Letter to the editor: Poor SVSU leadership trickles down

Poor school leadership trickles down

Regarding the article of Aug. 26, on the evaluation of James Culkeen as the Superintendent of the SVSU:

I am one of the 72 resignations mentioned. I want to start by noting the attrition rate mentioned in the article, "especially at the middle and high school, and in the special education department." Having 54 (non-retiring) staff members leave is a staggering number! Wasn't this a prime consideration of Culkeen's evaluation? If he wants true data points, he should investigate how many employees left the SVSU after having been there for 10 years or more. Many left due to ineffective new leadership within the district. Culkeen's responses and "solutions" display a lack of real knowledge and interest in his leadership role and responsibilities. "It's a strain on HR, on finance, and on my office to fill 72 positions." What is more important to him, his strain or retaining good employees and providing quality education for our students? Where are his priorities? He would like to blame the "personnel and educational upheaval" on staff members, yet the responsibility rests squarely on his shoulders. There is no real information about the challenges faced or real plans to eradicate them in the schools. His solution can't just be to "make a spreadsheet;" he needs to take full responsibility and formulate a tenable plan. It seems that the school board does not have the right intentions, and the evaluation was done just as arbitrarily as several of the other proceedings I have witnessed during my tenure. It's unfortunate that they evaluated him on "keeping the boat afloat," rather than his lack of goal setting and achievements for the district.

I have witnessed student needs considered last and great teachers and staff take the blame for leaving a community that needs them the most. I received notice of the exit interview and an opportunity to have a one on one discussion with Mr. Culkeen on June 6, just as exams were being given, essays graded, and my classroom cleaned out. My time in Bennington was mostly positive, with great teachers, department heads, and a wonderfully diverse population of students. I have gotten to know myself a lot more as a teacher and as a person; I would not trade my time there for anything. Bennington will always have a place in my heart, and I'm saddened to see the trickle-down effect of poor leadership, creating low morale for teachers. The ones who suffer most are the students.

— Jessica Dubie South Burlington


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