Letters                                                                 Page 4


Reader Reply


Abuse Reporting Duty
Commendations to Michele Handzel, school attorney with Capital Region BOCES in Albany, N.Y., for her two recent Legal Brief columns.

Handzel’s column "Personal Liability and the Limits of Indemnification" (January 2012) issue was extremely helpful. No superintendent ever plans to be in a position where he or she needs to seek indemnification from the board of education. In reality, that does happen, so her column gave readers some good insight on how to be prepared for such a situation.

Her second column “Superintendent Accountability for Employees’ Abuse" (April 2012) issue was equally valuable. The role of school leaders in suspected abuse cases is not always as clearcut as we would hope. Handzel outlined the legal responsibility and how our moral responsibilities sometimes supersede what the law suggests.

District Superintendent,
St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES,
Canton, N.Y.

Michele Handzel’s Legal Brief column in April (“Superintendent Accountability for Employees’ Abuse”) resonated with me because we had an unfortunate incident during the past year involving a well-liked veteran teacher who admitted unintentionally hurting a child in his classroom.

During the investigation, I was shown a photo of the bruise on the child’s arm and, while it may have seemed like a goofy mistake (which is what many individuals claimed in their blog postings), I realized my responsibility to report the behavior as possible child abuse. I believe it rose to the standard of intentional or reckless infliction of an injury on a child. I did not see it as intentional.

I reported the incident to the local authorities and the state education department. It was several months before any closure came through, and it was unsettling to have half the uninformed community think we were awful for reporting and the other half thinking we should run the teacher out of town.

Handzel’s column reinforced my obligation to report. Not reporting would have put the district and me in a most vulnerable position. I often say we are not investigators by profession, but we are observers of behaviors and mandated to report behavior that put a child at risk. Her column makes a point all administrators would be wise to remember.

Voorheesville Central Schools,
Voorheesville, N.Y.





Procrustean Politicians
Patricia Neudecker’s President's Corner column in May 2012 (“Differentiated or Customized?”) was remarkably topical and perfectly on point. It seems our Procrustean politicians at the state and federal levels have continually tried to fit the student into the standards, whether they be state mandated or the new Common Core, instead of turning the lens around as her column so succinctly pointed out.

All of us, administrators, school board members, teachers, parents, students and the public at large, must get our minds around the idea that the system is the issue, not the students and teachers within it.

I have chafed for years at the idea that Copernican units and seat time have been the constants in our unremitting struggle against complacency and the status quo. The mere thought that there is a different way to examine teaching and learning goes against everything that anyone of us has ever known, seen or heard of. That, in and of itself, is a pressing reason why the current system needs to be turned upside down.

I always have envisioned a school system as a pyramid – except, in my vision of the pyramid, the students, parents, teachers, support staff, school board and patrons are the large portion at the top of the pyramid and my role as superintendent is at the pointy end where the support and the majority of the responsibility lies. I've turned the pyramid upside down. It makes sense to me, and that is all that matters.

If we can get a majority of our comrades in the district offices and administrative positions to re-energize the system with a complete overhaul, then I believe real change may be affected. Failing that I suppose old Procrustes can get his sharp hatchet out and carve another generation of school children into the same old framework.

Superintendent/Elementary Principal,
Faulkton Area Schools,
Faulkton, S.D.

Laptop Initiative Laudatory
In his excellent article on his North Carolina school district’s digital conversion (February 2012), Mark Edwards’ opening story of the three excited boys leaving recess early to witness an online earthquake is striking.

His article clearly emphasizes this point: Laptop initiatives are not about the technology but about learning and re-imagining classroom practice through professional development and leadership.

Executive Director,
National Superintendents Roundtable,
Seattle, Wash.

Advocacy Advice
Belinda Pustka’s points about legislative advocacy before state legislators will help many superintendents across the nation convey essential information to the right people. Her article (“The View Inside the Legislator’s Office,” March 2012) was well done!

Executive Director,
Education Service Center Region 3,
Victoria, Texas

Executive Sessions
Michael Elsberry’s Board-Savvy Superintendent column, “The Improper Use of Executive Session” (May 2005), should be required reading for all school district directors and superintendents.

Some individuals hold the opinion that a case has to be made as to what to tell the public, as opposed to what should not be made public.

School Board Member,
Lackawanna Trail School District,
Factoryville, Pa.

Letters should be addressed to:
School Administrator
1615 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Fax: 703-841-1543



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