Viewpoint: Time to refocus energy in District 833The past several weeks have been difficult and challenging to me personally, and disruptive to the overall operations and effectiveness of the school district.
By: District 833 Superintendent Mark Porter, Woodbury Bulletin
The past several weeks have been difficult and challenging to me personally, and disruptive to the overall operations and effectiveness of the school district. I do not, and probably never will, agree with the District 833 School Board’s decision and the process followed to not renew my contract, but I must respect their authority to make such a decision.
I have greatly appreciated the encouragement and support received from so many members of the community (many of whom I have not met before). I must also at this time respectfully ask our community to refocus its efforts and attention. The issue needs to no longer be about me and this decision, but rather about healing the damaged relationships and loss of trust between segments of the community, employees of the South Washington County Schools and the elected School Board. Let the healing begin.
In his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” author and researcher Patrick Lencioni outlines a pyramid of reasons for why teams do not function effectively. At the base of the pyramid is “absence of trust.” Trust, or lack thereof, is a word and a concern that I have heard often in the past several weeks. Regardless of one’s perspective on the issue at hand it must be clear to everyone that through this recent series of events there has been a lack of trust, both within the School Board and externally among significant portions of the community. If the next selected leader of the South Washington County Schools is going to be successful, this restoration of trust must be addressed and resolved. It is toward this end that I would encourage those involved to focus their efforts at this time.
The South Washington County School District continues to be a great place to learn and is supported by an outstanding group of dedicated employees and supportive communities. There is no one person responsible for the success of these school/community relationships, and no one person will be responsible for their continuance. Sustaining these essential relationships between leadership, employees and our communities will require intentional and committed efforts to restore trust and open communication. It will be the School Board’s obligation to create such opportunities, and I am confident they will. It will be the community members’ obligation to take advantage of such opportunities and to share their hopes, dreams and desires for our schools and our communities. I strongly encourage you to do so. In such a process all participants must be humble and respectful, willing to listen and consider differing viewpoints, while seeking the common ground and consensus — an increasingly lost art in our politically divided society today.
I’ve heard from various individuals that an appropriate community response might be to oppose a likely operating levy renewal in 2013. I want to clearly and unequivocally state that I believe this is not the proper course of action. I have long advocated for the fact that great schools and great communities go together. While I may not be part of the planning and presentation of the next levy initiative, I do want to express my support for such an effort on behalf of the students of the South Washington County Schools.
I have spent nearly 34 years in public education because I passionately care about kids and how great schools can truly make a difference in their lives. I see the potential for the events of the past several weeks to continue to divide and diminish our effectiveness as a school district.
Again, I encourage everyone to redirect their efforts and energies. We can continue to ignite a passion for lifelong learning in all of our students, but only if we work together to do so. Thank you.
Porter is superintendent of District 833