Controversy at Selma Unified -- How A New Board Can Create a Lawsuit

Selma Unified School District Board fired its Superintendent who has been on the job for seven years, and whose contract was recently renewed.  What did the Superintendent do that was so heinous or horrible?  According to the Assistant Superintendent, the Superintendent was not under investigation for wrongdoing.  In other words, he did not do anything heinous or horrible.   Then why did the board take the drastic action, incur a $250,000 liability to end the contract immediately, and then attempt to hire a replacement with additional costs?

Media reports that the Superintendent and Board Chair did not see eye to eye.  And with two new board members, the Chair had the votes. 

Nearly 300 persons attended the meeting, most voicing support for the Superintendent.  They also asked for the meeting to be moved to a cafeteria across the street since the meeting room could hold no more than 30 persons.  The board took a vote.  The result:  3-2 against moving the meeting to a room that could accommodate all of the citizens. 

Can you spell R-E-C-A-L-L?

Why am I making mention of very questionable conduct by the Selma Unified Board?  Because this type of activity happens in business as well.  A worker is employed for a number of years without apparent problems.  There is a change with a supervisor or management and suddenly the worker is a problem and must be fired.

The worker is stunned.  For many years (s)he has received favorable reviews.  Now, suddenly with the change in management the worker is toast!  So the worker goes home and begins to wonder about the real reason for the termination.  Was it age, race, religion, a medical condition or other protected class?  What are the personal characteristics of the new management?  Younger, of a different race or religion, without medical concerns?  And what about the replacement?  Does the replacement look more like management?

Apply these principles to the Selma controversy.  Do the three board members share the same characteristics as the Superintendent?  It appears from casual observation that at least ethnicity differed.  Was the decision based on ethnicity?  I don’t know.  But the lack of information from the Board, the lack of justification for the termination, the quick manner in which the termination was made, the refusal to accommodate citizens who wished to attend the meeting all suggest something nefarious.

My advice to new management teams:  Take time before making big personnel changes.  Expend time and effort to understand the workplace and how it operated before you came on board.  If an employee's performance is lacking, take time to educate, train and work with that employee who, with prior management appeared to be doing well.  Document deficiencies.  Explain to the employee what those deficiencies are and what can be done to improve.  Be positive.  Help elevate the employee.  If, after a period of time, performance does not change, then make the decision to end the employment relationship.  At least then you will have been fair to the employee.  Moreover, the employee should understand why (s)he is being let go and not wonder if there was another underlying motive.  

You may save yourself a lawsuit.