Loyal readers of these screeds will see this post again on Friday in our regular piece “Angels & Assholes” – our weekly roll call of those who tried to screw us – or tried to save us – during the week that was.
You can find it in the Asshole column. . .
In my view, you can tell a lot about people and organizations by the way they react under pressure.
In fact, I believe it is the only true litmus test for leadership.
After all, we see someone’s true character when everything is in jeopardy – and it has become crystal clear that our elected officials on the Volusia County School Board do not have what it takes when the chips are down.
Real soup-sandwiches. . .
Last week in this space, I took the board to task for their miserable failure to keep students, teachers, staff, and taxpayers informed during a pandemic – and their refusal to foster a free and transparent organizational culture where everyone feels comfortable openly expressing their opinions on the issues of the day and making substantive suggestions for bettering the system.
Then something weird happened.
Just days after education reporter Cassidy Alexander’s informative piece in the News-Journal announcing that district officials would not be releasing the numbers of positive coronavirus cases by individual school, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carmen Balgobin proved her malleability by immediately obeying the unilateral diktat of Chairwoman Ida Wright, who has obviously succumbed to the “circle the wagons” siege mentality that has gripped the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand.
At Chairwoman Wright’s personal direction, Dr. Balgobin sent an email under her hand to principals, departments, and “Cabinet Members,” ordering that all media communications be solely “facilitated” through Kelly Shultz, who oversees the district’s failed Office of Community (Dis) Information. . .
Trust me, Ms. Wright. That horse has left the barn.
In my experience, once the recognized “leader” of an organization – like the board chair, or interim superintendent, of a school district with a bloated budget approaching $1 billion – begins suppressing the free exchange of information after losing their ability to control the message, well, it is impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
And Wright and Balgobin should have known that.
Now, these repressive actions appear petty and heavy-handed – an attempt to suppress the free speech of teachers and staff trying desperately to bring serious issues to light – and it telegraphs to everyone watching that senior leadership has lost internal control of the district.
Make no mistake, Ms. Wright wasn’t trying to “mitigate risk” when she nervously ordered Dr. Balgobin to muzzle teachers and staff – she was protecting the district’s false narrative.
Given the continuing pattern of indecision, vacillation, and oddball policy reversals that have marked Dr. Balgobin’s short tenure at the helm – that’s a big problem.
Following the board’s meeting on Tuesday afternoon it became apparent that our elected officials are now consumed with a paranoid effort to anticipate where the next criticism is coming from – obsessed with trying to outfox their detractors – rather than provide comprehensive leadership based upon a plan that supports the educational and operational goals of the district.
And this shit train continues to derail with no one at the switch. . .
Inexplicably, instead of simply allowing Blundering Balgobin to fulfill her role as Deputy Superintendent in Dr. Scott Fritz’ medical absence – you know, what she was hired to do – the School Board took the unprecedented step of scratching the term “interim” from her current title – immediately elevating her to Superintendent without any formal evaluation, public input, or process – I mean, beyond the hyper-dramatic mewling and cooing of Board Member Jamie Haynes. . .
At the end of the day, I guess this means that the board has effectively launched Superintendent Fritz into the ether, literally from his sickbed?
Why not simply allow Balgobin to fill the seat until Dr. Fritz is well enough to come back to work – or make a decision to fill the superintendent vacancy if, and when, he is unable to return using the normal selection process?
It was all horribly confusing – just as School Board Attorney Ted Doran no doubt intended.
When talk turned to treating our “new” Superintendent to a massive pay raise commensurate with her title (we currently pay her $579.00 per day), the board strategically signaled that – while her raise/bonus is a lead pipe cinch – Balgobin will need to keep up appearances and wait until teachers and staff negotiate their paltry bump – which, at best, will amount to little more than crumbs off Dr. Balgobin’s groaning plate. . .
My God. . .
During these terribly uncertain times, rather than demonstrate sound leadership and a “lets pull together” resolve to meet the myriad challenges facing the district head-on, our elected officials promote a struggling deputy superintendent who is clearly over her head – and reward her amateurish fumbling with a substantial pay increase that well exceeds the annual salary of many of those teachers and staff who have lost confidence in her abilities.
Photo Credit: Fox 35 Orlando