There was a letter to the editor to which I feel I must respond, "Super hero of Warrenton" (The Daily Astorian, April 2).
As a 12-year veteran of the school board, I would like to set the record straight. The writer seemed to imply that the support for Superintendent Craig Brewington was simply based on the fact that he is a really nice guy.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every school district in the state has problems, and Warrenton is no exception. But thoughtful analysis and careful consideration solve problems, and there was not much of this before the board took action. In this case, the decision to dismiss Mr. Brewington was done in a very hasty manner, and a strong case could be made that this error in judgment is going to create more problems than it solves.
The writer implied that the superintendent must have known about the problems that led to his dismissal. She said, "Second, how do we know if Brewington wasn't talked to about these concerns? There were several executive sessions each year that we were not welcome to attend." I was on the board at that time, and I can assure you that never once was the superintendent informed either in executive session or in a public meeting that his job was on the line.
The first time he was informed of this was shortly after the Feb. 25 meeting, a mere 18 days before the deadline to renew his contract. Both his employment contract and our district policy requires the board to give written notice of a deficiency, and district policy also requires the opportunity to remedy the said deficiency. Whatever deficiencies there may have been, if they were significant enough to warrant a dismissal, surely they should have been obvious enough to bring up sometime before Feb. 25. Mr. Brewington was not informed of some of those deficiencies that led to his dismissal until 30 minutes before the board meeting in which he was dismissed.
This is fodder for a lawsuit. Also, future superintendents will not even consider an annual contract like Mr. Brewington's. Without going into detail, one year employment contracts are very beneficial to management, but now that it was used in the manner that it was, future superintendents will demand the more typical three year rolling contract that often results in a golden parachute when they leave.
As for the dropout problem she cites, neither the writer nor the school board did any thoughtful analysis of the dropout situation. Last year's dropout rate was an anomaly, not the norm, for Warrenton. The higher rate was driven primarily by two factors. First, the state changed the way it calculates drop-out rates, which will affect all school districts in the state. Second, we had an unusual number of kids with drug problems and no parental supervision.
I studied the last nine years of data from the Oregon Department of Education. The two years prior to Mr. Brewington's arrival, our drop out rate significantly exceeded both Astoria's and the statewide average. Under his tenure, excluding last year's deviation, the statewide average was 4.3 percent, Astoria's was 4.0 percent, and Warrenton's was 2.5 percent. Mr. Brewington's dismissal may provide some emotional gratification in that we can say at least we did something. But it is hard to see how that dismissal is going to yield significant improvement in our drop out rate, or prevent future spikes in the rate like we saw last year.
And finally, the writer assumes correctly that if a simple average was used and the summary score ended up being "0," every board member must have given him "0" on all six criteria for the "Human Resources" standard. Her error is in her assumption that a simple average was used. One of the criteria we were asked to evaluate read, "Diagnose and improve organizational morale." Morale at both schools is the best it has been in the 12 years I have served on the board. Maybe a better question is, how do we arrive at score of "0" for this criterion? The "0" score just does not square with an objective analysis of human resource management in our schools. It seems clear to me that emotions got the best of us while scoring this standard, and emotions are generally a poor guide in management decisions.
I know it would be hard. I know it would be humbling. But the school board should admit they made a mistake, reverse their decision to dismiss the superintendent, and either patch up their relationship with him, or negotiate a smoother and more considerate transition to new leadership.
Jim Gannaway was a Warrenton-Hammond School Board member for 12 years.