Superintendent Bowden has to go.
Here’s today’s vocabulary quiz.
Which word best describes embattled Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Todd Bowden?
E. All of the above
As we learned this week, the correct answer is E.
Why? Well, after a report concluded that his actions had “played a primary role in the District’s failure to promptly and adequately address” allegations of misconduct against his former assistant superintendent, he could have heeded calls for his resignation so the District could move forward under new leadership.
Or at the least he could have acknowledged errors in the way he responded to the allegations and outlined how he’ll do things differently in the future.
Instead, on Monday he said he’d be willing to agree to terminate his four-year contract as superintendent in exchange for a 10-year contract as executive director of Facilities, Planning and Construction.
At an annual salary of $175,000, plus benefits and salary adjustments.
With 20 weeks of severance pay.
And the rest of the year off with pay.
Plus a guarantee of an equivalent job if his new position is eliminated.
As well as a provision that he can only be suspended or fired for “good cause.”
Or if the School Board isn’t amenable to that “offer,” he’ll just remain superintendent, thank you very much.
That’s right. Bowden saw allegations that he mishandled a serious personnel matter — over which a federal lawsuit was filed, also on Monday — as an opportunity to try to leverage himself into a better contract.
If your job were on the line and you made that “offer” to your employer, you’d be escorted from the premises as soon as he or she stopped laughing. The School Board couldn’t do that under Bowden’s current contract but it did vote to give him 30 days to prepare to face possible disciplinary action in December.
If he cares about the District, he’ll resign rather than put the School Board through what would be a heated, divisive debate that needs to end in his departure.
Will he? Don’t bet on it. His “offer” is strong evidence that he thinks the District needs him. It doesn’t.
He probably believes he’s negotiating from a position of strength because it would take four votes on the five-member School Board to fire him and three of the members have been staunch supporters.
Two of them, however, voted to put him on notice of potential disciplinary action, though they may argue for a lighter penalty than termination.
But in our opinion that might be justified only if Bowden had acknowledged mishandling the complaints against the former assistant superintendent and he otherwise had strong support.
The School Board is divided, however, and teachers don’t back him. One reason is that his current contract — signed in February, a year before his old one would have expired — guarantees him annual raises; their contracts don’t. We can only imagine their reaction to his “offer.”
Of course, being superintendent isn’t a popularity contest. The person in the job doesn’t need to be liked but he or she needs to be respected or move on, voluntarily or involuntarily — and not just to another job.
Bowden’s support is too eroded to be rebuilt. It’s time for him to move on, voluntarily or …