OUR VIEW: School Board owes public explanation for Porter decisionDistrict 833 residents received surprising news last week when School Board members voted 5-2 not to renew Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract.
District 833 residents received surprising news last week when School Board members voted 5-2 not to renew Superintendent Mark Porter’s contract.
Board members Leslee Boyd, Ron Kath, Tracy Brunnette, David Kemper and Marsha Adou voted to end Porter’s decades-long employment with the district when his contract ends in June. (Laurie Johnson and Jim Gelbmann opposed the move.)
We imagine that was both baffling and frustrating to many residents in the South Washington County Schools community. A frank explanation for the decision has yet to be given. Board members have said little or nothing in public meetings about the decision.
To many this no doubt was a shock given that none of those five board members had publicly voiced concerns about the district’s direction under Porter. At least, they didn’t in a way that would lead the public to believe they wanted a new schools chief.
And we can’t help but note that Boyd and Kath mere weeks ago were re-elected following a campaign void of any publicly expressed concern by the candidates about the district’s leadership. It’s real hard to believe the reasons they had for deciding not to extend Porter’s contract bubbled up in the past month. That would suggest they were not satisfied with Porter but for whatever reason decided that wasn’t something voters should know.
Now, certainly state privacy laws limit public discussion of detailed personnel issues, but it appears some of those five board members want to use that as a convenient excuse for not explaining and defending their vote.
Residents of the district – and, by the way, voters who elected this board – deserve far more than that. To cut Porter loose without a solid explanation is puzzling and arrogant.
As far as the public has been told, the district is in sound financial shape. Porter deserves partial credit for that. The district faces an upcoming levy renewal. Porter, as superintendents generally are expected to, presumably would have been the district’s pitchman for that referendum.
Why, with so much on the line, would the board vote to end its most heavily vested official's role ahead of a possible levy renewal effort? Did board members believe Porter wasn’t the man to make a pitch?
Porter took the job in 2009, following a number of dramatic changes for the district. Were board members not happy with his oversight as the community adjusted to new attendance boundaries? Do they think he poorly handled administrative moves during the debate about an expanded Spanish immersion discussion? How about his management of a district that still is adjusting to a third high school – was that a concern for any of these five board members?
Was there something entirely different that provoked the decision not to renew? Was it merely a conflict of personalities or competing visions for the district?
The public for the most part has been left in the dark on a major decision that to outsiders, seemed to come out of the blue. The five board members responsible owe it to the people who elected them to shed some light.