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Voice: Klentschy needs to lead, follow or get out of the way

March 24, 2001

It has been interesting to watch as the conflict between the El Centro Elementary School District board and its teachers has developed.

The conflict escalated from the first day, when board President Mr. Edney made the theme of his presentation "Putting the Children First." The clear implication was the teachers' disagreement with the board was not putting children first

Just prior to Mr. Edney's comments, Dr. Klentschy made note that every school site in the district had made significant progress on the API tests. Klentschy went on to relate how proud he was to attend a conference that recognized El Centro's progress in science. In subsequent months, Dr. Klentschy spent time congratulating the teachers in the newspaper whenever an article complimentary to the district appeared.

We have heard virtually nothing from Dr. Klentschy about the conflict with the teachers' association. Some would say a superintendent's job is to administer and remain aloof from the conflict between the board and the teachers' association.

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There can be little doubt Dr. Klentschy has worked as a manager in this district. The adoption of the VIPS science program and the "Open Court" reading program are directly attributable to him.

According to one dictionary, an administrator is, "One who administers, especially one who works as a manager in a business, government agency or school."

Recently we were given proof by his award as "school superintendent of the year," an award not voted on by the people who work for him. Implementation of every program for which he or the board received an award was by the teachers. Teachers have done the work with your children. Neither the board nor the administration worked directly with your children to ensure their success.

I believe "superintendent" implies both administrative and leadership responsibilities. Leadership is defined as, "A person who has commanding authority and influence." Although he has authority vested in him by the board to bring pressure on teachers, he does not have a positive influence.

There is a saying in the military: "Mission first, troops always." That translates to, "We must always accomplish our job, but we must never forget the people that work for us."

Why bring in the military? Simple, we are in a war. Teachers are fighting small skirmishes and larger battles every day for the education of your children. How well do you think demoralized, ignored and threatened teachers are performing? Do you think our schools will repeat last year's growth on the API? It's hard to attack when you don't believe in your commander.

Parents, you hope your children will succeed. You are banking on their education now, to prepare them for their future.

Leadership implies Dr. Klentschy needs to take a public position if he wishes to have the respect of those who serve under him. If he supports the board's actions, he ought to say so. If he thinks the board's stance is provocative and resulting in unnecessary conflict, he ought to say so.

We had another saying in the Army: "Lead, follow or get out of the way." It's time parents with children in El Centro's schools demand he, "Lead, follow or get out of the way."

The board has not heard from you and it is are doing as it chooses. The loss is your children's future.

LOURDES GARCIA

El Centro

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