A few questions before we get started. How big is Jordan-Elbridge? How much control is local? How is the arbitration process beneficial to children? Keep these questions in mind as we analyze a case from a relatively small district in Upstate New York. Then multiply the complexity of this case if you live in a much larger school district.
Here are the facts as we know it. A school Principal in Jordan Elbridge won an arbitration stating that he was part of a witch hunt from a local school board. (Remember local control is better) The board in fact went after the principal and others in a similar manner. 4 and 1/2 years later, he won his case, at a cost of over six hundred thousand dollars. Paid mostly by the taxpayers. Roughly 300 dollars per student by my estimate. The human costs were much higher, as at least one other staff member left and could not endure the arbitration process.
David Zenher is a class act. He sold real-estate during this process. He lasted long enough to give us a glimpse into the problem of the arbitration process. This is what happens to those who fight the system. Black-balled never to come back. They are relegated to the private sector to fight their battles. Most never return. The “Walking Dead of education. Silent and a story to tell. Very rarely are we allowed to know the truth why dismissals happen. And as you can see, the process to correct executive sessions and board meetings hidden from the public is doomed by lawyers and litigation.
The taxpayers in Jordan-Elbridge were left with little choice. They had to overturn the school board and vote them out. Think this is an easy process? It takes years. You have to vote out the corruption based on a board member’s tenure ending and coming up for a vote. Many times, a board member can survive voter apathy. It takes an extreme situation like the one in Jordan-Elbridge to incite voter turnout. Thank goodness, the board did change due to the Principal’s courage which educated the community about the corruption taking place.
So back to my original questions. Jordan-Elbridge is a smaller school district. Can you imagine the corruption in much larger school districts? It becomes a stage for larger dealings that go unchallenged most of the time. It becomes a game of leverage. If you challenge the Superintendent or board, your options are to endure long legal battle or just resign to protect yourself and your family from years of public scrutiny and speculation. But remember if you resign, you become a part of the Blacklist. No longer an asset to education. You are replaceable with someone more compliant to the board and Superintendent. Is this truly local control as the Unions are advocating? Think about his as the debate continues in the coming weeks and months. Finally, let’s talk about children. Talk to a few of the dismissed leaders as I have over the years. They had the respect of their peers and overburdened families in the district. They were replaced by those who worry more about an agenda of keeping things status quo, and not the children. It is more common than we realize.
Disagree? Please read the comments from parents in the district responding to the ruling on syracuse.com. Powerful testimonials supporting this entire article. This was a Principal that was all about the students. He was fair and just. Probably rankled a few board members during the process and they retaliated. He did not support the educational caste system. He supported children who need it most. It sounds like others lost the battle while this Principal won the war. A very powerful story for parents to consider when they discuss the future of education in our state.