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Our Opinion: Ironic timing for award

March 15, 2001

A schools superintendent can serve both his teachers and school board.

We have seen it locally. An example is Joe Maruca, now a county supervisor, who generally was popular with the teachers when he was superintendent at the Central and Imperial school districts. That was because, among other things, he got his teachers salary increases. Maruca also remained in good enough stead with his school boards to keep his job at both places until he decided it was time to go.

Longtime El Centro Elementary School Superintendent Michael Klentschy, who for years seemed as highly regarded by his teachers as Maruca was, is no longer held in such high regard by many teachers in the district. It seems Klentschy has made it quite clear that he is on the side of the school board in connection with its long and venomous dispute with the district's teachers regarding salary and contract language issues. His recent backing of a plan to cut 25 classified personnel, including classroom aides, in order to fund a reading program has made him even less liked by teachers.


It seems the differences between the board and the teachers are minor and that this matter should have been resolved long ago. If the district had a superintendent working as an arbiter instead of an advocate, that might have been the case. That is why it seems a little more than ironic that Klentschy recently was named superintendent of the year for San Diego and Imperial counties by the Association of California School Administrators.

Klentschy is a talented and innovative educator. He helped create a science program that has become a model around the country and even in other countries. He helped bring new schools on line in a growing district and helped bring up test scores in a district plagued by socioeconomic woes.

We expect the same leadership from Klentschy on the contract dispute. He can be a warm and charming fellow and seems a natural to settle disputes.

He should tell his school board that it is being unreasonable about some issues, because it is. He should tell his teachers he will work with them to get what they are due as long as they are reasonable in their demands, which they need to be.

We know the school board is the one that employs him, but the teachers are the ones who allowed Klentschy to build a considerable reputation in the educational field. The teachers are the ones he needs functioning at optimum levels to continue to have a good school district.

As long as this dispute continues and as long as extracurricular activities and teacher enthusiasm are kept in check, the kids in the district suffer. And that should be Klentschy's primary concern.

The timing of this award is what gets us. A couple years ago we and many teachers in the district would have stood up to applaud such an award being given to Klentschy. Now, in a district wracked with angry teachers who haven't had a contract in two years and all that brings on schools, it seems ironic timing at best.

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