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Pulling my hair out over (superintendent's) extension

May 05, 2010 - Here's what the community tells me about Lake Orion Community Schools:

Teachers live in fear for their jobs while their emails are monitored and their classrooms are micromanaged.

Parents are unhappy with what's happening in the schools but fear their children will be victimized if they speak up.

Administrators are either willing puppets or frightened sheep, doing the bidding of the higher ups. They're puppets because they "owe" someone for their job or sheep because they're afraid of swift and certain dismissal if they disagree with anything.

(Now might be an appropriate time to mention that Todd Dunckley, former LOHS principal and current Oakview Middle School assistant principal, took a job at Oxford High School as assistant principal. Oxford's school board voted him in two weeks ago.)

Whether Superintendent Ken Gutman means to or not, this is the atmosphere he's fostering – one full of fear and mistrust.

And it has got to be continued for the next three years, and maybe longer.

Wait. What?

That's what the school board's human resources committee thinks.

At the board's April 28 meeting, the superintendent's "meets expectations" evaluation summary, presented by the HR committee, came with a recommendation to extend Gutman's contract another two years.

How can this be, with so many unhappy parents and staff?

Hey you, school board, tell me – and all the readers asking me – how this can be?

How could you consider a contract extension while so many are frustrated with the superintendent's performance? I won't even delve into the fact that the HR committee met to summarize his evaluation, and took so long in closed session, that by the time they got to the summary, they had to postpone the discussion to another meeting. The meeting was the next day, Thursday, at 11:30 a.m. with no one from the public able to attend on such short notice. And Gutman was in the room.

I know some of you on the board hear from concerned parents and uneasy staff. You're elected to act on the behalf of the public, not just what you think is in its best interest. Why aren't you?

And, no Bill Walters, school board president, not all the negative attitudes are from just one group of unhappy mothers. I hear from miserable people across Lake Orion – parents, community members, business owners and all kinds of district employees.

These people email from their personal accounts and call from their cell phones so the district can't monitor what they say. Some won't even trust our office email and will only talk in person. No joke.

Other readers, like one with a letter to the editor in this week's 'View points, might feel like Lake Orion's hometown paper is stirring up controversy for the sake of selling a few more papers (see 'Please don't continue to disappoint us,' page 6). I'd like to disagree, but at the same time say a big "thank you" for writing to us. We seriously enjoy getting letters, regardless of whether they're critical or praising.

The focus of 'Look under every rock,' published last week, was to shed light on the poor business etiquette exhibited by the district and how administrators say one thing but do another. We weren't campaigning for Mott to get the ink and toner contract.

And it's true that he won't participate with all the schools in his recycling program, but like last week's story notes, customer demand doesn't meet the supply of empty cartridges he gets from schools.

"The whole idea of recycling is closing the loop," Mott said. Read the whole story in our online archives at www.lakeorionreview.com.

We write and publish stories, not to sensationalize an issue, but to bring it to the public's attention. We at the paper believe in asking hard questions and shedding light on murky areas. I truly believe something is amiss in the schools' administration, that life in the school district isn't what it appears to be from the outside.

What about you guys out there in LOCS land? What do you think? I want to know.

Send us a letter to the editor -- lakeorionreview@sbcglobal.net. Or type one up online at www.lakeorionreview.com.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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