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Monkey Business

There is no “I” in public servant

For the past few years, School District 11 board members have embarrassed their constituents with constant bickering and self-serving agendas – their dirty laundry continuously splashed all over the newspapers and the evening news. Move over D 11; D 49 is stealing your thunder.School District 49 board members have had their fair share of media coverage in the last few years. For the most part, the headlines have been the usual: overcrowded schools; the mill levy passing, failing, passing; superintendent leaves; interim school superintendent leaves after losing permanent job to Oregon candidate. Nothing too scandalous.This year, the D 49 board has apparently lowered their standards, opting for drama of the soap opera kind.The leading lady has been newly elected board member Anna Bartha. You’ll recall that Anna played the “holier-than-thou” role this year as she successfully garnered a majority vote of the board to change the term “winter break” to “Christmas break.” I’ll give her thumbs up for performance, thumbs down for snubbing people of other religion or thought.Recently, the entire D 49 board has earned a thumbs-down performance for airing their own dirty laundry in the media. A vote of no-confidence letter, initiated but not signed by principals at D 49 and aimed at Superintendent Dr. Steven Hull, showed up at the Gazette.Dr. Hull told those attending a May board meeting that he first heard about the letter when a Gazette reporter called him. Board member Dave Martin replied that Hull received the letter before it was sent to The Gazette.I called Dave Martin, the alleged snitch, according to the rumor mill. I left a message and pointedly asked Martin if he gave the initial information to the Gazette. We played phone tag, but on June 16, before leaving for a long weekend, he left a message.Martin reiterated that The Gazette received the letter of no confidence in Hull several days after Hull did. Martin did not address how the Gazette received the initial information that prompted them to seek the letter but said the actual letter was given to The Gazette through D 49’s attorney at the request of The Gazette’s attorney.Brian Newsome, Gazette education reporter covering D 49, confirmed Martin’s remarks in a phone conversation with me June 16. He also said that prior to the receipt of the letter he received a tip about the vote of no confidence, prompting The Gazette’s request for the letter. As any good reporter, Newsome would not reveal his source. He also told me that when he called Dr. Hull to discuss the letter, Hull told him that it was the first he’d heard of it.Newsome wrote the following in a June 9 article published in the Gazette: “Regarding the media, the school board confirmed in an e-mail to The Gazette last month that principals had taken a secret vote of no confidence against the superintendent. Hull first learned about the vote from a Gazette reporter, and community members asked why The Gazette learned about it before Hull.”Who was the real snitch? No one knows for sure.The media attention has somewhat sabotaged Hull’s efforts as a first-year superintendent. What the board should have done is talked to Hull immediately after receiving the letter from one principal. How dare they judge Hull after one year, anyway? Hull spent the first quarter of the school year working on the mill levy. This has been a year of transition – for Hull and the school – and many years of transition for a growing community.Of course, D 11 just fired Sharon Thomas after her first year as their superintendent. According to this month’s D 49 wrap up, three D 49 board members attended the meeting when Thomas was fired. Each one came up with a lame excuse as to why he or she attended. If the D 49 board members are looking to D 11 for guidance on issues, the Falcon district is in big trouble.I am guessing that the board directors’ seemingly lack of concern for the big picture is related to inexperience and ineptness – the “I” words (i.e., it’s all about me).As the past executive director of nonprofit organizations, I have dealt with many boards. I’ve seen board members squabble. I battled with them on several issues. However, in the end, we all compromised for the greater good.I talked with Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Margaret Radford last week and asked her to weigh in.”There are two types of people (who run for office),” she said. “One has an agenda … wants to be a big shot and rule; the other may be angry about one issue and wants to do more.”Radford said people in office must grow beyond their own agendas to be effective. Listening to others and finding common ground is vital to public service, she said. “You have to learn that your opponents aren’t your enemies,” she said.When Radford was running against Douglas Bruce for county commissioner, she and I engaged in some heated discussions. Nevertheless, Margaret is in community relations for the El Paso County Health Department, and, as a health care writer, I need her input. I’ve also learned that Margaret and I agree on many issues that are important to the bigger picture.Whether you are a city council member or a school board member, you are a public servant.There is no “I” in those words. You are supposed to be a leader. Leaders empower other people to get involved, Radford said. “That legacy is powerful,” she added.If the D 49 drama continues, board members may lose any chance of a legacy to this headline: “RECALL!”

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