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Disclosure, equity play hooky in Clark extension

School board president Mike McGraw said his motion was routine, and South Harrison Education Association President Evelyn Bell said it was a slap in the face.
It was one of few times Bell agreed with McGraw.
She feels as though she’s routinely slapped in the face.
The sting came on Dec. 7 when the South Harrison Community School Corp. school board voted 5-2 to extend Supt. Neyland Clark’s contract by one year to June 30, 2008.
The item was not on the agenda, and the contract extension comes at a time when the teachers have been negotiating for their own contract since Aug. 20, 2003.
Rephrased for emphasis: The teachers have been working without a contract for many, many months, and Dr. Clark’s contract was still good for 2-1/2 years when another year was added to a very lucrative arrangement.
The item appeared on the agenda almost as an afterthought, as the insipid ‘Any other new business.’
Let’s pretend for a moment that Supt. Clark enjoys an overwhelming wave of support and approval. Pretend the lovefest never skips a beat, and neither does Clark as he race-walks to the administrative office building whistling Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.’
Let’s pretend he’s the ultimate boss. Heck, he’s more than that, he’s … he’s … let’s pretend he’s Supt. Regis Philbin.
Does Regis deserve a contract extension?
Of course. He’s ‘Rege.’ Everybody loves Regis.
But, as Clint Eastwood once rasped, ‘Deserve has got nothing to do with it.’
Disclosure and equity have everything to do with it.
Why a controversial motion is not included on the agenda when SHEA representatives already describe a surreptitious board is unfathomable.
The most powerful man in ANY school corporation should not have his contract come to the table to be extended, terminated or otherwise altered without proper notice.
Trustee Sue Haake’s term ends with 2004. That’s being used to justify the timing because she was a party to discussions concerning the extension, but there’s plenty of time for her successor, Larry Hauswald, to develop an informed opinion. And who says he hasn’t already?
Like every superintendent, Clark has his supporters and detractors. And like every superintendent in the middle of a cantankerous contract negotiation, he’s got a teacher or two or three who would say, ‘He’s no Regis.’
Haake describes the extension as a gesture ‘of gratitude and recognition.’ Hauswald marches to the beat of his own drum and promises to be a wild card on the board. He’s already coming from a different direction as a retired South Harrison teacher who gave many good years to this school system.
The 5-2 vote might have been a 4-3 vote by the board’s next monthly meeting. Then any of four individuals could change their minds and the outcome.
The point is that rushing the motion through before Haake’s departure just plain looks bad. Devious intent or not, it looks bad. Clark had been evaluated months ago, but this was an 11th-hour motion.
Last but not least is the question of equity.
Neither the administration nor the teachers have gone to great lengths to mend the deep rift between them, at least not publicly. Extending Clark’s contract threatens to add further emphasis to the distinction between superintendent and teacher.
Clark earns more. And he should. Clark’s health insurance is paid in full by the corporation. That is debatable. But there is no justification for extending his contract prior to reaching a resolution with the SHEA, no matter how long that takes.
Sometimes we have to deviate from the routine.
South Harrison Community School Corp. has whether it likes it or not. In fact, some might say things are downright out of the ordinary.
It’s up to the board and administration to act within the context of the times.

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