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Editorial:Fixing a toxic school environment
January 29, 2014, 05:00 AM Editorial

The Millbrae Elementary School District has seen its share of strife since December stemming from the sudden departure of the principal of Taylor Middle School.

Parents and teachers who liked the principal cried foul, and said they did not have confidence in district administrators in several public meetings called to ease the tension.

However, during those meetings, it appears that certain members of the Board of Trustees did little to ameliorate the concern and, in fact, inflamed them through their combative stances.

Monday’s naming of an interim principal is a solid step and we hope the new school leader will be able to navigate the treacherous waters created by weeks of tension. It will be no small task.

In case you missed it, Taylor Middle School Principal Lesley Martin abruptly resigned last month and some felt she was intimidated by the superintendent and school board into leaving. Taylor classified and certificated employees also passed a no confidence vote in Superintendent Linda Luna early last month. Teacher representatives also report low morale in the district.

In response, district officials scheduled two parent meetings but tension remained high — particularly through the defensive reactions by some members of the board.

Because Martin’s departure is a personnel issue, there is some information to which the public is not privy, that’s understandable. And Luna has been civil and professional throughout this process and seems to want to learn from this situation. That’s a positive sign.

Another positive step is a school climate survey of the Taylor staff to determine how to meet the school’s mission and goals.

Being on a school board is sometimes a thankless task with little pay for a lot of work. But so is being a teacher. And if the district wants to retain quality teachers and other school staff, then those at the ground floor of educating children should be treated with respect, as should parents who would like to share concerns about decisions that directly affect their children’s education.

The ongoing dissent over the principal’s departure is indicative of a problem within the district and one that must be remedied immediately. Additional leadership training for members of the Board of Trustees or counseling through an organization such as the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center are two options moving forward.

The Millbrae Elementary School District has other significant matters on its plate that have the potential of being pushed aside by this ongoing situation. The impacts of the Local Control Funding Formula on its finances and the implementation of new Common Core standards are two challenges that will take the full might of the district to navigate effectively.

There will not be a clear and present path forward without a cohesive school community that feels as if it is listened to and respected. When teaching children, one of the first lessons is treating others with respect. This is a lesson adults should abide by as well.



Tags: school, district, board, principal, taylor, members,

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