a Summit County Education Association past president during which time I led my teachers in collaboration with Superintendent Wes Smith and the BOE in writing a master contract, the first in the mountain region.

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