Tenterhooks Pt. 3 – “That woman”

You will want to begin reading this at Tenterhooks Part 1A I’m no saint

An image I just googled in case you were wondering, as was I, what tenterhooks are. They must be very good at hanging things out to dry but today I think the pinchy clothsline clips would do less damage.

I’ve taken to calling the school board the Keystone Cops in the last couple months. (Not my two-person side mind you) Its not a very dignified image. And yet last Tuesday we soldiered on with considerable aplomb, at least before the marriage bomb.

There was a remarkably frank discussion about the evaluation of the Superintendent that Tim Sworsky led us through. We had been given a longish set of mulitiple choice questions with the usual 1 through 5 rating system. We will be given an oportunity to add our comments as Board members. I explained that I had no hand in devising it when it was suggested that the evaluation came from the School Board. I added I had not particular problem with it. I also asked the delicate question about whether our individual evaluations and comments would be made public. Tim told me that they would go into the Superintendent’s file and that only the composite ratings would be made public along with selected comments. Art had mentioned to me that none of his comments had been made public in the last go round.

I explained that I was curious if this would be like the recent discussion of the Superintendent’s contract during which Art made it clear he hoped to have a closed meeting where he could be frank. Mr. Sworsky told him that this was not possible and that any comments he had to make must be in full view of the public. With some discomfort Art proceeded to offer a critique that I can’t recall but likely involved the continuing distress of the District for which the Superintendent could be held responsible.

Perhaps the most surprising contribution to the discussion came from the Board’s only experienced school administrator Bill Westholm. Member Westholm agreed with Art that the questions and rating were rather unfocused.

So, having started out so well it was a shock to have Mr. Sworsky take us off track. Tim was hired as the assistant director of personnel while I was still on the Board. His family attended our church for a year or two. He seemed to drop out of Glen Avon about the time I became a vocal leader of the Anti-Red Plan forces. I’ve always wondered if that had anything to do with Tim’s moving on. Several members of our congregation have worked for ISD 709 including teachers and administrators. I’ve learned to avoid talking about the District with many of them.

Dr. Dixon elevated Tim to the top post when he pushed the former Director out and it is easy to presume Tim has been a good soldier since to an administration that still has long Dixon tails running through it.

I generally work on the theory that what the top administrators do is at the direction of their boss the Superintendent so I tend not to blame them for their actions. I got quite hot three months into my new Board term when there was a concerted effort to keep me away from the Teacher’s Contract Negotiations that according to Board policy I was fully entitled to sit through. I can only find one reference to being denied entry into the meeting in my blog. It is a blog post that is highly critical of our attorney Kevin Rupp.

I know I’ve written about the episode but perhaps only in a hot email to Janna Hollingsworth or Art Johnston or Chair Miernicki. I was furious with the Superintendent and sent him an angry text message telling him how angry I was I sat on a couch in his office while his tight little negotiations group met behind closed doors including Rosie Loeffler-Kemp a Board member with no more authority to me than me. It was Tim Sworsky that turned to me as I was about to follow everyone else in and told me I couldn’t come in. I didn’t blame him but I did blame the Superintendent and our Attorney for not following policy. He was just the designated bouncer. I let Mike Miernicki, who had agreed in a closed meeting that it was fine for me to attend, know too. Mike seemed confounded and caught in the middle. He eventually decided he had to side with the Superintendent’s position.

I have presumed that Tim is simply the Superintendent’s instrument up to now. He went beyond the pale however and I’m sure there were more closed door meetings after we adjourned to talk about damage control.

I’ve already speculated that Tim might not have been made aware how damaged his primary witness against Jane Bushey is. That witness is Cheryl Lien, the former East High School Assistant Principal. If so, the powers that be ……off for breakfast.

Lots of editing to do on these last three posts. Will probably wait till I put arms on Jabba the Hutt.

At Breakfast Claudia reminded me that I had planned to attend a meeting with local African Americans at the City Council chambers with other locally elected officials. That began at 12:30 and lasted till nearly 3:30 so Jabba didn’t get his arms. Yet. I’ll work on that tonight. The meeting deserves a post of its own but I’m not done with “That Woman.”

After our meeting Art and I put our heads together to figure out what the Sworsky erruption was all about. Its striking looking at the video but Art took the abuse with some good humor and perplexity rather than his much advertised indignant tenacity. Art asked me if Sworsky’s comment represented some kind of religious bigotry against the unmarried. I couldn’t rule that out although its not exactly what I’ve come to expect from Presbyterians. However, its possible Tim affiliated with a more conservative less mainline church after leaving Glen Avon. Even so I told Art I thought it was odd that Tim should get puffed up about Art and Jane’s “living in sin.” Certainly judging by some of the other administrators faces during the rant they were dreadfully uncomfortable. One looked down at non existant notes. Another looked around as if hearing some other information from elsewhere in the room. One put his hand on his head and seemed to spin around.

I concluded that it seemed to me that the only good and likely explanation was uncontrolled fury at the idea that Art was blaming Sworsky for bullying Jane. As I told Art when you explode all sorts of inadvertent things come out that you might not even mean or believe. I had little doubt that upon reflection Tim would realize he had gone overboard.

Later in the meeting Art demanded an apology and in Janna Hollingsworth’s story that is where I pop up to say that I don’t think demanding apologies in public is all that useful an idea. Apologies are hard to force under the best of circumstances and I’ve always felt that parents who force them from their children mostly foster insincerity.

To me the great irony was that however Tim took Art’s complaint about Jane’s being bullied it was not directed all that much at Sworsky. The administration generally sure, The School Board’s six point list of allegations by all means, Cheryl Lien’s actions Absolutely. But Sworsky’s HR Department well yeah but the HR Director was mostly a tool. I alluded to this when I said that everyone was on tenterhooks. Of course, in my view the School Board’s tenterhooks were the result of its hoisting itself on its own petard. A petard is apparently an early bomb used for breaching walls. Like any explosive badly handled it can redound against its maker, blow up under them and hoist them into the air.

Well if nothing else these posts have allowed me to look up the origins of two old and odd colloquialisms that I’ve frequently used without a clue as to their origin. Speaking cluelessly comes easy to we school board members.

Oh yeah, and about “that woman.” It’s so Victorian. Was the Director of Personnel talking about a hussy? a gold digger? a home wrecker? a painted lady” or maybe a fallen woman? What a poor choice of words for an angry administrator to pull out of his hat. That woman has a name after all. It’s Jane Bushey.

And here’s an additional Oh yeah. I hope if I’ve made anything clear in the Tenterhooks posts it is that if this outburst was was intended to point to anyone’s lack of morals I should be the first to step up and confess to being that lost wretch who sings Amazing Grace. And since I’m an agnostic I can’t even claim the grace.