But it was clear that there was not great harmony in the district between the elected representatives and the administrator. Ford had been hired in 2007 by a board of education that contained a majority in favor of a consolidation plan that would have closed Phoenicia Elementary School. That was a board that had been chosen on the heels of the controversial Large Parcel (Oh jeez, please don’t make me explain that again) legislation that with their election, became a moot point. When it was able to turn its attention to other pressing matters, it presented the plan, which, along with closing Phoenicia Elementary, consolidating to accommodate dwindling numbers, would have presented the public with a bond issue that could have totaled $50-$70 million (a portion of which may have been reimbursed by a then-flush state) to renovate and prepare the buildings.
But candidates who pledged to keep Phoenicia Elementary School open were elected, as the public rejected the plan. The situation on the ground shifted for Dr. Ford. Given the many months of work that had gone into the plan, and the philosophy that had accompanied it, perhaps she was not able to ride the shift. Maybe a superintendent has to be more flexible, able to maintain leadership under changing conditions.
The members of the new board needed an administrative hand to assist in the implementation of its own philosophy, not one to struggle to amend it to accommodate the past. They have a responsibility to have a person in line with their thinking be the chief administrator of this $50 million per year enterprise.
The situation devolved into public sniping at the June 15 school board meeting (among others) in a discussion of Kindergarten classes at Phoenicia in the fall, Trustee Tony Fletcher angrily addressed Ford. “I just would like some straight up honesty, on the questions. I think (trustee) Tom Hickey asked a simple yes/no question and he didn’t get a yes/no answer, I find that so frustrating. It’s in the roots of a lot of problems we have right now.”
So “separation” was the only solution at this point. It will come at the cost of a buyout of the remaining year of Ford’s contract, and will necessitate interim measures and a search for a replacement. The current trustees will have until next May’s election to put forth its plan for the future. ++