Accountability applies with boards and administrators, if a culture of responsibility is the goal.
THE SCHOOL DISTRICT of Beloit spends somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million a year, so the $115,000 involved in an administrative wage dispute arguably is pocket change.
There is, however, principle involved.
Last week the board rescinded administrative raises totaling $115,000 for eight individuals, on the basis that board-established policies and procedures had not been followed in handing out the money. The dispute involved the administration's stance that board members had approved pay ranges as part of a management restructuring plan. The board obviously viewed the situation differently, believing past practice had been for the governing body to approve individual compensation. In that context, the board decision to rescind raises it felt were never approved was appropriate.
BUT WE ARE STRUCK, in this action, by the outcome of what might be called winners and losers.
Identifying the losers is easy. Eight individuals received raises and then had those raises taken away. Presumably, those individuals did nothing wrong and, indeed, felt they had been rewarded for their skills and performance. Human nature suggests they now will feel punished, or at least that they are unfairly bearing the pain for someone else's mistake.
Identifying winners is harder because, well, no one really wins anything here. Still, there is value for those who erred but pay no price for it.
So, question: Who made the mistake? And why is there no accountability for it?
Was it the superintendent? Was it his team in human resources, budget or somewhere else?
Was it the board itself, for not paying enough attention to where the money was going, or for not making clear to new administrators what process was to be followed?
The public doesn't know the answers, because none were given. Just, "Oops. Got that wrong. Jerk the raises and move on."
LET'S REPEAT, we give the board credit for rescinding raises that should not have been given if unauthorized. And, we suppose, the board lessened the blow by allowing the eight administrators to keep the extra money they received inappropriately for several months rather than requiring them to pay it back. That's the humane thing to do.
Here's the rub, though, in our view. A pot of money totaling $115,000 from taxpayers is not insignificant. Somebody is responsible for what happened. That somebody, or somebodies, was not identified or, as far as is known, held accountable. So the only people taking it on the chin are those who had their raises taken away despite no wrongdoing on their part.
Mind you, we're not arguing heads ought to be rolling at the Kolak Center. We are arguing an appropriate level of transparency and accountability matters.
HERE'S WHY. A LOT of Beloit stakeholders believe many problems over the years in this troubled district were caused by weak boards and poor administrative management. In fact, people got away with things, boards tended to be complicit in cover-ups, and often cringe-worthy doings came out only through aggressive investigative journalism.
Meanwhile, that tone of non-accountability filtered throughout the district and, we would argue, played a role in declining scores and disciplinary disarray.
Accountability and transparency starts at the top, with the board and the administration, or it's unlikely to take root at other levels. Remember: Those at the top set the examples and are responsible for the culture and tone, good or bad. Everybody in the organization is watching. And everybody will take a cue from what they see.
AFTER YEARS OF missed opportunities - and, sometimes, abject failure - the community charge to a relatively new board and a mostly new administration is in favor of reform and change. Along with that the community expects more transparency. No excuses. Sharper discipline. Stronger accountability. Relentless focus on academic improvement.
That's a tall order for the tip of the spear, the men and women - and the kids - in the classrooms.
They deserve to know the same level of accountability - actually, even more - applies to the people calling the shots. Do not make it appear that accountability only rolls downhill.
A robust evaluation process is one way to correct course. In the past - we know, we've looked - administrative evaluations were not particularly honest. In just the past year or so several administrators were pushed out, even as they waved around previous evaluations stating they had been doing a great job. Let's try not to repeat those mistakes. Be forthright in identifying and correcting deficiencies.