News and Tribune

Editorials

December 6, 2011

OUR VIEW: Board needs to retain Daeschner

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Stephen Daeschner, superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools, came to the district 2 1/2 years ago with a plan.

He has followed that plan and even bested self-imposed goals, meeting benchmarks he told the school board he would meet more quickly than promised.

That has come at a price, as Daeschner carries the second-highest salary for the head of an Indiana public school system — $225,000 a year.

It appears that at a Dec. 20 meeting, the Greater Clark County Schools board will allow his three-year contract to expire at its conclusion June 30. The school system must advise Daeschner on his contract status by the end of the month.

It is our opinion that Greater Clark Schools should retain Daeschner, possibly at a reduced salary, although Daeschner said in a News and Tribune article last week that option has not been discussed with him.

“In fact, it’s just the opposite. I had a majority of the board look me straight in the eye and tell me, ‘We do not plan to renew your contract.’”

If accurate, that hard-line approach is disappointing. It speaks of an inflexible board unwilling to negotiate to keep around a superintendent who has Greater Clark headed in the right direction.

Those improvements include:

• This year, for the first time since 2002, Greater Clark made Adequate Yearly Progress as a corporation.

• Jeffersonville High School — the district’s largest school — made 87 percent of its AYP goals, after meeting only 24 percent in 2010. Daeschner began work in the summer of 2009. Also, many elementary schools were the best performers in Greater Clark, showing the building of a solid base for students for years to come.

• The school corporation doubled Indiana’s percentage point gains in the past two years in terms of ISTEP scores. When Daeschner arrived, Greater Clark performed well below the state average, but has now nearly pulled even.

• Sixteen out of 19 school principals at Greater Clark signed a letter sent to the school board — and to the News and Tribune — in support of retaining Daeschner, even at a reduced salary. These are the educators that have worked closely with Daeschner to implement strategies used by principals and teachers to enact the above gains.

“It takes a long time to change 11,000 students and 600 teachers, but over two years, we’ve had good growth,” Daeschner said in a July News and Tribune article following the release of ISTEP numbers.

We realize these are just numbers, but they are the method instituted by the state and federal government to measure a school’s effectiveness. It’s understandable to take issue with how schools and students are measured. That’s not Daeschner’s fault. He is simply helping improve the school system in the required areas.

Daeschner has repeatedly credited the principals and teachers for buying into changes he has made. Of course, there will be individuals who don’t like the management style of Daeschner or the administration. That comes with the territory.

We contend that much more good has been done than bad during Daeschner’s tenure, including what appears to be a rebirth of pride in the school system.

Greater Clark is facing about $4 million in state-mandated budget cuts — money Daeschner and the board surely would like to have to spend. Negotiating a lower salary can help a little bit, but other cuts, to be considered tonight at a school board meeting, are much more significant.

A couple of proposals which would have saved more money than a less-expensive contract for a superintendent — outsourcing custodial work and closing Maple Elementary School — were rejected by the school board.

As Daeschner has said in media reports, everything, including his contract, is negotiable.

We urge the board to take those words to heart, but also remember to think with their heads when considering what Daeschner has brought to the school system.

Greater Clark would benefit with at least a couple more years with Daeschner, 69, at the helm. It’s possible that the school system could get lucky and find a new superintendent at a lower salary who would do a good or better job then Daeschner.

But it’s not prudent for the school board to jeopardize the wave of success the district is riding thanks, in large part, to Daeschner’s guidance.

He should be offered a new contract.

— The News and Tribune editorial board is comprised of Publisher Bill Hanson, Editor Shea Van Hoy and Assistant Editors Amy Huffman-Branham and Chris Morris.

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