“A real leader has no need to lead — he is content to point the way” — Henry Miller
It’s time for the Board of Education to re-evaluate its approach to leadership, including its chairman, Betsy Hagerty-Ross. Pointing the way to the truth, to assistance, and to information is key to leadership.
Leadership is not about maintaining excessive control, and it isn’t about holding all the cards. And it isn’t about refusing to communicate or provide answers, or decrying the media for its coverage of a real issue facing the town or blaming legal advice for no comment.
Leadership is about taking parents’ issues seriously when they approach you with problems. Leadership is about saying there is a serious problem and we intend to address it immediately. Leadership is about referring to children as children and not products.
She referred to children as “products” in an interview with this newspaper. Is that the kind of perspective acceptable for a school board chairman to share? Are Darien children some kind of commodity?
Yes, town officials need to conduct the town’s business as business people. However, unlike the Board of Finance, or the Board of Selectmen, or the Planning & Zoning Commission — the Board of Education is not simply managing town assets.
It is managing the town’s children.The town needs Board of Education members with empathy and compassion. Intelligent and articulate and thoughtful human beings who knows how to listen first, ask the right questions second, and offer an opinion third.
The school board chairman should be someone who can, and will, call out the administration when its ed-speak obscures what’s really going on.
The rubber stamp tendencies of the school board toward administration policies begin with the board chairman. This tendency has been tested as the special education crisis has unfolded. Clara Sartori has especially shown strength in her last few months on the board, asking the administration to examine its nepotism policy, asking for more management of the superintendent’s time, and for a more finite divide between discussion of special ed programs and budget talks.
Morgan Whittier has also shown sparks of leadership, when he questioned the administration’s tendency to always report positively on new initiatives, and asked for more opportunity for staff to speak their mind on these programs.
Many on the board want to do the right thing. They are all there for the right reasons. It’s possible that all of them do — but some members need to examine themselves and the way they come across in public statements and their approach to inquiries and questions.
The more conversations that happen out in the open, the better. This should include the choosing of the interim special education director. Choosing confidentiality over transparency is not the direction this process should be headed.
This could also include the process in which the board selects officers. Rather than have what appears to be a succession process and a done deal of moving up when a current chairman departs, perhaps a thoughtful conversation and discussion by board members or even an occasional challenge for vice chairman or chairman might be a healthy approach.
Some have said this newspaper’s coverage of the special education issue has been excessive and one-sided. The reality remains that when the truth hurts one side, that side will always cry foul. It’s human nature. Especially when that truth continues to challenge your every action.
This newspaper is committed to serving its readers with unparalleled coverage of any issue that threatens the well-being of any resident. If even one child, regardless of ability, has gone without an education, that is one child who deserves this paper’s attention.
The schools are looking at multiple lawsuits if they start firing people over this special ed disaster, because the school board pushed for these new policies and the administration was merely following suit.
Perhaps if there had been more interest on the school board side in what’s going on, and not blaming lawyers for inability to talk or blaming volunteerism for inability to act, or blaming ignorance for an inability to help, perhaps the town would not be in the situation it is in now.