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Now that Bartlett's resigned, school board has three jobs

April 23, 2001

Now that Bartlett's resigned, school board has three jobs



Based on what he said was a "mutual determination" with the Washington County Board of Education, Superintendent Herman Bartlett Jr. last week announced that he will leave his post on June 30, a year before his four-year contract was due to expire.

Bartlett will no doubt survive this. For leaving early, he'll receive a $35,000 settlement and is also drawing retirement from Virginia. And his record here - improved test scores, blue-ribbon school designations and implementation of an innovative reading program - will make him a viable candidate for a similar post, should he desire one.

No, we're not worried about Bartlett as much as we are about the next batch of applicants for his post and for other top positions in the school system. There will always be applicants for those jobs, but will they be the best ones, or will they be people who will be content to "warm the bench" for a couple of years?

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Theresa Flak, the now-departed deputy superintendent, hit the nail on the head in her final interview with The Herald-Mail. The board had implemented many parts of the 1988 strategic plan, but had not worked out the issue of "governance," that is, what duties the superintendent would handle and which the board would take on.

Some current board members came into office with little trust for the superintendent and top officials of the school system. On everything from school bus drivers' contracts to Hancock-area bus routes, they ran their own numbers and reached their own conclusions, perhaps not realizing that second-guessing experienced professionals doesn't do much for morale. Not to mention the fact the education professionals all over the region communicate, sharing all the news, the good and the bad.

The school board now has three jobs. The first is to explain what led them to seek Bartlett's departure. The $35,000 settlement is not a fortune, but it is taxpayers' money and citizens deserve to know why it was necessary to make the payment.

Their second and most important job is to hire a consultant and begin the search for a new superintendent. And when that person is hired, the board must sit down with the superintendent, agree on who does what and promise the school system's new leader that barring extraordinary evidence of malfeasance, he or she will have the board's confidence and backing.

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