On Aug. 1, the Mineral County School Board of Trustees held interviews to fill a vacant board position. Three candidates applied and two appeared to be interviewed.
Both candidates stood themselves in about equal stead. There were recommendations to the board from Barbara Lancaster, who vacated the seat the board was trying to fill, and Jerrie Tippton, chairwoman of the Mineral County Board of County Commissioners.
After the interviews ended, there was little discussion. Beatrice McMillan-Conway asked one of the applicants when she had moved to Mineral County. Board president Mark Nixon mentioned it would be nice to have a board member from the southern part of the county (which one of the applicants was).
There was no discussion at all about which candidate was better qualified, or who had given a better interview. Nobody made any attempt to convince the other board members of their opinions.
There was only a vote on whom to hire.
Both votes were tied, 2-2. Donna Glazier and McMillan-Conway supported one applicant and Nixon and Keith Neville the other.
The votes on Aug. 1 are representative of the sort of dysfunction that dominates the way the board does its business.
On many of the issues the board takes up there is little discussion, and less of it is constructive.
Frequently, the board runs far afield, chasing after issues of personal importance to board members instead of focusing on the item before them. For instance, while discussing whether or not to cut aid hours from the district, the board ended up discussing how two particular children enrolled in the special education program would be affected by the staff cuts.
The dysfunction is also apparent in the board’s handling of Superintendent Chris Schultz’ evaluation.
Schultz’ evaluation was not fantastic, but Glazier and McMillan-Conway sought, and still seem to seek, to use the evaluation as an opportunity to fire Schultz.
The board’s acceptance of the evaluation, which would seem to be a simple matter of agreeing each board member had written an evaluation and discussed the contents with Schultz, turned into a three-week ordeal, which ended on Aug. 1 when the board accepted the evaluation.
The “discussion” on the subject was a mixture of board members and Schultz staring uncomfortably at one another, and asking demanding questions of one another; sometimes based on questionable evidence.
Whether Schultz’ vision is appropriate for the district is a matter on which the Independent-News takes no position.
But we do believe the school board needs to get its act together.
As far as we can tell, the problem stems from nearly everyone at the table being unwilling (or unable) to communicate their ideas and listen to the ideas of others.
Personal distaste, not professional considerations, seems to dominate the discourse of the board.
If the board is truly concerned with creating a place where the children of Mineral County will gain the skills necessary to be successful in life, it’s time to put aside these petty concerns and focus on that goal.
The board hired Schultz to provide leadership and vision to the district. If the board is no longer satisfied with that vision, it must tell him in which direction the district should move.
It the board is satisfied, its members should stop trying to take his job.
Without leadership, the board will continue to be divided and dysfunctional. If the individual members of the board are unwilling to accept leadership, they will continue to fail the students of the district.