Napa Valley Updates

Friday, August 14, 2009


By Cynthia Noble Lane
Friday, August 14, 2009

I was not going to contribute to what has become an increasingly uncivil dialogue regarding the current recall controversy until I read Jim Haslip’s July 2 Guest Commentary in the Star.

After reading it, one might well conclude that in his two and a half years on the board, Haslip was constantly at odds with the other board members and was a minority of one on important votes.

Nothing could be further from the truth. With the lone exception of one vote at his first meeting (regarding landscaping), Haslip voted with the rest of the board on every issue. One has only to check the record to verify this.

Time and again in his commentary, Haslip advises future board members to behave in a manner which is directly opposite to his own behavior while he was a trustee. What are we to make of this remarkable phenomenon?

As community members, we can certainly disagree when it comes to matters of opinion. But, so far as possible, I believe that we should all start from known facts before we form opinions. And to get the facts, I think it is always a good practice to check the record, to go back and look at what actually happened. In that light I found Haslip’s commentary distressing.

Haslip advises new school board members to help (Superintendent) Haley find employment elsewhere. I find this advice particularly troublesome. During Board discussions regarding the hiring of a new superintendent, Haslip not only supported Haley’s appointment, but was instrumental in persuading other board members that Haley was the best person for the job and that there was no need for an open search. Haslip called Dr. Haley the “best human resources person he’d seen in 20 years.”

Haslip bemoans “bloated salaries” for the superintendent. Why then was he the trustee at the board meeting on Jan. 15, 2009, to move for the approval of the salary schedule for the superintendent and other supervisory employees?

In suggestion 6 of Haslip’s advice to future trustees, he recommends ending the practice of retirement packages. Yet on Sept. 18 of last year he seconded and voted for a motion approving just such a plan.

Haslip advises future trustees not to “cut money for tutoring and from the books and supplies budget,” despite the fact that no such cuts were made by the Board. In truth, in both 2007 and 2008, Haslip was the proponent of board resolutions which stated that there was a sufficiency of pupil textbooks and instructional materials.

Haslip indicates his belief that positions “that prop up the administration,” like the district media specialist, should be cut. Why then, at the Aug. 21, 2008, Board meeting did Haslip propose and vote for a motion to approve the contract renewal for that very same media specialist?

Haslip recommends in his commentary that the trustees end “the frivolous lawsuit against the county.” Quite a change from his stance while he was a board member. As a trustee, Haslip was a member of the committee dealing with county officials and was a strong proponent of going after funds withheld from the school district by the county.

In addition to making the above suggestions, all of which ran counter to his own behavior as a board member, Haslip has some general advice for future trustees.

“Model the qualities you want in the students,” he says. “Be ethical, truthful, caring and flexible. Adopt a spirit of service.”

This advice comes from a man who, at the first sign of controversy, quit the position to which he was elected. This is service? This is the behavior we wish to model for our students? With his resignation, I believe that Haslip quit on the kids, as well as depriving them of the $30,000 which it will cost the district to elect his replacement. Whatever his views, they are now unrepresented on the Board. I fail to see what purpose was served by walking off the job. To quit and then to offer advice to his replacement, seems more than a little presumptuous.

In order to save face, Haslip seems to think no one will notice that he is now attacking everything he supported during his time on the school board. A simple check of the record will indicate that his words do not support his actions. Do not be misled, and do not support Haslip’s efforts to recall the school board members who chose to fulfill their elected commitments and who continue to serve the kids.

(Cynthia Noble Lane is a St. Helena Unified School District trustee.)