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Don't resurrect Hernando schools' grading scale fiasco

The Hernando School Board has a full plate. It must deal with swine flu precautions, gear up for the opening of a new high school, straighten out attendance at its magnet high school, name an interim superintendent and start a search for a permanent replacement for the departing Dr. Wayne Alexander.

What the district does not need is yet another distraction, but that is one idea emerging from the fallout of the superintendent's exodus. A proposed investigation of whether principals encouraged teachers to use a grading scale contrary to the approved policy is counterproductive for a board professing to seek stability and to move beyond Alexander's controversial tenure.

The board held its superintendent accountable for the grading policy discrepancies by negotiating an early end to Alexander's employment. That was appropriate. The superintendent is the only employee answering directly to the board and he is responsible for the activities of his subordinates.

Board members, however, do not have the authority to discipline principals, which is why a proposed investigation, supported by board members Dianne Bonfield and Sandra Nicholson, is a poor use of resources for a district facing far greater concerns. At best it's a waste of time. Worse, it could be perceived as Alexander's former supporters seeking to extract a pound of flesh from school-based administrators.

At issue is the so-called no-zero policy the board discussed, but discarded, for elementary schools over the summer. It would allow children to receive a grade no lower than 50 even if they failed to do the assigned work. Proponents said it would allow pupils an opportunity to recover academically from a missed assignment or poor performance, but critics, and board members themselves, noted it would reward students who put forth no effort.

Alexander, already out of favor with board members Pat Fagan and James C. Yant over his New England job search, lost the support of the board majority last month after Bonfield said she learned some teachers had been using that grading system already.

Board members' job is to set policy. They did so when they overruled a recommendation from Alexander to change the grading system. They also held Alexander responsible for his principals even if the genesis of the no-zero policy predated Alexander's tenure in Hernando. Now, to push an investigation to try to determine exactly which principals gave tacit approval to the grading system is without merit.

Alexander told principals in an Aug. 12 e-mail that he expected "the grading policy which is board approved, be followed without exception" and said principals were to reinforce that policy the first day teachers reported to work. It is a simple, straightforward directive that leaves no question about the School Board's and the superintendent's intent. It should conclude this episode.

A fresh start for the Hernando School District shouldn't be accompanied by rehashing a stale grading strategy that has been terminated already.

Don't resurrect Hernando schools' grading scale fiasco 08/31/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 31, 2009 6:08pm]
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