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Jobs that must be done if Bartlett is departing

March 05, 2001

Jobs that must be done if Bartlett is departing



The news that Washington County School Superintendent Herman Bartlett Jr. is a semifinalist for a similar job in a Tennessee school district raises a number of possibilies that the local school board should consider, given how important the post is.

The first possibility, raised by board member Mary Wilfong, is that Bartlett is merely testing the waters without really wanting to go anywhere else. In that respect, he would be like a major league baseball player who really wants to stay put, but who wants to show the home folks that other teams know what he's worth.

The second and more likely possibility is that Bartlett looked at what happened in the election - the elimination of his ally Edwin Hayes and the arrival of Roxanne Ober and Bernadette Wagner, with whom he'd had differences on the system's gifted-and-talented program - and has decided to seek greener pastures.

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Whatever personal feelings board members have about Bartlett, their duty is to handle this in a professional manner. The first step is to meet with Bartlett and determine his intentions. If he's determined to go, then he and the board must work out some sort of transition plan.

If, as Wilfong suspects, he's undecided, then he and the board have a more difficult task - deciding if they want to look at a relationship beyond the expiration of his current contract in June 2002. That's not a decision we'd expect Bartlett or the board to make lightly, because of another unsettled issue.

In her last interview before departing for a new post in Montgomery County, assistant superintendent Theresa Flak said that one key piece of the strategic plan developed two years ago that hadn't been implemented was deciding on "governance" - what duties the board would handle and which would be done by the superintendent.

It's obvious that the new board has been struggling with that issue, as evidenced by their handling of issues like the school bus contractors' agreement and Hancock bus routes.

It's one they need to resolve, whether or not Bartlett stays, because the quality of people the system can attract in the future depends on how professionally they treat those who are already here.

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