Let Whitis continue job

By Robin Lewis | Published Saturday, June 16, 2018

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Dear School Board Members,

As Spiderman once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I do not envy you your responsibility this week. You have been placed in a terrible position.

Nearly a year ago, you, the DISD school board, were happy, excited and celebratory about hiring Dr. Judi Whitis. In February, you reviewed her performance and unanimously extended her contract. Now, in June, you find yourselves in a board meeting discussing Dr. Whitis and her performance, again.

I am wondering what has changed since July 2017, and February 2018? Nothing as far as I can see. Has Dr. Whitis done something unethical? Illegal? Is she about to be indicted?

The only thing that I can see that she has done to ruffle feathers is have a large turnover within the district. As an educator, I watch the job board, so I am very aware of the turnover. While some would find this concerning, I do not. Every year we must plan for: teachers retiring, moving out of the area, staying home with their children, disgruntlement and promotions within and outside the district.

With a new superintendent (a new sheriff in town if you will), you must also plan for the superintendent wanting/needing to hire individuals that share her vision and goals. It is common to see a large turnover in administration. It is common and very necessary. Leadership in public schools is from the top down. Dr. Whitis must have administrators on every campus that share her vision of the future. A vision that she must be given time and trust to develop and shape.

In my time as an educator, this has been the case. Dr. Whitis has done what I have seen done repeatedly. Sit back and observe for a semester or two, then begin making changes and building the vision.

As I look at the job board, that is exactly what I see.

Personally I wonder why you all have called a meeting. You have put your trust in this lady, her background, her experience. You hired her. You evaluated her in February. So, the only conclusion that I can draw is that the community is disgruntled with the volume of turnover. Decatur is a great community. However, whether we like it or not, we are growing. We must have someone at the helm of our children’s education that can see the growth that is coming and plan and lay out the groundwork for it. Dr. Whitis is doing that!

I implore you to give her your trust and the time to build what we so desperately need in Decatur. We need a vision, a plan, a pathway to move forward to strengthen our schools and empower our children.

The district put out a survey earlier this year. What did the survey given out to the teachers, staff and parents tell you about the district? I spent over an hour completing that survey and giving as much information as I could. We have many broken pieces. We also have many great programs and great people. A person can still be great and work in another district!

Dr. Whitis is taking a microscope to our district. She is finding problems and issues and she is working to fix them. Our district is not, nor has it ever been, perfect. When something is studied under a microscope, the flaws tend to stand out. Give her the trust that she deserves to work out our flaws.

Of course in the process, it will be a little uncomfortable. In the process feelings will be hurt, and we may lose a good teacher or two. That’s OK. Those good teachers can be good in other districts. We very possibly may get a great teacher to replace them! We are building. We are building with the motto “expect the best.” Though these times may be uncomfortable and a few important people may be disgruntled, what is happening is for the good of the district. It will make us stronger and make things better for our children!

We are hiring. We are hiring teachers from different backgrounds. We are hiring teachers that grew up here. We are hiring teachers that bring different ideas and different ways to reach our children. This is exciting! This is refreshing! This is positive change! It is also messy and can be hard. Do not give up! You all chose her for this! Let her do what needs to be done.

In the world of education we have an overarching philosophy: “We believe in, develop and practice lifelong learning. We also believe in, develop and practice continuous improvement.”

That is education. As a member of this community for the last five years, I can assure you that those two key cornerstones of education have been absent. Dr. Whitis is bringing these things to our beloved town and believe me our children, our community and our families will be better for it.

Please, trust yourselves. You were right to hire her. You were right to extend her contract. She is doing the heavy lifting. We need to be thanking her.

Robin Lewis
Mother of four in this great district

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