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Administrator juggling act?

What's behind 23 shifts in school administrators over 3 years

August 11, 2010 - Since 2007, there have been at least 23 shifts in Lake Orion Community Schools administrator positions, including employees moving into new positions in the district or leaving the district, according to sources.

School Board President Mary Jo Burchart says the number might seem large, but similar movements in administration can be found in years prior. However, a longtime school staff member says the number of shifts is the most she's seen in her tenure, and murky undertones in the district are the reason.

"(Employees) are more worried about politics... than what's right for kids." - Anonymous school staff member
What's causing the administration shifts?

"When a position opens up, it causes a sort of domino effect," said Burchart, noting one administrator's move causes internal vacancies and other administrator moves.

Also, says Burchart, this year the state changed how school employees can retire.

"With that incentive becoming available, more employees took the opportunity to retire," she said. She added that she saw a similar increase in retiring employees at Oakland Community College, where she works.

But there are other issues at work when considering recent shifts in administrator positions, according to one staff member, who wished to remain anonymous. She's worked in the district for over 20 years and says administrator movement is the highest she's seen.

"I think it's the political climate," she said, noting administrators are at-will employees of the district and anyone who says or does something unpopular risks getting demoted or fired. "I think people are afraid to speak up because of the (administrator) juggling it's not always clear why employees have left."

The staff member said when employees perceive that others are being treated unfairly, they're going to be very careful in what they say and do.

"Then I don't think we're going to get what's best for kids," she said. "(Employees) are more worried about politics and who they're going to upset, than about doing what's right for kids."

She added that the current climate stems from a "lack of balance" between the school board and central administration.

"I always looked at the school board as being the top dog, overseeing what's happening in the district. If they're not going to get up and find out what's going on, then there's no protection for anybody, especially for administrators who are at-will employees."

She said, "If (the board) is not going to investigate and find out why things are happening, then (administrators) are going to continue protecting their jobs and being quiet. They're not going to speak up for staff, they're not going to speak up for each other because they're worried about being demoted or being forced to leave."

Ultimately, she said she finds the situation "really disheartening" and "extremely sad."

Since, 2007, administrators who have moved within, or moved out of the district include: Ken Gutman, Beth Davis, Bev Tepper, Lauren Smith, Lori Pevoteaux Whitfield, Denise Sweat, Julie Stucky, Courtney Larsen, Eric Whitney, Jennifer Goethals, John Bernia, Heidi Kast, Randy Groya, Sara Perry, Todd Duckley, Kevin Brock and Christine Lehman.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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