Superintendent Max McGee has had a tumultuous journey as the face of the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) for the past three years, and things seem to be getting even more complicated in light of the latest scandal to occur during his tenure.
On Aug. 25, the Palo Alto community was hit with the unsettling news of a $6 million budget mismanagement caused by McGee and the rest of the administration’s failure to communicate with the Palo Alto Educators Association (the teachers’ union) about raises for this school year. While the union was under the impression that teachers would receive a 3 percent raise, the District failed to communicate their plans to reopen negotiations to cancel the raises before the March 15 deadline.
Although the District has enough funds to cover the $6 million that will go towards the unplanned teacher raises, the money used for this could have gone towards improving students’ education.
A week later, the Palo Alto Weekly published an editorial calling for the immediate termination or resignation of McGee. Incensed, community members — many parents of PAUSD students — rallied against McGee in the comments section, citing his failures to properly handle previous predicaments.
Before delving into the nuances of the issue, we think it is appropriate to respond to the claims of McGee’s supporters. Simply because he wasn’t directly responsible for the failure to re-enter negotiations with the teacher union does not mean he is not responsible. The fact of the matter is McGee is, as school board president Terry Godfrey said, a “big boy” and should behave accordingly. McGee, in an interview with The Campanile, accepted complete responsibility for the error, but it is time he should communicate this clearly and publically.
McGee’s job is to ensure that things such as legally binding teacher contracts are fulfilled and accounted for in the yearly budget.
If he chooses to delegate tasks to others, it is his responsibility to ensure that those tasks are completed.
There are certainly others who must be held accountable for failing to ensure that the District’s plans were properly communicated and carried out, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the man in charge.
Unless McGee was blatantly deceived regarding the beginning of negotiations with the teacher’s union, there is no reasonable interpretation of this situation which clears McGee of culpability. Since McGee failed to follow up on the contract issues, the question resurfaces once again: Should McGee be asked to resign, as suggested by the Palo Alto Weekly, or would doing so only bring more chaos to this already-disastrous situation?
The Campanile recognizes the lack of communication between PAUSD administration and the teachers’ union as a major misstep for the District and McGee, and it should not be dismissed without further investigation. However, in order to preserve what’s left of our District’s stability, we think McGee should remain as superintendent until the end of the school year.
The District does not have an adequate replacement ready, and McGee will have to be paid until the end of his contract, regardless of whether or not he is still superintendent.
Replacing Dr. McGee immediately could leave us with a new unqualified superintendent, and would waste District money that we can’t afford to lose by paying two superintendents. If we react rashly and oust McGee from his position without a suitable replacement, we will only cause more instability in an already-difficult time.
If we react rashly and oust McGee from his position without a suitable replacement, we will only cause more instability in an already-difficult time.
Some may be wondering how McGee should respond in the wake of this easily-avoidable blunder, and The Campanile has some advice.
McGee must continue to hold himself accountable for the tax money he mishandled, and the students whose education may be affected as a result.
While Palo Alto has sufficient tax money and an emergency fund large enough to account for McGee’s blunder, his mistake cannot be overlooked.
Lastly, McGee is the leader of this district. He gets the credit for improvements and he most definitely should publically take the blame when things go wrong.