509-J again searching for leadership
By Tony Ahern
Last week in this space it was suggested the school board rethink the athletic director qualifications. The AD job was a smoking-hot, board-level issue last week. Suffice it to say it's been kicked down a peg or two.
Monday's resignation by Superintendent Guy Fisher after 18 months on the job is simply the latest crisis the 509-J board has had to deal with over the past few weeks. Fisher's bailing shouldn't have been much of a surprise. Basically since the previous board meeting, rumor-truths had been flying that he'd cleaned out his office, was gone on sick leave, all underscored by his house being on the market.
The rancorous teacher-district contract bargaining; the nebulous optional high school and the controversy over connecting it to an elementary school; the athletic director hiring process, which has angered longtime MHS athletic supporters in the community -- with all this, no wonder Fisher had developed a sick-leave-inducing headache and wanted out of town.
But wait, there's more. Last week police had to be called in and two middle school vice principals were cited after an F-word-laced confrontation at the school -- loud, angry and intense enough to rattle the building, literally and figuratively. It also caused considerable head-shaking around town, as in "What the heck were they thinking?"
In these litigious times, and the employee-protected climate public entities must deal with, the board isn't saying much about the incident. But one wonders, for a school with a zero-tolerance for fighting among students and a horrible reputation (whether deserved or not) as a rough school, how can the district allow these guys back?
The board is calling for the community to be patient and allow the district a chance to get through these tumultuous issues. We don't have much of a choice, really, but that's indeed what we'll have to do. The board reacted quickly by immediately starting a search for an interim superintendent. To address immediate and ongoing concerns and operation, the board selected a three-person team of capable current administrators. I would say the board has responded about as well as it could, considering the storm it's trying to weather.
Give board chair Steve Earnest credit, too, in saying the board and the district employees "need to lengthen our stride," in essence, to perform better. He's right.
There is no way that all the problems that this year has brought are the fault of Guy Fisher. However, for whatever reason, his leadership failed to deliver.
It's time to turn the page, and hopefully the story will improve.