By Mark Vasto
As previously reported by The Luminary, the decision to hire Scott Springston, Ph.D, as the successor to Dennis Fisher, Ph.D, has been a controversial one.
Nowhere has this been more apparent than on the Internet, where local officials and patrons of the Park Hill School District have sounded off via Facebook and Twitter. Leading the charge against both the nominating process and the proposed hire was District 1 Commissioner Kathy Dusenbery.
"Everyone who cares about Park Hill School District should google [sic] Valley Center Public Schools and check out their test scores. This is where our new superintendent is coming from," Dusenbery wrote. That post garnered 68 replies -- some from local Parkville officials.
"I'm having a hard time understanding why we would dismantle such an effective leadership team; including creating an environment where Missouri's School Superintendent of the year would leave a career position that is also the county's best paying job, in year 1 of a 3-year contract," said outgoing Parkville Alderman Scott McRuer.
Conspiracy theories aside, one respondent likened the hire to "'C' students teaching the 'A-' students how to get better grades."
What is known is that Springston is favorable to a "balanced calendar" when it comes to schooling. A calendar of that type would provide for a two week break between grading periods (fall, winter and spring) and the summer break would last seven weeks.
In sum, a balanced calendar would amount to the same amount of days off as the current school calender (182 days to 180) but would spread them out in ways some snowbirds (those that vacation during winter months) or other vacationers in the district might disagree with. A traditional school year has students beginning around labor day and finishing studies around Memorial Day. The "balanced calendar" would cut into those traditional time periods. Proponents of the method believe it will raise test scores. Opponents typically think that it amounts to too much schooling and a disruption of family life.
The Valley Center School District announced that Springston had resigned the night of the Park Hill vote and in a statement said: "In light of the announcement of Dr. Springston’s resignation, the Valley Center USD 262 board of education is in agreement to postpone discussion regarding a balanced calendar until a time, as yet to be determined, during the 2012-13 school year."
While there were some dissenting opinions (Luminary policy is to only quote public officials on Facebook or Twitter message boards. -- Ed.) and a few favorable ones regarding the hire, Dusenbery's post mostly seemed to fan the flames. Parkville Municipal Judge Sandra Ferguson pointed out that Springston's district failed to meet their stated academic goals during the 2009-10 school year.
In a separate Facebook forum created by Ward 3 Alderman Chris Fisher for Ward 3 (natch), Fisher said he too questioned the decision making process. He said that, assuming information about Springston's career was true, he was "uncomfortable" about the hire.
"It appears that he does not have superintendent experience with a district of either the size or the quality of Park Hill," Fisher said. "Missing on both of those counts raises some red flags for me."
(Editor's note: at the time of this writing, Dr. Springston could not be reached. Stay tuned for updates as every attempt to reach him and the school board will be attempted with considerable vigor.)