Featured letter Charles: It was our duty to make decisions

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For weeks now, the Beloit School Board and administration have discussed the best way to fill an administrative vacancy at Fruzen School and provide the much-needed stability and support for staff and students in that school.

On April 10, the board voted to support a recommendation to transfer one of our central office administrators because we believe it is in the best interest of our district. We want our schools to be safe and orderly places for teaching and learning. In a school the size of Fruzen, that requires more than one administrator, with the knowledge base and background suiting the demands of the role.

With many decisions, especially those unpopular, we often hear, "Why is the board involved in this?" The answer is, there are many decisions and recommendations that cannot legally be carried out by the superintendent without board approval. Wisconsin Association of School Boards has outlined in leadership conferences "non-delegable" acts of significance - budget adoption, approving questions to submit to referendum, and employment actions involving teachers and administrators. School board duties are broader than most people realize.

Administrator contracts are contracts between the district (school board) and the administrator. Many contain a clause allowing the board to transfer the administrator to any position for which he or she is licensed and qualified whenever, in the judgment of the board, the transfer is in the best interest of the school district. We believe the transfer approved last Tuesday is in the best interest of the district. And while the administrator's role will change, the transfer does not result in any reduction of the administrator's salary.

Why was the discussion surrounding this decision done in closed session? Because the board respects the privacy of our employees and we do our best to keep confidential any discussions pertaining to specific personnel issues.

So, why didn't we wait and have the new board vote on the recommendation? Because there was an immediate need for an administrator at Fruzen School. Any event arising during a period of an understaffed school could have posed an unnecessary risk of liability to the district and, more importantly, could have resulted in the compromised safety of students and staff. School safety is more important than politics. Furthermore, each board member involved in this deliberation and decision was elected by the voters of Beloit or legally appointed to the board. The seven of us are most aware of recent events, staff qualifications, student behaviors, and school needs. It was not only our right to make such a decision - it was our duty. Board members are elected to a term that is either three years or one year. And the duties of the board member end on the last day of that term - not the day after the most recent election.

During recent school board forums, not one candidate said that our schools are where we want them to be. No need to rehash it here, but the board will need the support of the community if the community wants our schools to improve. We need the community's trust that decisions are being made in the best interests of students and schools.

There will be more difficult decisions moving forward, as the new superintendent transitions and begins his leadership role. Know that our incoming superintendent is already engaged, learning, and providing meaningful input to set the stage for our future success. As one candidate said in our forums more than once, it will sometimes be uncomfortable. But as long as decisions are made in the best interest of our students and our schools, they will be made in good conscience, with the focus where it belongs - on our students.

Pam Charles

President

Beloit School Board

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