Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Corkins scaring away BoE staff?

Many commentators worried that hiring an unqualified ideologue to run the state's education department would scare away the experienced staff there. A report out today suggests the concern was justified:
The State Board of Education, which hired Corkins in October, received its annual report on employee turnover Tuesday. The report said 53 staff members - nearly 21 percent - voluntarily left the department during the state's 2006 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Six retired and 47 resigned.

Board members who opposed Corkins' hiring saw the turnover rate as a signal of turmoil within the agency since he became commissioner. His hiring, on a 6-4 vote, initially angered some educators because Corkins had not run a school or school district before.

They noted 10.2 percent of the department's employees resigned or retired in fiscal 2005 - less than half the rate in fiscal 2006.
Corkins' defense is that he wasn't hired until October, so it can't all be his fault. And that may be true. After all, Corkins didn't force out his predecessor, Andy Tompkins. Tompkins exit in the aftermath of the Kangaroo Court was portrayed as amicable, but given the unpleasant comments directed at him by conservative Board members, it's hardly surprising that he chose to step down and come to KU, where he's a bit better respected.

A fish rots from the head, and Corkins isn't the head of the Department. The Board is, and the exodus of experience from the state's staff hurts every school district.

This Board has been tremendously divisive, whether overriding their own standards committee to push creationist standards, Connie Morris using taxpayer money to mail newsletters in which she badmouths her colleagues, getting into a public fight with the headhunters they hired to choose a replacement for Dr. Tompkins, or letting the Intelligent Design Network's John Calvert speak for them about "denigration of theism."

At yesterday's Board meeting, KCFS president Jack Krebs responded to Calvert's claim that Kansas Citizens for Science is a "tool" to "promote a materialist world view that seeks to demean the idea of creation, … effectively promoting non-theistic religions and world views over traditional theistic views." You may recall that when the Board was preparing the Kangaroo Court, Calvert was allowed to sit with the Court's members and to speak as a co-equal member.

Schools shouldn't be governed to serve the entire population, not just a select few ideologues. We need to replace the creationists on the board with people who realize that their job is to serve the public, not to use children as proxies in a culture war.