At least the lengthy deliberations suggest that the four other applicants who took time to interview didn't come for just a dog-and-pony show. I thank you four, whoever you are, for your efforts.
There's been some grumbling around the community about what some folks perceive as double-dipping. Schaefer's retire-rehire doesn't actually cost us taxpayers any money. The only solid problem I've seen is the hassle of cleaning out Schaefer's office, temporarily reassigning duties (Vince owes someone donuts), and going through a job search mid-year. I can also see a possible double standard: while teachers are free to try taking advantage of retire-rehire before the state legislature abolishes the opportunity with SB 18, it's unlikely teachers would create a month-long disruption of their classrooms just to increase their income... and if they did, would the school board be sympathetic?
There would have been less grumbling if Schaefer had been more up front with the community. Schaefer did say when he resigned, "It's time for me to activate my benefits," but that was all we heard. He made no public comment about his full intentions. He left all of us to guess and gossip.
Now I know it's a hassle as a public employee to have one's financial decisions become a matter of public discourse, but that's the price we pay for choosing a career in public service. So why not just be completely open about it? Imagine how different the public discourse might have been if the first words on the issue were not news reports and my blogging but a blog post straight from Vince Schaefer. Imagine if we had woken up on December 14, logged onto bigdogvince.blogspot.com (it's available!), and read something like this:
I care about this school. I've done a good job and I want to keep doing a good job. But the Legislature is about to take away benefits that I was promised when I signed on for this career, and I need to take some quick action. So tonight, I'm going to submit my resignation, but I plan to re-apply for the job as soon as it's advertised. It won't cost you taxpayers a penny... and Sharon, I'll buy you donuts for covering for me while I'm out, promise [imaginary blog post from an alternative-universe Vince Schaefer, "Russ Olson Made Me Do It: Why I'm Resigning," BigDogVince.Blogspot.Com, 2009.12.14].
Vince Schaefer probably said things like this privately. There would be nothing wrong with his saying such things publicly. Leading that public conversation might even enhance his stature and demonstrate his leadership and commitment to the community.
Some superintendents do blog. It's not hard.
But apparently in Madison's political culture, we treat information as a threat. We don't talk about what's going on. We don't let people in on the deal. We keep even perfectly reasonable arguments behind closed doors. We go around and tell each other things one-on-one instead of putting everything out in the open so everyone can be on the same page.
It seems to be the same situation with the city and the Rosebud lot. We could benefit from knowing exactly why the city is waiting around to sell and develop that property. Why do we do this? Why do we miss opportunities to share information, to treat everyone as equal participants in the conversation, and run the school and the city and the county as something other than a secret?
Oh well. Vince is back on the job. And I'm o.k. with that. Vince is a decent guy. He does his job well.
But he could do his job even better with a blog and a little more public discourse.
bigdogvince.blogspot.com. It's available....
Update 12:35 CST: A little more openness up front might also have averted the need for board president Jay Niedert to speak of the need to "resolve and rebuild confidence and trust in our superintendent."
Oh yeah, and we'll be voting on an opt-out ($250K per year for four years) on April 13.