The renewal of the superintendent’s contract at Higley Unified School District has drawn criticism from parents and a teacher, who questioned the governing board’s move at a special meeting Thursday.
Before the board went into a closed session to sort out details of Superintendent Joyce Lutrey’s contract, the parents and teacher raised concerns about a lack of supplies, including paper and textbook shortages, and asked why the administrator’s contract was being renewed at such an early date.
The special meeting allowed board president Kim Anderson to give a presentation on strategic planning before the closed session.
The board also had conducted negotiations in closed session during its regular meeting Sept. 13 regarding Lutrey’s contract for the 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, but did not reach an agreement.
Board member Edwin Moore said in the past week he has received a lot of e-mails from parents who say that teachers are not being supported by the superintendent and do not want her contract renewed.
“I disagree with the premise that there is no support by the superintendent or the district for teachers,” Moore wrote in an e-mail response to parents.
Moore said staff members are protected by law and board policy from retaliation if they report behaviors they believe to be “in violation of the law, mismanagement, a gross waste of monies, an abuse of authority, or board policy.”
Parents have told the board that teachers are afraid to speak for fear they’ll lose their jobs, but Moore said those fears are unwarranted.
“There is no history in our district of a teacher being terminated for saying something,” Moore said.
Susie Dunbar, a social studies teacher at Power Ranch Elementary who previously taught at San Tan Elementary, told the board that she wasn’t aware of the grievance policy. She said she also used the processes outlined in the policy in previous years by taking complaints to her site administrator, but nothing came of it.
Dunbar, who works with 194 students, said she wasn’t afraid to speak for fear
of losing her job but said it’s an emotional issue.
“My problem is with the district as a whole,” she said. “We’re the only school without a paper ration. There are not enough books.” Dunbar said she has an immense amount of grading to do. “It makes me feel ineffective as a teacher,” she said.
Several board members stressed that they would like to improve communications within the district. They will also develop a strategic plan that they’ll begin to outline next month.