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School board members are entrusted to make hard decisions

One of the most important things a board of education member does is hire administrators. Their job is not to be involved in the minutiae of the district’s day-to-day happenings, but rather to set policies and to approve the people who will be responsible for those details.

That’s why we’re puzzled by the refusal of Marietta City Schools board member Mark Duckworth to vote on six administrative contracts this month, including the contracts of four principals.

Duckworth said he abstained because he had asked for copies of the administrators’ evaluations to be scanned and sent to BOE members to review before the meeting, and they had not been.

“There is no way an individual can evaluate an administrator without a copy of their job description and a list of the goals the employee was charged to accomplish in the said year of the evaluation,” he said.

That may be true but when was the request made? Was there extra time provided, given that most offices are being minimally staffed right now? Was there a follow-up from Duckworth when the information wasn’t received as planned?

He knew these votes were coming up. If this information was vital, as he said, then where is his responsibility in asking for it in a timely fashion and ensuring his request be granted? As a last resort, could he have not taken proper safety precautions and gone to the office himself before the meeting to view these files?

And does he have no other way to measure performance? None of these administrators are new. Duckworth has worked with them throughout his time on the board.

It seems as if he gave up too easily on a key function of his job, one that he was elected by district residents to perform. In fact, it almost seems as if when the information requested didn’t come as quickly and easily as it should have, he saw an opportunity to take a swipe at the district administration for failing to provide it, and sat out the vote to call attention to it.

We hope that’s not the case. But if Duckworth legitimately felt unprepared for the vote, that’s a problem, too. Is there an issue with supplying information efficiently? That should certainly be looked into. However, it seems other issues could be at play here.

Duckworth said he wanted to be cautious because he “was being asked to allocate $1 million in public funds” with these contracts. We agreed that this is a huge responsibility. That’s why we think every board member should have taken the action necessary to cast a vote, even if it was inconvenient or required more action than perhaps it should have. That’s the duty of an elected official serving the district, and in this case, we think Duckworth didn’t fulfill that promise.

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