Making bad, worse

Upon returning back from a spring break getaway, I was greeted with an article in The News Tribune about Edgerton Elementary School principal Guy Kovacs’ reprimand for going outside the Puyallup School District’s chain of command in expressing concern about axing 13 of the 28 librarians in the district. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

He did nothing more than communicate with school board members about his concerns. This inflamed his supervisor, Lynne Rossellini, who in a written memorandum characterized this breach as “extremely serious” misconduct. Kovacs was on paid leave for two days in March during the “investigation.” This kind of thing is the priority?

With a publication date of April 12 on the story, and the letter of reprimand dated March 16th, it’s clear that reporter Debby Abe found out about this embarrassment, and then held the district’s feet-to-the-fire once she got the tip. It should not of happened that way.

There is little doubt that Kovacs should have probably brought his superiors into the loop about his concerns. He would have of course received a pat on the head, and been told that the district’s brain trust was considering every option to keep the pain from budget cuts to a minimum and that he should go back to his South Hill school – sit down, and shut up. His mistake was trying to influence policy through his and our elected officials by providing his professional and long-term insight to the table.

This kind of thing only serves to confirm the public’s worst suspicious about the public school system – even in Puyallup, which is generally held in high regard. The problem is that the districtís brain trust is too insulated and entrenched to recognize it. This incident just confirms that politics trumps common sense and that the worst characteristics of any government run enterprise infect all levels of the organization’s discourse. It doesn’t matter that librarians are going to be cut as much as it does that internal traditions and taboos are respected.

In this day of non-linear communications, ideas about running pure opinion “up the flagpole” are starting to look pretty stale. But if that is going to be how it works, why in the world would the district want to codify such backward thinking in something like a letter of reprimand?

I know, I know – the brain trust wants to make sure Kovacs knows the letter is on his “permanent record” – any school district’s ultimate threat.

But do you see the caricature taking shape? The top-down authoritarian, government run school district playing the “permanent record” card on a principal? It’s starting to sound like a script for High School Musical – The Just Plain Sad.

Last but not least, if the district brain trust decided to codify the uncodified in the letter of reprimand, why were they the last to the party? I mean, would you just let your principal “disappear” for a couple of days while rumors swirled? Don’t you know that letter is going to find its way to a reporter? Don’t you want to be first with the news so as not to confirm our worst suspicions about our public schools? Didn’t they do the “rumor control” portion of your public relations class?

I’m just asking.