Tuesday, April 10, 2007

hard decisions

Last night was the hardest night of my year. When I was approached about running for the school board one of my main objections was that I did not want to be responsible for firing teachers. Let me stop here before anybody gets the wrong impression about any school board grandeur. This is a small school with around 250 students. I ran unopposed with no campaigning. I simply registered at the court house to put my name on the ballot then showed up at the polls to vote for myself. The next thing I know I'm sitting at a table with my own little name plate.
Teacher evaluations were the main item on out agenda last night. It's not that there haven't been a few teachers over the years I would really have liked to get a chance to fire. I just don't take changing peoples lives lightly. Basically that is what the seven of us do. In a small community like ours we get to know these people and their families during their first year of teaching. We sit with them at ball games, we invite their children to birthday parties. Then we sit around a table and discuss if they will still have a job here next year, or if they will have to pack up and move away from us.
One of the new teachers last night, Tams, is a very good friend of mine. Both of her parents and even her grandparents grew up in the community. This was one evaluation I wasn't too worried about. When it was time to hire her last year I knew her well enough to know she would be excellent. I like to think that I would have had the courage to turn down her application if I didn't believe she would be a good fit for our school. We will never know though, will we?
Two new teachers last night were asked to resign. This was hard. One of them was an older teacher who was just finishing up his second year here. If we offered him a contract he would be tenured. I knew going into the meeting that I would not vote to offer him a new contract. This is an extremely nice guy, so I was feeling very mean about this. My mantra going into the meeting was 'your responsibility is to the students'. In the end I felt we made the right decision, even though it was hard.
The next one I still don't know about. Part of me thinks we were right to ask him to resign. Another part of me believes I was right to be the one dissenting vote. A first year teacher has a lot of room for improvement. We had one more year before we tenured him, so I was willing to try to work with him on some of his weaker points. I also wondered, in the back of my mind, if part of the problem was that he didn't play the good ol' boy game well enough. One of the opinions we were given last night came from a man who came in the same time as this guy and was in direct competition with him for a few coaching spots. My opinion of this other guy is that he plays the game very well and has formed a kind of a men's club with the administrators. I'm still not sure what I think about this one.
The hardest part was that all of the interesting parts of the meeting took place in executive session. Legally I am bound not to discuss them. Parts of this post are crossing the line a little. Not saying anything to dh, my kids, or Tams when she called last night was very hard, because I really needed to talk out that last one to get a better handle on my feelings about it.

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