The situation in the Waterloo Central School District right now is just plain strange.
It’s obvious that much of the teaching staff supports Superintendent Terri Bavis. Witness the public displays in the past two weeks, along with a swell of online support through social media and other avenues, including letters to the editor on this page.
A workplace where the majority of employees is that passionate about the job the boss is doing is one to treasure, for sure.
However, as in most workplaces, Bavis has detractors as well. There has been public outcry in recent weeks from a group of parents that believes bullying involving their children is not being addressed properly.
Also, what seems to have riled up teachers and the community the most is the news that Bavis is seeking other employment opportunities, although, as we reported yesterday she recently told staff that she has declined an offer from another district.
Apparently, the most contentious issue of all is her contract.
The Board of Education approved a new, three-year deal with Bavis in January by a 7-1 vote — the nine-member board is one person short at the moment after Kathy Oldfield passed away unexpectedly in December. Bavis’ original contract was set to expire June 30, 2019; the new agreement would take effect July 1 and continue through June 30, 2021.
When a school board rips up an existing deal and offers a new one, it’s a sign its members are happy with the job that person is doing.
Board member John Butlak, who cast the lone no vote in January, explained that it had nothing to do with Bavis’ performance, which he applauded; rather, he felt it was important to negotiate deals with the district’s other unions before tackling the superintendent’s contract.
Agreeing to a new contract and ratifying it are entirely separate matters, though. While a board majority is required for approval, only the school board president and superintendent need to sign on the dotted line for it to take effect.
Bavis has signed the contract. Current Board President Mike Shores has not, offering no explanation other than it is a “personnel issue” that he should not comment about publicly.
That has resulted in a controversy that is galvanizing staff and students alike.
Bavis emailed staff a couple of weeks back, telling them she was exploring other career opportunities, something that many people in her situation would be doing. Whether intended or not, that correspondence created the firestorm that has ensued.
The board decided Bavis was worthy of a new contract in January. It’s incumbent on Shores to follow through on the board’s wishes and sign the new deal, or explain to students, teachers and taxpayers why he won’t.
It looks to be the only way this mess will be cleaned up.