The following opinion was submitted by Carol Hinds. She has three children enrolled in Elizabeth Public Schools. She says she has no personal connections with anyone on the board or with Superintendent Douglas Bissonette.
The Elizabeth C-1 school board will be reviewing and making a decision on whether to renew the contract of Superintendent Douglas Bissonette at the April 7th board meeting. As a voting resident of the district, I am seriously questioning why Bissonette’s contract is being reviewed and considered for termination. I would like the school board and its constituents to be reminded of the board’s obligations as taken directly off the district website:
- Members of a board are, therefore, public employees chosen by citizens of a district to represent them and the state in the legislative management of public schools.
- Maintain two-way communications with the citizens of the district. The public shall be kept informed of the progress and problems of the school district, and the citizens shall be urged to bring their aspirations and feelings about their public schools to the attention of this body which they have chosen to represent them in the management of public education.
- It is important that the candidate be sincerely and honestly interested in serving the whole school district for the best interests of all children. Board members shall be nonpartisan in dealing with school matters. The Board does not wish to subordinate the education of children and youth to any partisan principle, group interest or personal ambition.
- Render all decisions based on the available facts and my independent judgment and refuse to surrender that judgment to individuals or special interest groups.
- Support the employment of those persons best qualified to serve as school staff and insist on a regular and impartial evaluation of all staff.
- Avoid being placed in a position of conflict of interest and refrain from using my board position for personal or partisan gain.
- Remember always that my first and greatest concern must be the educational welfare of the students attending the public schools.
- It is the intent of this policy to protect the public trust placed in directors of this school district. For purposes of this policy, the Board declares that a conflict of interest is a personal, pecuniary interest that is immediate, definite and demonstrable and which is or may be in conflict with the public interest.
- A Board member who has a personal or private interest in a matter proposed or pending before the Board shall disclose such interest to the Board, shall not vote on it and shall not attempt to influence the decisions of other Board members in voting on the matter.
Keeping the above points in mind, I would like to point out the positives Bissonette has brought to the district:
- Collaborative time, allowing teachers to examine data and make informed decisions to improve instruction, thereby helping them to meet the needs of all students.
- Created an atmosphere within our district which is much more results driven than ever before. Training for all instructional staff and administrators in data-based decision-making.
- Assessment days for the elementary schools; giving teachers the chance to meet with students BEFORE the first day of school to assess their needs and be prepared with tailored instruction on the first day of school.
- Created a district-wide Rtl (Response to Intervention) committee which is helping our school understand and put in place a consistent Rtl system which reflects the requirements of the nationally-mandated initiative.
- Has added articulated classes from Pikes Peak Community College and a Fire Science Program worth college credit at the high school.
- Has made a free full-day kindergarten available.
- Works very well with the Elbert County Sheriff’s Department and has formed a partnership with the I Love You Guys Foundation (Emily Keyes), which will bring a standard safety protocol to our schools and which includes training for our local first responders.
- Has been instrumental in the creation of surveys which have been sent to community and staff members, allowing the district to rate the satisfaction of the community and the staff on different district initiatives.
- Has formed a district-wide writing committee to align the writing curriculum, instruction and assessment.
- Bissonette considers staff input as well as taking the time to listen to opposing views.
- Bissonette has made meetings for staff much more action oriented and forward moving.
- Bissonette’s first thought is always: “What’s best for our kids?”
- Bissonette’s next thought is always: “How will it affect our community?”
- Bissonette is creating a foundation of trust and stability between leadership and staff, which has not been present in the past, as well as bringing strong instructional leadership to our district. This district has not had any of these qualities in the past.
- Bissonette is focusing on improving instruction in our district.
- Bissonette creates change based on researched educational best practices.
- Bissonette is creating a District Educational Strategic Plan, something this district has never had before.
- Bissonette has helped raise test scores district-wide.
- Bissonette makes many school and classroom visits, staying in the buildings for a half a day or longer. In the past, we have been given cursory five minute visits from superintendents.
- While Mr. Bissonette is in the schools and classrooms, he observes, asks questions and follows up.
The Elizabeth C-1 School District has had five superintendents in the past nine years. If we lose Bissonette due to this school board’s actions, that will make that six superintendents in the last nine years. If we have to find a new superintendent, this will be the fourth superintendent search the taxpayers of this school district will be forced to pay for in the past four years. None of this bodes well for our children attending these schools, nor for the teachers and staff who will be forced to, once again, adjust to a new superintendent and all of the changes this new superintendent brings with him/her. As elected officials of the Elizabeth C-1 School District, this school board has an obligation to stand in front of the public and the press and defend their actions. Rest assured, we will hold this school board to that obligation should they decide to terminate the contract of Douglas Bissonette.
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