Saturday, December 11, 2021

She's Going, But Why? And Now What?

Now that The Dallas Morning News has published its story reporting that Dr. Jeannie Stone, Superintendent of Richardson ISD, will resign on Monday, the biggest assertion this blog has been chronicling for the last month or so has proven to be true. But that's not all I claimed. The related claim has ramifications going forward.

Once the hubbub over the news of Dr. Stone's resignation dies down, perhaps the public can focus on the other assertion made in this blog's articles. That's the presumed reason for the departure. The Dallas Morning News spends most of its own article talking about public criticism of school district leaders, as if that was behind the resignation. The Dallas Morning News only hinted generally at a national trend of "tension in boardrooms." I made a more specific claim:

Dr. Stone's departure will not be a surprise. And it's not due to public vilification. Unfortunately, public vilification is all too common for public figures today. The challenge of being in education, whether as a teacher, principal, or superintendent, requires the skills of a diplomat and the backbone of a strong-willed person. Dr. Stone has both. She departs RISD not because of the challenge faced by many but because she lost the support of her bosses, the Board of Trustees.
Source: The Wheel.

Is that claim also true? Well, it deals with motivation, which only Dr. Stone can definitively answer. And she is unlikely to be giving interviews. For one thing, I would be surprised if she would want to go down a nasty "she said, they said" fight. For another, her departure was a mutual agreement. Such agreements often contain a confidentiality agreement, prohibiting the parties from commenting on the dispute. I would be surprised if her agreement doesn't contain one.

Social media is full of comments to the effect that Dr. Stone's departure was her own decision, that she wasn't fired or even forced out. One sign that's not entirely accurate is that the RISD Board of Trustees will be buying out Dr. Stone's long-term contract, which runs through June, 2024. The total cost to the district will be enormous. You don't do that for someone who up and quits. The Board is making that decision themselves. They must really, really, want her gone to spend that kind of money. Given that Dr. Stone was awarded "Superintendent of the Year" by the Texas PTA as recently as 2019, it's hard to believe she has suddenly gone from best to worst. Given that five of six board members are new since 2019, including two in just the last six months, I find it more likely that the change from best to worst is in the board room and not the superintendent's office. Paying a small fortune to get rid of a Superintendent of the Year is hard to explain otherwise.

The President of the RISD Board of Trustees, Karen Clardy, also resigned, back in September. Clardy also declined to issue a statement explaining her resignation. But she didn't have a contract. She didn't sign any confidentiality agreement. She is free to talk about what led to her own resignation. I hope she eventually chooses to do just that. I believe her own departure was also precipitated, not by public vilification, but by a deep dysfunction on the board itself. Not all board members by any means. Possibly three, to differing degrees. And another two or three are at a loss about how to deal with it. As I said after watching the board interact in a mandatory board training session, on teamwork no less, "if the RISD school board is dysfunctional (and I think it is), this team-building training is not likely to change much. What the trainer had to say was excellent, but what this board needs is not training, it's counseling." The public deserves to know that simple truth. It just cost the RISD the services of a Superintendent of the Year. It threatens to cost the RISD so much more going forward.


Unknown said...

Marcia Grau I think it is likely that the BOT told her to carry out the policies they favor and Dr. Stone decided she would rather leave. As you said, the current BOT is not on board with Dr. Stone's policies.

The Revend said...

As a former individual appointed by an elected body, I can fully understand Dr. Stone’s decision. When elected officials begin to waver and bend to the lunatic fringe (e.g. anti-masking and ani-diversity constituents), you feel a sense of inevitable abandonment. So you choose the path of least resistance, resignation and compensation. I made that same choice as a former City Manager. At the end of the day, Dr. Stone chose her professionalism and dignity over a political slugfest manifest from the wing nuts decrying “cancel culture” and “CRT” when they feel their power slipping.
I stand with Dr. Stone’s decision, but I regret the outcome. As a parent of RISD students, we are left with at least 3 failures of decency on the school board. 3 individuals who will kowtow to conspiracy nuts and fringe elements who frankly need to leave our community.
These trustees must be held accountable at all cost. Recall or challenges in the next election, we cannot forfeit the advancements of RISD to anti-progress bullies and weak impotent trustees.

Mark Steger said...

Brian Brooks, thank you for speaking from experience.

Eric Stengel said...

It is sad whenever the leader of a school district leaves that has nothing but good intentions for all students at heart. When I graduated Richardson ISD schools in the late 90s to current times in which my child attends; demographics & diversity are quite different. The board of trustees nor the stakeholders should be naive to think a leadership change can erase the good work of the 2017 strategic plan & mission statement of ensuring “ALL connect, learn, grow and succeed through relevant and personalized learning experiences distinguished by : a welcoming and accepting climate
a safe, innovative, and adaptive environment, and a supportive, collaborative, and invested culture among students, staff, families, and community.” I have a feeling we have lost that sense of community & trust in our district by the vocal minority not reflective of the good work of the majority. It’s going to be difficult getting that trust back no matter who is leading our school district in the future.

Mark Steger said...

Monday night, after an hour of 1-minute comments by member of the public, the RISD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept Dr. Stone's resignation. There was no deliberation before the vote. The Board President read a prepared joint statement after the vote. None of the trustees added anything. The silence of four of them was political cowardice. To paraphrase an old saying, "Better to remain silent and be thought a knave than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

JHook said...

Where can I find information about the BOT buying out her contract?

Mark Steger said...

Look here.