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Thornton responds

SoVaNow.com / June 19, 2013

Dear Viewpoint:

I have told my 15 year old daughter, “throughout your life you will have people make up rumors and spread rumors.” I have told her that you should feel sorry for people like this, and not to pay attention when you know what the truth really is. This is a tough lesson to learn for any child, and I don’t believe in answering just random, anonymous rumors but some people will not stop and I believe really don’t want the answers. I will answer some today for the great people in this community who do not spread such rumors and are getting confused by all the nonsense. I had so hoped the truth would speak for itself, but I can certainly agree that the time has come to work to put an end to so many blatant mistruths and inaccuracies.

First, I would like to say that I am very proud of my wife and her accomplishments as a mother, wife, and business woman. She is a vice president in higher education for ARAMARK. Service Solutions, as you can see by Googling, is owned by the Compass Group. Therefore, my wife and I are not benefiting by outsourcing to Service Solutions. The hard, yet well thought out decision to move from directly operating custodial services was done to save 5 teaching positions. This move saved $200,000. I fully understand ethical procurement procedures and would never compromise my family or this organization for personal gain.

You can also see, if you do an internet search, that the Compass Group owns Chartwell’s Food Service that we were talking to earlier this year in order to provide a better level of food for our students. This was in response to our students constantly asking me to do something about the food, as well as a board member that said we can do better. There is no conspiracy here. After significant research and the success contracted custodial and food service programs have had in public education, as well as in Region 8, I continue to pursue the best service and fiscally responsible decisions for our school division.

Next is the rumor that teachers cannot speak up or they would be retaliated against or lose their job. All staff and teachers report to a principal who reports to a director. If a principal wants to reprimand or non-renew a teacher, they send the documentation to the director and then to me. I then look over the information and send it to our attorney in most cases. If he says that we have sufficient documentation to act on something then I recommend this action to our board. If someone has stated to you otherwise then ask them if you can read their personnel file because we cannot release their information or discuss it. I do not threaten our staff. We have significant supports in place with a very logical chain of command to ensure that all employees are heard and are comfortable in their work place.

The band conspiracy is next. I went to both schools to talk directly to the students about band. The fact is that under this schedule this year: BHS had over 50 members in the fall; a little over 30 in the spring. PVHS had over 50 members in the fall and only 7 in the spring. Therefore it was easy to see that the existing schedule did not work for all band students. The new schedule allows band all year long so students will be involved in the fall and spring. Band in high school now will meet every other day for 100 minutes. This new schedule allows for a full band both semesters.

When we all work together, we can make great improvements and change can be good, as in this case.

The new schedule allows for just as much instructional time in all courses as before. True, students will have one less choice each year. The seven period day was the way most schools did things prior to the block schedule and is still used by many school divisions. Our Associates Degree students can take one elective each year that interests them. Their other electives happen to be electives that they must take by choosing the associates degree program. They are academic electives in which they receive college credit. All other students have two electives to choose from each year and by junior and senior year have more than two. This new schedule was implemented to increase planning and staff development time for teachers to assist them in ensuring our kids get the quality education they deserve.

Michelle Powell being demoted and moved to La Crosse Elementary School is another rumor. What a horrible thing to spread about a good educator. She applied for that position and has always wanted to lead an elementary school. Elementary is her training and where she has spent the majority of her career. These unfounded rumors hurt innocent people, and we must come together on behalf of all employees, students, and families. We can do better than this.

Maybe now we can get back to educating our children and setting a better example for them as well. If you have concerns about anything we are doing, we are very committed to creating opportunities at all levels of our organization to not only ensure that you are heard, but you receive accurate responses to any of your questions. Please give us this opportunity. We have urgent and critical work before us, and these inaccurate mistruths only distract us from the important focus in our school division. ..ensuring our kids are prepared to be successful in college and the world of work.

One Team, One Priority: Student Success!
Thank you,
Dr. James Thornton,
Division Superintendent



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