03/02/2011: "LETTERS ON SJISD BOARD"
At this point in time I would strongly urge the School Board and Principal Selection Committee to re-instate Gary Pflueger for school year 2011-2012.
The controversy over his firing that has torn this community will not go away for many years to come, but the practical solution in the face of a lack of candidates and a lack of incentive for new candidates trumps the ideology that caused his termination.
The best case scenario at this point, as I see it, is an inferior or a temporary hire which is a greater disservice to the elementary students, staff and faculty than Plueger's return (should he want to).
However noble the motives for his removal among the school board members in the beginning were, they are superseded by the necessity of serving the community with a working system to the best of their ability for the upcoming year.
The fact is that the school worked well with Gary Pflueger and although there must be conflicts with his educational philosophy and/or educational principles in the long term, the short term solution is on the doorstep. Can the school board rise to this occasion?
Can the school board put the kids immediate welfare over their pride and adherence to a long range ideology (which is a matter of dispute anyway)? Once again the school board has the opportunity to listen to the community and I hope they realize that there is some respect to be salvaged in doing so.
San Juan Island
We have observed, as closely as possible, the dialogue arising from recent actions taken by the school board.
We have attended community meetings, also attended by a school board member. His presence was apparently to listen to the concerns expressed by community members.
He appeared receptive and interested, but nothing changed.
We have attended school board meetings where the board invited comments from community and then completely ignored them. This resistance to community input is a basis for Recall II.
Each of us have a Masters degree in Education and were participants in a federally supported program specializing in the education of underrepresented youth. We taught migrant youth in the Everglades of Florida and Eskimo children in the bush in northern Alaska. The clear focus of this educational program was group process, both as an educational technique and as an administrative tool. The presentation of differing points of view was encouraged, rewarded and celebrated. We were fortunate participants in an quality and innovative educational "think tank." It is through this debating of divergent points of view that sound public educational policy emerges.
Here, it gets you fired. Firing an administrator for expressing differences in educational philosophy is unconscionable and pathetic.
We are suspicious of school boards that act in apparent consistent unanimity. Such agreement is usually the result of uncaring participants or intimidation by dominant members.
In either case, the students suffer from the loss of creative and imaginative leadership.
In most meetings at least one board member invited concerned community members to run for a school board position. Implicit within this statement is the challenge, if you think you can do the job better than us, then go for it. We will.
We have been impressed by the thoughtful and insightful comments of our neighbors who have attended and participated in these meetings. We have been impressed by the letters to the editors authored by insightful community members with widely varying life experiences who genuinely care about the staff, teachers and students.
The upcoming November election will fill three vacant seats and create a new majority on our school board. There is no shortage of community members who have already demonstrated the integrity and courage to meet this challenge.
The new school board:
Item #1 for this new school board should or must be the acceptance of Supt. Thompson's resignation. This is the only way to begin anew the rebuilding of confidence and trust.
Item #2 will be the search for the new Superintendent. This educator must be experienced in the administration of smaller school districts. Our school district presents different challenges than a large urban district. We understand that the schools form a core of small community. This educator must be capable of generating the trust of all faculty, of generating the trust and respect of all parents and, most importantly, the trust and respect of the students. This educator should lead, not be empty rhetoric, but by example.
Such a candidate is indeed rare and will no doubt require an expansive search. But, then again, such an educator who possesses these shared core values may reside in our community already. This person has already distinguished himself as the principal of our elementary school.
Just imagine what Mr. Pflueger's quiet dignity, integrity and honesty can bring to the district. He has demonstrated the ability to support his teachers, staff and students. He will facilitate discussions involving creative and imaginative educational policies resulting in the improvement of the administration of our school district and, most importantly, facilitate student success.
As a community we are now presented with an opportunity to have a quality educator as well as administrator; we must seize it.
Steve and Joann Ashlock
I would like to help “refresh” our memories with the announcement made by Michael Soltman, SJI Superintendent, reported in the San Juan Journal, May 27, 2008:
“Gary Pflueger will be recommended to the school board as the new principal of Friday Harbor Elementary School.” It continues…Pflueger is a “very effective principal who has a strong record of promoting student achievement, creating a safe and collaborative school climate, and developing positive relationships with students, parents and community," Soltman said in a press release.”..."He understands school administration in a small community, fosters a common vision for excellence and speaks with passion of his commitment to the success of every student.”
Having volunteered many, many hours at FHES during Gary’s leadership, I have witnessed firsthand the vision for excellence and the commitment to the success of every student which Mr. Soltman praised Gary for in this press release. We have grown as a school community because of Gary’s willingness to listen to all stakeholder’s ideas and concerns. The outcome has been increased academic scores from our students in a safe, nurturing learning environment.
It also reports, “Pflueger was selected from a pool of 14 candidates and two finalists that were interviewed by the search team. In addition to the team interview, each candidate met with faculty, parents and community members.” And, ”Soltman reported that the search team” “had an impressive pool of candidates to choose from at a time when there were many positions open across the state. We are so pleased that Gary and Annie will be joining our schools and community." I also recall that David McCauley was on this search team.
The article also reports, “He received his master's degree in educational administration at Idaho State University in 1994.” By the way, I understand Gary actually wrote a Thesis during his master’s program. Should anyone want to read the entire Journal article, here is the link http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/sanjuans/jsj/news/19287629.html
I have two boys at FHES and we have a lot to lose as a school community if Mr. Pflueger is “forced” to resign. It should be his choice whether he wants to stay or go. Gary Pflueger continues to show amazing strength and character in the wake of this “perfect storm”.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
Gary Pflueger has been our elementary principal for less than 3 years. He has worked under three different superintendents each with differing styles and priorities. During that time we endured the Crumb Rubber Debacle and the transition of 6th grade to the elementary school. Multiple transitions in leadership and school structuring has left our school vulnerable to conflict. Instead, our elementary school is thriving. Parents are happy, children love their principal and teachers are empowered.
I believe our school board members are reasonable individuals. That is why I am convinced there must be a number of signatures that could persuade them to re-evaluate their position regarding the employment of Principal Pflueger. In less than two days, we managed to collect nearly 350 names of concerned parents, community members and child advocates that support Principal Pflueger. It was not enough. Our school board has remained steadfast in its decision to hire a new principal for our elementary school. Our five volunteers are confident they know what is best for our children. These five volunteers believe they know, beyond reasonable doubt that the path they have chosen is in the best interest of our community.
Several board members have admitted there is nothing that could change their position on this issue. Is this true? Has their short time and limited interaction with Mr. Pflueger provided them with sufficient knowledge to guarantee that their opinion is more informed than ours? Do these volunteers feel confident that their knowledge and expertise qualifies them to make this decision, in spite of overwhelming public support for Gary Pflueger? Perhaps this is more about how our school appears on paper. Perhaps it is about guidelines and statistics generated at state and federal levels. Maybe our volunteers have been swept up in the latest education reform circulating our nation, much of which is based on large urban districts. Is there truly no number of signatures that could make them stop and question, “Is this truly best for our children and is this the appropriate time to begin a new principal search?”
How many parents would it take, how many teacher’s signatures, how many child advocates, how many principals and education professionals would it take to influence their decisions? I do not want a recall. I want a board that is reflective, that accepts input and continually questions the foundation of their beliefs. Our board members have offered much to this community. I’m certain that under different conditions, some of them would be on our side right now. I’m trying desperately to reach them, to be heard, to be listened to.
Let’s continue to gather signatures from those most involved with our elementary school, those that work with young children in our community, as well as educational professionals both past and present who have known and worked closely with Mr. Pflueger. Let’s see if there is a number that will get their attention. Let’s see if we can demonstrate there is sufficient reason to re-consider their position. They are, after all, volunteers representing us.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
I have written this as a single board member. Although I believe everything I have included has been discussed in public meetings, here it represents only my opinion.
One could easily conclude from Mr. Pflueger’s recently published narrative (subject Guest Column) that he has been a victim of an unfair system. I have been involved in each event he describes and know that to be untrue. Over the past two plus years Gary has received direct, consistent, constructive feedback as to ways in which he needed to improve his skills and behaviors. This feedback has been based on a set of well understood and well researched performance expectations for elementary school principals. Not only has he not acted on this feedback, he has openly disputed its validity. Gary claims to “sincerely believe no one person is more important than the education of the children in a community”. If that is the case, then it is time for him to move on.
Mr. Pflueger’s reaction to this feedback including in our most recent meeting (discussed in detail below) has continued to convince me that he is not the right person to lead Friday Harbor Elementary. I have been disappointed by his refusal to take the steps necessary to allow the school and the community to heal. His latest attempt to return to his job more than two months after voluntarily resigning (which is now throwing our district into further turmoil) is placing his personal need and desires ahead of the best interest of the children and the district.
Mr. Pfleuger first received feedback about the need to improve his skills the day he was offered the Friday Harbor Elementary Principal position. Then Superintendent Michael Soltman communicated his reservations to Mr. Pfleuger about his hiring. He was told that there were concerns about his lack of demonstrated educational leadership. At that time Superintendent Soltman received a commitment from Mr. Pfleuger that he would make a concerted effort to build his knowledge and skills in these areas.
“Educational leadership” is not a code word for some esoteric set of administrative duties. It is at the core understanding and identifying what is needed to provide a better education for the students, communicating a vision and charting the path to make those improvements, proposing and aligning plans and funding within the district, the staff, and the community, and guiding the implementation of those plans through to a set of measurable objectives. Studies have shown conclusively that while teachers and community play hugely important roles in our schools, it is the quality of the educational leadership provided by the principals and superintendents which most directly determines overall student achievement.
In his first year performance review with Mr. Soltman, Mr. Pfleuger was found to be deficient in areas of educational leadership and building administration. He had shown little or no effort to make improvements in these areas. While Mr. Soltman gave acceptable review scores, the review narrative describes this significant need for improvement.
In the following year, Interim Superintendent Walt Wegener expressed serious concern with Mr. Pfleuger’s ability to perform his job and his unwillingness to respond to feedback. It was only at the insistence of the Board that he be given more time to improve that Mr. Wegener refrained from putting Mr. Pfleuger on a plan of improvement at mid-year. At the end of this year, Mr. Pflueger’s performance review clearly communicated to him that his performance in educational leadership and building administration remained unacceptable and that despite the feedback he was receiving he was neither showing effort nor making progress toward the goals which had been identified for him. Mr. Pfleuger wrote a letter rejecting the conclusions in Mr. Wegener’s review and asked that it be placed in his file.
In October 2010, new Superintendent Rick Thompson expressed concerns to the board and to Mr. Pflueger about his performance in these same key areas. He began a series of regular meetings with Mr. Pflueger in which he expressed his concerns to him and suggested concrete steps for making improvements. Again, Mr. Thompson was met with resistance. Most significantly Mr. Pflueger, without consultation, resigned from a state training program which Mr. Thompson had identified as being critical to his career growth. To a third superintendent it became clear that Mr. Pfleuger had a very different belief about what is important in elementary school administration, and was unwilling to take feedback to the contrary. This was presented to him in another substandard performance evaluation for which he again wrote a letter of disagreement.
Mr. Pflueger was then given three choices: a structured plan of improvement in which Mr. Thompson would work directly with him in the needed areas, an alternate administrative role in the district, or resignation. Mr. Pflueger chose to resign. There was no coercion in this process. Plans of improvement have many safeguards and appeals procedures. They are designed with many legal safeguards to give the employee every opportunity to succeed. The administrative option was a valid job offer and would have allowed Mr. Pflueger to continue to contribute to the district with a generous salary and benefits.
After he submitted his resignation letter, Mr. Thompson and I met with Mr. Pflueger to discuss how he would like it to be communicated. As with many resignations of this sort there were two options: either openly discuss the issues which led up to the parting of ways, or to allow Mr. Pfleuger to say that this was a personal decision and to begin looking for a new job with as little of a cloud over his head as possible. Clearly we would not lie for him, but also would not offer more information than necessary. Mr. Pfleuger expressed a strong desire for the latter, to communicate that this resignation was his choice. We agreed to this strategy, which unfortunately I now regret.
Throughout this entire process the fundamental issue has not changed: Mr. Pfleuger professes that if he provides a safe civil and productive climate for the staff and students, and does little more, the students will thrive educationally. We have great teachers at Friday Harbor Elementary. They are continuing to initiate and implement wonderful enhancements to our educational programs. But, this alone is not enough. We are a small district with three individuals tasked with the primary responsibility of designing and leading in the implementation of our district-wide curriculum: the two Principals and the Superintendent. They must all be active participants in this process for it to succeed. There is room for our district to do substantially better for our children than it is doing today. It can only do this with the right leadership.
Three Superintendents, a district consultant, the Superintendent of our regional schools district, and the Board of Directors have felt that it is necessary for Mr. Pflueger to step up to contribute as an educational leader, and believe that, not only has he not done so, he has consistently refused to even acknowledge this as a valid requirement. Recently the board met with Mr. Pflueger for three hours to discuss his proposal to rescind his resignation. At this time we explored in depth whether there was any change of heart on Mr. Pflueger’s part to accept and work toward the leadership the state standards require of a principal and the past three Superintendents have asked of him. His answer was no, he would not.
Now, Mr. Pflueger has publicly stated his desire to return as the Elementary Principal and there are those who continue to persecute the district trying to get it to accept this offer. This is a very difficult and unpleasant situation.
While I fully realize how popular Mr. Pflueger has been with the children, the staff and the community, I believe that I was elected foremost to help provide the best education for the children of our community. It is my opinion that a decision to bring Mr. Pflueger back as Elementary Principal, would be to refute decades of well accepted research into school leadership, and while obviously popular with many in the near-term, would be selling our schools and the children of our community short.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
I understand why Gary Pfleuger asks that we not pursue the school board recall, but I find myself at odds over his position on the matter, for the same reason he is against the recall: the good of the students, teachers, and schools.
There appear to be only two possible ways of interpreting the Board’s action toward Principal Pfleuger:
Case 1: The Board wanted to get rid of Mr. Pfleuger, for reasons that seemed good to them, and without a fuss, so they blackmailed him into resigning- "“resign now and we will give you a good recommendation”.
Case 2: Mr. Pfleuger was a terrible principal and the board has cause to want to get rid of him, preferably without a fuss, so they said if he would resign, they would lie and give him a good recommendation.
I don’t want my property tax dollars to support this kind of leadership for the children of my community, so I’m in favor of a recall.
And by the way, why is the Board diverting badly needed education dollars to pay lawyers when they have a perfectly good insurance policy that covers this expense?
Remember, a recall only gives the voters of San Juan Island a choice in who will provide educational leadership-"it’s not a lawsuit against the Board members.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
The hundreds of community members who unwaveringly support Gary Pflueger are determined to seek justice for him and his family and truth from the school board. They are not troublesome teenagers nor people who do not understand Democracy. These many parents, teachers, school staff and concerned citizens have long suspected a wrong was done and sought to right it. Now, in light of Gary Pflueger's letter, it is beyond doubt that the suspicions of this group are well founded.
The action taken by the five people on the board and the new superintendent have been questioned and resisted for a long time already, but the community has met with nothing but a stone wall. These six people have been asked repeatedly and respectfully, intelligently, to reconsider, to explain, to work with everyone, to no avail.
We all understand the difficulty of the school board job, that they are volunteers. However, we still expect these volunteers to do the best job possible and to do it within the law and honestly and openly. Certainly, the school board has done many good things and we thank them for that. But this decision and action against Principal Pflueger is not one of them.
The minimization of Rick Thompson's misrepresentation of his credentials by Rick himself, by the entire board and by Mr. Jenkins is deeply troubling. It is condoning a lie, period. Anything else they want to call it in order to dismiss it is misleading and insulting. It is far more than a misspeak, a poor choice of words, a single, simple, honest mistake. It is a deliberate misrepresentation, a falsification of his credentials.
To compound that is the now obvious, blatant, deception and continual lies that have come forth from the board regarding why Gary was compelled to resign. Can we, the community of this island, really continue to blindly support these actions. How many of you would encourage your children in school to cheat on tests because passing them was everything? How many of you would tell your children that lying is ok as long as you get away with it?
The children of Friday Harbor Elementary School are smart and perceptive. They see and hear what is going on around them. Is this the way we want to raise our children? They see that there are lies being told, people being hurt, people being frustrated and that people are searching for answers, for truth, for justice. Children understand these concepts. The behavior of the school board on this single issue, the forced dismissal of a widely loved and respected man, who has done no wrong, the acceptance of the lie, by the superintendent, which allegedly gave him the expertise to make such a negative evaluation of Mr. Pflueger, the abject refusal to reconsider and so much more, are an insult to our children.
In consideration of everything that has now come to light, it is imperative that the community and the school board reconsider what has transpired and how to correct an egregious wrong. This isn't about money. This is about truth and justice, fairness and decency. This is about a good man and his family being ruined by a disastrous and disingenuous agenda by a few, and about the public's right and determination to find the truth and right a wrong. This is about our children.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
Enough, please. Perspective, please. Nobody is embezzling school district funds; no student has been molested at school; no superintendent has been caught with illicit drugs in their home; no teacher had sex with a student; no major cheating scandal; nor have any other major crimes or breeches of trust been committed that have occurred in other districts prompting this kind of action. The School Board, collectively or individually, and/or the Superintendent are not engaged in some conspiracy or personal vendetta; they are only inherently flawed human beings like you and me and are trying to do the best jobs they can. These fine people do not deserve to be treated this way. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would react to being vilified and attacked verbally, and even personally. They are good people who have much experience in various fields, are raising families, and they bring their passion for quality education to the table along with their skills. They are fully engaged members of this amazing island community. The Superintendent made a mistake and has coped to it, regardless of how you feel about his methods. He now has a serious censure letter in his personnel file for the rest of his life, which is not to be taken lightly; seriously.
The SJISD is, and has been for some time, an exemplary school district in the midst of mostly mediocrity around the state and nation. The SJISD is constantly improving and our schools are regularly recognized for their excellence. This progress has been happening long before Gary Pflueger arrived. It has happened over years with different staff and board members all working toward a common goal; an excellent public school education for our island children.
We moved from Maui because we did not want to raise our son in the state whose public schools regularly ranked 50th nationally for quality of education. My sister teaches in California and said the high numbers/rankings on the SJISD WA State Report Card are something they could only dream about there. I realize that Gary Pflueger has rare skills and made a difference in many lives. He should be applauded for that. However, it seems clear that he did not have some skills that are absolutely necessary in the current education environment in our state and country. So be it. Tough decisions need to be made in this complicated world. The petition for recall, document demands and other actions against these public servants are doing more damage (financial, professional, personal, educational) than the loss/replacement of one Elementary School Principal. If you want to effect change, please fully commit yourself and run for the school board positions in the fall. Be part of the hiring process and continue to attend school board meetings. But, please stop with tactics that you wrap in the blanket of democracy. Another letter writer wrote recently; “just because you can do something does not mean that you should.” We need to move forward.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
Over the years we have watched our schools improve. This has been the result of the work of our district staff, our wonderful community supporting our schools, and our school organizations. It has all happened under the direction of our school board -five individuals who put careful thought and research into their decisions. We hope our community will take the time to seek valid information and consider the disastrous outcome if our board and/or superintendent were to be forced out, or to walk away. The recall petition and continual requests for records are using valuable time and money from our district resources. Mr. Pflueger has publicly asked us to accept his resignation and to move forward. Mr. Thompson’s reference to a master’s thesis did not warrant any sanctions from the state of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. His twenty-five years as a teacher, principal, director of curriculum and student learning, and superintendent were reviewed by members of a superintendent search committee made up of teachers, parents, counselors and principals and he stood out as the top choice for our district. We urge community members to become involved in a positive way, and to allow school employees to focus on their daily work to do the best job possible in educating our island children.
Gordy Waite, Beth Spaulding, Rod Turnbull, Catherine Buchanon, Steve Smith, Fred Woods, Cindy Williams, Andrew Anderson, Becky Shanks, Simone Burle, Kay Jakutis, Greg Sawyer, Tamara Sindelman, Susie Hale, Barbara Van Eeckhout, Marc Vermeire, Nick Frazee, Nina Page, Binney Haenel, Jesse Visciglia, Linda LoBue, Tina Jones, John McMain, Darrin Scheffer, Sarah Mandzen,, Ruthie Paull, Brook Landers, Janet Olsen, Cheryl Opalski, Deb Nickelson, Terresa Sundstrom, Larry Wight, Marie Rothlisberger, Sally Waite, Nancy Jones, Darlene Nixon, Michele Mayer, Ann Bell, Carol Christianson, Bob Christianson, Michael Soltman, Krissy Haugen-Soltman, Cynthia Hubbard, Val Curtis, John Stamey, Cat Bordhi, Jody Metzger
Katy Barsamian, Sherry Lawson, Chris Lawson, June Arnold, Joel Arnold, Mary Ellen Foster, Mick Foster, Kylie Foster, Karen Skoog, Jim Skoog, Nancy Young, Kris Brown, Jeff McDonald, Jane Sawyer, Mark T. Anderson, Mike Close, Jan Close, Kerwin Johnson, Margaret Johnson, Bob Jones, Sonia Webster-Hills, Andy Hills, Emily Carrington, Teri McPadden, Dave Meiland, Clark Gilbert, Ann Einboden, Laura Saccio, Diane Hall, Sam Jacobson, Alejandra Zacci-Jacobson, Hannah Snow, Pablo Lopez, Caitlin McCauley, Colleen Carlton, Kevin Carlton, Leo Michael, Christine Michael, Jeri Ahrenius, Mike Ahrenius, Steve Porten, Shann Weston, Elena Porten, Mariya Porten, Declan Place, Ted Strutz, Tom Nolan, Todd Kromer, Cathy Kromer, Candy Bowers, Linda Prager, Suzanne Franklin, Franki Guard, Melissa Guard, Thane Bolger, Alisa Schoultz, Chris Bevens, Neil Curtis, Lenore Bayuk, Trish Lehman, Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, Bob Mancuso, Pamela Williams, Ellen Goudie, Megan Goudie, Denis Goudie, Liz Covert, Jim Cumming, Judy Cumming, Scott Spaulding, Travis Ayers, Jennifer Ayers, Steve Cutting, Debbie Cutting, Veronica Romey, Doris Estabrooks, Chris Spaulding, Sandi Guard, Keith Guard, Phil Hickenbottom, Jim Carroll, Wendy Cuomo, Joe Cooper, Paula West, Mary Jane Anderson, Joan Shelden, Steve McDonald, Steve Buck, Doug Peckman, Carla Wright, Wendy Wood, Scott Boden, Kathy Cope, Kohl Metzger, Sue Nielson, Christina Giamalis, Sam Buck, Aimee Urata, Anne Sheridan
(Above submitted by
San Juan Island)
To the Editor:
At a recent board meeting a member of the audience stood and asked the board members a series of valid questions. When he finished, the board began to answer some of his questions. Brent Snow then asked the parent if he had ever committed a crime.
As irrelevant and as condescending as this was, they have opened a door that I will now walk through and ask them a question of my own; Have any of you ever been cheated on by a partner in life? Lied to so completely that all trust was gone? If you could set aside your pride and stop looking down on us for a minute and recognize how you make a lot of us feel, you would recognize that feeling of mistrust in us. What we read in your eyes when you don’t answer our straightforward questions. What we see on your faces when we have the nerve to want to have a say in what is going on in our children’s schools.
I want to hope that some board members are having a hard time with how they are handling this situation. I understand that some may not. To any members that lie awake at night thinking, “these lies are really bothering me, but I cannot let down my fellow board members” - This news just out, the board is probably going down anyway and then you will have to live with your lie. Speak what is really in your heart and on your mind. Please. The community will be put out of its misery quicker and with less expense.
Some board members and superintendent (s) may be successful at lying and have profited from it in business/politics for a long time throughout their careers. You have got to admit that greasing the skids with a lie or two can simplify and speed up things. In lying however, there are some degrees of risk. The board have taken risks in the past that have worked out for them; the ball park development, the school lunch program, promoting our superintendent in our paper as being more qualified for his position than he actually is, just to name a few. This time though it appears that number has come up. After some of the board brought in Rick Thompson and then quickly stopped supporting Gary Pflueger in his position as our FHES principal- it went too far. I have had enough. A lot of us have.
Lies for some are easy, especially when they have been successful at it for a long time. In these cases it comes across as if the conscience has become blurred and the individual(s) believe their own lies. It is up to the individual to find his or her conscience and to develop or not to develop it. Some of the happiest folks I know are not perfect, but aren’t hiding behind anything either.
What I am hoping for is some truth from our school board members. Not the stories and fabrications that have been spun to cover up the misuse of leadership in the name of personal agenda and incompetence, but the simple truth that got us to the stand off we are facing today. The truth they say, will set you free.
The way that I am feeling and the words I am using do not stem from idle gossip or water cooler conversations. They come from first hand experiences with the board at school board meetings, reading misrepresented documents, letters to the various newspapers, and watching actual footage of meetings that have been recorded and are available on you tube for all to see. If what is going on in our community involving the school board and Gary Pflueger interests you but you have not experienced any of this for yourself, I ask you to take the time to do so. Understand both sides before you make a stand.
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
In thinking about the disruptive and divisive attempt to remove our elementary school principal, Mr. Pflueger, it occurred to me that we could solve this dilemma: CONSULT THE EXPERTS AND COMPLY WITH THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS!
Within our elementary school we have a well-educated and devoted group of teachers and staff. This group works closely with Mr. Pflueger on a daily basis and most have been employed during the entire period of his employment. They are no doubt in the best position to judge his effectiveness as a principal.
I would ask all residents of the island to speak with the elementary teaching staff. Ask them to share their thoughts. This outstanding group of unselfish educators was completely dismissed by the school board and the district superintendent when they attempted to communicate their concerns. All decisions regarding Mr. Pflueger were made solely by the school board and the superintendent of schools. In fact, all decisions regarding the actions taken against Mr. Pflueger were conducted in closed sessions with no outside input or transparency. While the school board members no doubt have their own areas of expertise, I am sure they do not have the educational experience and qualifications of our elementary staff. Unfortunately, a letter signed by 25 staff members expressing their opinions went unanswered, as did numerous private meetings with school board members.
It is not too late; a committee could be formed to ask the school board and superintendent to reconsider their acceptance of Mr. Pflueger’s resignation. Individuals should contact the board and superintendent to question their actions and motives. I believe more input from the community would be beneficial in the resolution of this crisis.
It is important that this situation be resolved soon. Our community is in crisis. The teachers at FH elementary school will attest that our district funds can be used in more productive ways than the hiring of a new principal when we have a very effective one in place. If we do not correct this situation in a timely fashion I believe we will be left with an elementary staff that will be less effective, with low morale and a high level of distrust. Let’s trust the experts!
San Juan Island
To the Editor:
I’ve watched all of the back and forth with regard to recent events involving the school board. I have to wonder, now that the petition for recall has been withdrawn prior to it even being ruled on, with the threat of a civil action being filed, and with further threat that it will be renewed at some point, what the purpose is.
As a former board member, I remember being frustrated with how much every decision must be weighed with regard to what it would cost and how we would pay for it. I can surmise that with the dramatic downturn in our economy that financial pressure is now much worse than when I served. We want to do so much for our kids and for our district. We do so much more than many districts of our size thanks to the generosity of our community both with their time and with their money.
What I see now is an awful lot of time, money and energy being wasted. If the agenda is to gain control of the board so that people can influence the direction of our district, then that can be done a heck of a lot easier with a lot less collateral damage come fall.
If the purpose is to find something that this board did wrong through endless public records requests to further a recall petition and litigation, then that seems to me a waste. Just because you can ask for something, doesn’t mean that you should. I would ask Mr. Power and those he represents to reevaluate the costs and benefit of continuing on this quest for recall and any related litigation. If this continues, I suspect that all we will have is even less time, money and people to help guide our district for a situation that can be much more efficiently handled in the regular course of representative democracy.
I’ve seen it mentioned several times that teachers are upset they can’t buy supplies because of the shrinking budget. I remember myself being frustrated at the size of classes and inability to do all that we wanted to. If we continue on this tangent there will be even less. That is neither a threat nor a scare tactic. It’s simply a fact. If we spend our time, our energy, and our money fighting, there is less to spend finding ways to both keep what we have, and build better as we move on. Please stop the expensive and fracturing process now before it gets any wore or any more expensive for everyone. Whether this board represents the community can be answered much more efficiently and cheaply with your vote and support in November rather than expensive public records requests and litigation.
San Juan Island
P.S. I've just learned that Mr. Power has renewed his petition. I implore you to rec
I write asking you to correct some of the misstatements published by you in your letter published and The Island Guardian. (See letter below -Ed)
While it is true that I withdrew the Petition in the hearing of the 23rd, (not the 22nd as you state), this was only done after being fully prepared to argue the motion for attorney's fees that YOUR lawyer filed late in the afternoon of the 22nd. I, of course, had no idea whether this would be considered properly before the Court, however, as the judge noted, it was not properly scheduled for hearing by YOUR lawyer.
Likewise, YOUR attorney was given express opportunity to object to my withdrawal of the Petition, and he chose not to object. It seems more than a bit "disagreeable" now to "monday morning quarterback" and voice some objection in the press when this objection was one which could have been made at the appropriate time.
Furthermore, the insinuation that I am somehow responsible for your attorney's wasted day is preposterous. The Board chose to employ counsel from Seattle, not I. Additionally, it is my understanding that document review could be appropriately performed by the Prosecuting Attorney's office, as they are, by statute, the attorney of record for the District. As taxpayers, we have already paid for this service, as I pointed out in my Petition in "In Re: Recall II".
Most importantly, you state that the Petition's lack of merit was "clearly pointed out to Mr. Power by the Prosecuting Attorney." You will remember that the Prosecuting Attorney's office forwarded the OPMA claim -- thereby making your statement a falsehood.
Finally, you seem to want to pick and choose what constitutes proper use of democratic vehicles. Luckily that is not the type of democracy I wish to live in, and thankfully I don't have to ask your permission.
As a San Juan Island School Board member I have been terribly troubled by recent course of events surrounding our schools. I write this as a single member and citizen, and in no way speak for the Board as a whole. There are three recent, important, and controversial issues that I’d like to address.
First, the Petition of Recall. On February 22nd, 2011 at 1:37pm, Mr. Nicholas Power withdrew the 1st amended petition of recall approximately seven minutes into a hearing before the San Juan County Superior Court.
• The recall petition has lacked legitimate substance since its inception on February 4th. This was clearly pointed out to Mr. Power by the Prosecuting Attorney. The District Directors’ attorney brought these same deficiencies to Mr. Power’s attention and asked him to withdraw it to avoid unnecessary legal costs. By waiting for the start of the hearing to withdraw it, Mr. Power pointlessly required the Directors’ attorney to travel between Seattle and Friday Harbor for the hearing at District expense.
• Additionally Mr. Power has initiated a series of public records requests relating to claims raised in the petition. The requests require the production and legal review of thousands of documents.
• Response to the petition and associated records requests has consumed scores if not hundreds of hours of staff and administration time. Thousands of dollars of costs have been incurred responding to the petition and related records requests. The District is continuing to respond to each new records request. The time and money consumed responding to these legal actions require scarce resources that are being taken away from our District students.
• The petition and records requests strike me as simply tactics to pressure the school board to reverse its decision to accept the resignation of Principal Gary Pflueger, and to force the board members to resign as a consequence of making the difficult decision.
Unfortunately these tactics are fiscally and emotionally costly. The recall process and Public Records Act, as well as the freedom of press and speech, are essential tools of our democracy to ensure government is responding to genuine needs of its citizens. However, these tools of democracy are being misused without regard to the impact they have on our schools and community.
Second, Principal Pflueger’s resignation. The Board recognizes the acceptance of his resignation is an unpopular decision. We have attempted to provide the highest degree of confidentiality associated with this or any personnel action. However, upon repeated demands to “reveal the truth” and amid claims of a “conspiracy”, I reluctantly, and with the permission of Principal Pflueger, asked the board to openly discuss details underlying our decision to accept his resignation in our School Board meeting of February 23rd.. I will not repeat the details again in print. However, at the conclusion of this emotional board meeting, Mr. Pflueger made another public statement as reported in The Island Guardian, Feb 24, 2011, “As he did in the beginning, when the whole resignation controversy started, Gary once again asked the public to support his decision, and as for the continued pressure that members of the staff, teachers and parents have put on the Board, he simply stated: “If your trying to do it for me: Stop. Okay?”
Mr. Pflueger is a good man. I am disappointed, that, as a community, we simply could not accept Mr. Pflueger’s and the Board’s decision in this exceptionally sensitive personnel matter. Instead we have insisted on “knowing the truth” and in the process dragged Mr. Pflueger, the Board, Staff, and Administration, through a traumatic, community-dividing ordeal.
Third,= and most recently, is the issue of Superintendant Rick Thompson’s use of the word “thesis” in a biographical press release of January 20, 2010 and his failure immediately to correct subsequent reference to his Master’s studies research paper. Mr. Thompson has acknowledged his error and has:
• Issued a public apology in writing, and verbally at our last school board meeting;
• Self-reported his error to the Office of Professional Practice (OPP), a department of the Washington State Office of the Superintendant of Public Instruction;
• Published the research paper in question on-line at the school district web site.
I have personally reviewed Mr. Thompson’s application and related material. The word “thesis” does not appear in any of his application material, nor was it in any way influential in my decision to recommend his hiring in January of last year. Instead, I relied upon direct interviews with Mr. Thompson, references, and his progressive experiences over the last 23 years in the Washington State public education system. He has been a Teacher, Principal, Assistant Superintendent, Curriculum Director and Superintendent in multiple school districts in Washington. The misuse of the word “thesis” is an issue I take seriously. The Board is currently awaiting a written response from the OPP. We will review and consider their professional feedback and recommendations, taking into consideration the impact to our schools and community.
The School Board is a publicly elected body charged with the task of guiding the course of our public schools. There are few issues as important, emotional, and complex as the education of our children.
It’s okay to disagree with the judgment of the School Board. We may disagree, but I ask us not to be disagreeable in the process. Use the tools of democracy in a manner that serves, and not disrupts, our community. Engage in a positive approach to improving our schools and the education of our children. Come to the board meetings, provide constructive input, volunteer in the schools. Run for the School Board. Vote for the candidate of your choice! Three Board positions, a majority, open this fall; June 6th-10th, a mere three months away, is the opportunity for candidates to sign up. Participate in democracy in a positive way and make a real difference improving our schools and community.
San Juan Island School District, Position #1