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Adieu LCSD

Text of remarks addressed to the LCSD School Board on 8/22/00

Part I

This statement is to bid adieu to the Lincoln County School District, where June Reynolds, The Knight's companion and wife, his Dulcinea without the warts, labored faithfully with great energy and dedication for 21 years. As the Waldport High School Librarian, June (known to students and colleagues as "JR") ministered to the diverse needs of thousands of students in their individual searches for information, motivation, and direction. She responded to the various needs of teachers, from ordering special materials and enhancing lesson plans to fixing broken equipment and occasional babysitting. When called upon over the years JR stepped in to fill many misassignments according to school needs, from teaching classes in careers, US History, computers, drama, to a three-year stint in charge of both the WHS and the Waldport Middle School Libraries.

For the past two years, however, LCSD has reduced staffing of school libraries drastically. June was several times offered a position as "area media specialist." She declined because the position is not a valid exercise of the functions of educator/teacher; instead, the job of supervising five (or later ten) school libraries is that of a bottom-rung administrator - and when required, scapegoat for the innumerable problems inevitably resulting from using part-time, untrained, unsupervised aides and parent volunteers. JR was unwilling to relinquish her profession as an educator.

One of the lady's most ambitious accomplishments was her 15-year sponsorship coaching the extra-curricular WHS Drama Club. The membership eventually included students of all ages. Her group attended dozens of drama festivals, competitions, performances, and workshops around the state. These trips were mostly paid for by funds obtained in bake sales and car washes; all done on her own time, pro bono. JR took personal risks in assuming responsibility for these trips, as many of her students were immature and had little experience in traveling; she never lost a student, though once it was close. Coincidentally, as I waited in the Newport High Lobby prior to the opening of this Board meeting, I noticed three trophies in the showcase which were awarded to the NHS Drama group by the WHS Drama Festival - which JR's team hosted for many years and which was attended by dozens of groups from around the state of Oregon.

The drama club occasionally included students who were blind, autistic, prone to seizures, and emotionally handicapped. She also employed numerous handicapped students as aides in her library, and, despite being thought of as a stern taskmaster, she often hears from these students years later. At least a half-dozen of her drama students have gone on to professonial careers in theater. The final chapter of the WHS Drama Club is disappointing: in 1997 June was told her services would no longer be required as drama club coach. The reason given was that the school principal had decided he wanted the program to change direction. This reason was later shown to be specious, as there was never any attempt to continue the club under alternative leadership. From various sources it was learned that the principal did not like the fact that several drama club students wore black clothing and were loosely associated with an alternative lifestyle. He felt it was bad for the school's image to provide services to these students - despite their being enthusiastic thespians, with no legal problems. Several parents and numerous students protested the closing of the drama club to no avail.

It is with some saddness that we, June, Carl, Rhy and Crystal, turn our backs on Lincoln County after 22 years. The many friends we've made will be missed, in between less frequent contacts. Not all our material ties will be severed, as we will keep our home on Eads, as a rental for the time being. Not all the separations are negative: JR will once again be employed by a school district which places a high value on the services of professional librarians.

Part II

I have addressed the LCSD Board of Directors numerous times with critical remarks over policies, including the drug testing of student-athletes. My criticisms have been made despite my considerable sympathy for and appreciation of the services rendered to the public by the unpaid board members. It is my belief that most members of boards of directors of private sector operations comparable in size to LCSD, $40 million annual budget, 400 employees, have far more experience and qualifications for exercising oversight of the organization's operations and policies. In rural Lincoln County such experienced people, who have held top-level management jobs and sit on other boards as well, are not available. And so you do the best you can, in your part-time positions, to scrutinize the information which you get almost exclusively from the District Superintendent.

It is with the intent to provide a momentary glimpse of another view of the operations of LCSD personnel policies that I offer the following descriptions, including a recent staff transfer gone amiss, are but a couple among the dozens I've witnessed over the years. These instances illustrate the arbitrary and frequently Machievellian character of the treatment of staff by administrators. Teachers faced with the near-impossible task of educating excessive numbers of very reluctant students are manipulated by the administration like pawns or cogs in a machine. One example: told in the spring that they will be mis-assigned to teach such-and-such course in the fall, the desparate teacher, being totally unfamiliar with the assigned subject matter, puts aside summer vacation plans in order to take a couple of college courses (at personal expense, of course). Upon returning to school in September, the teacher is notified that the mis-assignment has been changed, to a different unfamiliar subject. This management style extends to a general policy of keeping the employees guessing, keeping them off-balance, and to churning the staff by arbitrary transfers, thus preventing the development of intra-staff loyalties and solidarity.

The second example, of a staff transfer gone amiss, is that of Newport Middle School science teacher Jim Harshfield. Mr. Harshfield taught science at NMS for almost 20 years. He is an excellent and well-prepared teacher, as his presentations during parent conferences demonstrate. This past year Mr. Harshfield's course was my daughter Crystal's second favorite class, next to band. Crystal is not a science-geek and her interest in the subject was surprising to me. She now reads non-fiction about astronomy, and books by Isaac Asimov and other scientific subjects in her free time.

For eleven years Mr. Harshfield gave unstintingly of his time as the Head Coach of the NHS Track and Field Team. For four of those years he supervised the training of my son, Rhy Reynolds, in his development as a national-class distance runner. Mr. Harshfield was similarly generous with his time regarding other student athletes. He travelled, substantially at his own expense, to coach Rhy on two occasions at the Footlocker Regional Championships in Fresno, California, and once to the National Championship in San Diego. He did the same for numerous other competitions, including trips to Reno, Spokane, Pullman and Seattle, WA. He was similarly supportive of another Oregon State Champion track and cross country athlete, Melinda Campbell. Mr. Harshfield's assistance was instrumental in both of these students obtaining full-ride scholarships to attend college.

In addition to his work with these and other particular athletes, of whom my knowledge is more general, Mr. Harshfield was totally unselfish in his generous devotion to the project of improving the NHS track facilities. He spent two entire summers and hundreds of hours during the past two school years working and assuming responsibilities for coordinating volunteer efforts to build the new track and field facility.

Announcement of the LCSD Administration's termination of the 7th-grade science curriculum at NMS and the arbitrary transfer of Mr. Harshfield to a school in Lincoln City was a great shock to me and to other parents who understand the value of a class in science at the middle schol level. The rejection of Mr. Harshfield as assistant coach of the Cross Country program, after years of his expressing interest in joining the staff of that sport, was dumbfounding. The present coach, Mr. Fanning, is an excellent math teacher and was of great help to my son in that capacity; as a cross country coach however, only his skill as a teacher is evident; he knows little of the sport of distance running. Mr. Harshfield's knowledge would have made a considerable improvement in that program.

The final unconscionable twist of the knife in this disgraceful affair came when the transfer of Mr. Harshfield to the school in Lincoln City was rescinded, but his withdrawal of his resignation as Coach of NHS Track and Field was disallowed. The LCSD Administration has much to be ashamed of, not the least of which is its treatment of dedicated teachers, including Jim Harshfield and June Reynolds.