Time for DISD to press reset

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, June 23, 2018

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The long two weeks of speculation and turmoil at Decatur ISD ended Monday after the 10th hour of trustees meeting behind closed doors to discuss the contract and job performance of superintendent Judi Whitis.

Richard Greene

When the dust settled shortly around 10:30 p.m. (much better than 1 a.m.), a split board elected to keep Whitis on the job and move forward. Most importantly, unlike the week before, a decision was made and direction was picked.

After an unanimous vote in February to extend her $158,000 per year contract, this was likely the proper decision. To change course less than a year after she was hired and four months after being given a new contract seemed like a folly.

A majority of the board agreed.

Given the outrage of property owners in the district seeing their values rise along with their tax bill, a settlement probably would have been a tough sell. It reminds me of what a superintendent told me in my first month as a reporter, “As a superintendent, you’re dealing with people’s two most prized possessions – their kids and their pocketbook.”

Since reading the concerns stated in the School Board President Wade Watson’s letter to Whitis and then sitting through the June 4-5 seven-hour closed session, I questioned if I was in her shoes would I want to stay and how could this work. Then again, I wondered Monday after the 4-3 vote.

But in Whitis’ response about moving forward, I found true insight and a different way to look at the situation: “It’s taken a toll on everyone. But sometimes it takes this to make us better and put us on the right path to better things ahead.”

No pain, no gain – right? Or something like that.

Often it is crisis that makes us reflect, rally the troops and set a new course. This should be the proper time for the district to press reset and decide to work together. It is also the time to improve communication channels and clearly define goals and strategy.

Given some of the concerns in Watson’s letter, there is work to do on all fronts.

I will say, Monday’s meeting featured more discussion from the board about decisions. Something that will be needed even more in the coming months. As Whitis pointed out in comments Monday, the district will need to rebuild some public trust.

It has been evident over the past two weeks from comments and letters there are a lot of people that deeply care about the school district in this growing community. Monday’s meeting drew approximately 70 people. Hopefully many will stay involved. It’s community involvement that will help the district reach its true potential and that expectation of being the best.

Richard Greene is the Messenger editor.

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