Pattern of disrespect

So it appears that the Milford School Board has some concerns about the ability of the district’s teachers and staff members to remain civil. Otherwise, why would the board have two police officers at a meeting where teachers were expected to demand answers to questions about the superintendent of schools?

We’ve never known police to be assigned as security detail at school board meetings, so the presence of two at the May 30 session was a clear statement of intent by the board. The question, of course, is the nature of that intent.

Was it to intimidate the teachers? We would find that very hard to believe.

Was it to send a message of mistrust? What else could it have been?

Did board members honestly fear a physical confrontation? These are teachers and members of the school district’s staff, people known to board members, people who have worked in the district for years. Suddenly they’re treated like people who can’t control their emotions?

In our story last week, school board member Holleigh Tlapa said she was shocked at the presence of the officers because the night before the meeting the board had discussed the possibility of police presence and decided against it.

What changed over night? Did board members suddenly get a threat of trouble? Please. That is highly unlikely.

And the May 30 meeting was confrontational, but not in a threatening way. Teachers and staff, who had taken an overwhelming vote of no confidence in the superintendent, wanted answers about her hiring and about some of her decisions. They’ve asked questions before, but they haven’t gotten the answers they feel they need and deserve.

Yet at least one officer was back at the June 3 meeting.

We are not saying that all of the complaints about Huizinga have merit, although there were a lot of them in the lengthy statement released by teachers and staff about the no confidence vote. including “constantly shifting focus and initiatives, causing staff morale at all levels of this district to be at their lowest point in recent memory

One concern we have is the seeming dismissal of these concerns by board Chairman Ron Carvell. Setting ground rules for speakers is fine, but suddenly trying to adjourn the May 30 meeting? Not a good look.

In Huizinga’s defense it should be noted that Carvell said, in an email to The Cabinet, that all the superintendent is doing is trying to institute “some significant changes for our community,” so it isn’t as if she’s making these moves on her own. And he and Huizinga told The Cabinet that the changes were developed with significant input from the public and the staff, although teachers seem to be saying otherwise.

All we know, of course, is what we see in public and what we are able to learn from sources on both sides, but here is one conclusion we can draw with no second thoughts: This squabbling needs to stop. Somehow, and soon. It’s clear that the superintendent has the board’s support, so she’s not going anywhere, but she needs support from those who work for and with her.

At the June 3 meeting, Tlapa and fellow board member Mike Hannon tried to get the board to commit to discussions, but a motion by Tlapa failed, 3-2. Why? What’s the message in that? The three “no” voters don’t want to hold discussions? Come on.

Right now, this is a standoff that doesn’t bode well for anyone, especially not for students. Talking might solve nothing, but not talking definitely solves nothing.

The police security at school board meetings, the drug sweep at the high school, the denial of requests for discussions with union representatives – they all seem to be part of a new pattern of disrespect toward teachers, administrators and students that another one of the superintendent’s “community conversations” will not alter.

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