This week’s board meeting was very disappointing. We continue to simply act as rubber stamps as we approve dozens of administrative hires and appointments. And we are doing this in the dark. I have requested data (exit interviews and teacher turnover data) for weeks. I believe that information is critical to the board’s ability to provide appropriate oversight as we vote on these issues. The district has still not provided this information. I moved to delay at least the administrative appointments (not the hires) until we received this data, so we could ask intelligent questions and make informed decisions. That motion was voted down. If the administration’s tactic was to delay providing the information until the board had completed most of these appointments and hires, it accomplished its goal. I will never understand why this information wasn’t provided to the board weeks ago. Or, why it isn’t shared with the board in the normal course of business throughout the year. We cannot do our job without this sort of information. And if anyone believes that we are having lengthy, thoughtful discussions based on real information in executive session, you’re wrong. We are not.
Removal of Dr. Hursey from LRHS
Now, I want to comment specifically on the removal of Dr. Hursey from Lower Richland High School. I have heard from parents, teachers, and students who are upset that this happened and have legitimate questions about the process.
First, I want to be clear that the board was not involved in reassigning Dr. Hursey to a different position. The administration did that on its own and has not informed the board about the basis of this decision. While I think the administration has the right to reassign folks should the need arise, this particular reassignment appears unusual.
There are very legitimate questions about why it was done and whether this move is in the best interests of the students and teachers at LRHS. I understand that LRHS had an incredibly low teacher turnover rate this past year, possibly one of the lowest in the district. When teachers stay at a school–especially after this past year–they are clearly saying that they trust their administration, especially their principal. That might not be the only metric to measure a school by, but it’s an important one. And by that measure, Dr. Hursey was doing something right.
Maybe at some point, the district will explain why they felt the need to remove Dr. Hursey, but they haven’t done so yet. I believe they owe the community more transparency than they have provided. My concern is that this is a “personal” issue rather than a “personnel” issue. That has no place in this district and does not serve our students.
A number of folks in the community have asked me why the district has edited Dr. Hursey’s graduation speech, which is posted online. I do not know. I was there for her speech and found it personal and impactful. Thankfully, you can view the unedited, full speech here beginning at the 47-minute mark. I think it is fair to ask the district who edited the speech and why.
By the way, we still have over 200 teacher vacancies. I explicitly asked what we are doing to ensure our high teacher turnover schools are filling their vacancies. I received a relatively vague answer indicating that the district was (1) helping potential teachers who had not passed their PRAXIS exam and (2) getting more visas for international teachers. When I asked how many additional visas we are receiving, the answer was “I don’t know.” I’m not sure how else to say it. That’s not good enough.