Honesty, integrity, ethics, morals are all still qualities you find in a great leader. So what’s going on in New Hampshire?
Superintendents are dropping like flies along with other administrators. The latest incident in Concord involves a teacher, Primo “Howie” Leung, who was accused of sexually assaulting a former middle school student in Massachusetts. Leung’s charged with two counts of aggravated rape of a child; one count of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14; and one count of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14. He has pleaded not guilty.
To make matters worse, Ana Goble, a Concord student, at 13 years old reported disturbing behavior by Leung, only to be suspended by the Principal, Tom Sica, for spreading “malicious and slanderous gossip.” Concord’s Superintendent just resigned.
Not too long ago, Bedford’s Superintendent resigned. after public outcry over his decision to authorize a district employee to testify on behalf of Kristie Torbick. She was the former Bedford guidance counselor convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old student in Exeter.
Recently Hampton’s Superintendent resigned after public outrage when a beloved Principal was put on paid administrative leave after the Vice Principal accused him of creating a hostile working environment. That Principal was reinstated and, both the Superintendent and Vice Principal, has since left the district.
Nashua parents are outraged over a recent video of a middle school girl brutally beating up another girl. The video went viral and the Superintendent chose to vilify the posting of the video instead of the violence that is taking place under his leadership.
Nashua and Timberlane School Board members have had to file Right-to-Know-Requests for information from their Superintendents in the past. However, it’s the school board that hires and fires the Superintendent. Why wouldn’t information they request be freely given to them?
It’s time for the public and, the School Board to stop the madness. Ethics matter. Honesty and integrity should still be the main characteristic in those who run our public schools. If the incident in Concord doesn’t wake people up for the need for morals and ethics in these leaders, I’m not sure what will.
That also means that we need individuals running for the school board that will hold people accountable. School Board members are elected to serve the public, not defend a corrupt administration. Board members are there to oversee the Superintendent, not become their buddy.
Take a look at how the school board is set up in Manchester during their public meetings. The board members are seated and, the Superintendent is seated behind them. In many districts, you see the Superintendent seated next to the Board Chair, or at the same table as the board. It may not seem like much, but the board is there to serve the public, not to serve the administration. Manchester does it right.
We need more people running for school board that are willing to put students first. Board members need to challenge the administration on what they are proposing and, ask to see evidence that supports their proposed changes. That should be the norm. This means Superintendents should be coming to the meeting prepared to present independent studies backing their proposed changes. Parents are fed up with schools experimenting on their children.
If school board members have to request information through a Right-to-Know request that is a HUGE red flag that the administration is not respecting the role of the school board and therefor is likely not to respect your parental rights either.
Here are some good questions to ask of a Superintendent candidate:
1) What is the role of the Superintendent to the School Board?
2) Should any school board member have to request documentation through a Right to Know request? If so, why?
3) Do you believe that documentation on controversial issues taught in a school should be made available to all parents? Sex ed? Drug ed? Alcohol ed?
4) When administering assessments or treatment on mental health (SEL) should parents give their informed consent? If not, why not?
5) What are your thoughts on Common Core/ Next Generation Science Standards now that they’ve been used in the school for several years?
6) Is it your role to analyze these national standards and bring forward any problems that currently exist and, offer better standards for the district? If not you, then who should be doing this?
7) Should the district make all competencies transparent on the web site? If not, why not?
8) What is your position on a student who wants to opt out of standardized testing?
9) What ethical code, if any, do you follow?
10) What ethical code, if any, should teachers and personnel follow?
11) Should all grants be approved by the School Board? If not, why not?
12) Should all grant applications be posted on the web site for review by the community? If not, why not?
13) Is it ok for outside grant money be used to replace local control on pedagogy, policies and curriculum selection?
These are just some of the important questions every person applying for the position of Superintendent should be answering. Transparency, respect for parents, and support for a quality academic education should be the top priority of any administrator. If they cannot provide details on why they should be working towards better standards, transparency, support for parental rights, and a level of respect for the people who hire them and pay their salary, then maybe that’s not the right person for the job.
If you want good leaders to run your school, you need to elect good school board members who understand this. Take time to ask those seeking to serve in your community. Better yet, if you have these qualities, why not run and, begin the process of holding these people to a higher standard?
Ann Marie Banfield works as a parental rights advocate in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org