Todd: Save the cook

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At a school board meeting Monday night, Ridgway School Board member Roger Sagal reassured a crowd of nearly 100 of the board's electorate that Principal Jim Bob Hobbs' dismissal was not a foregone conclusion. In a letter to the editor today from another board member, we find out that just was not true.
Today's letter to the editor states that if a vocal crowd had not barred the board from entering into executive session, Hobbs’ dismissal was a foregone conclusion. Had Hobbs not gone public, then the board would have fired him, as “he would have found himself unemployed at the end of the school year, if not sooner,” the board member wrote. Presto! Just like that, as a matter of course. Fait accompli.
We thought this was all settled Monday night. Nothing rash would have happened. In fact, even before Hobbs wrote a six-page letter to the public espousing his accomplishments and criticizing his boss, Superintendent Cheryl Gomez, for her deficiencies, the board said it had been well aware of the situation. In a letter the board circulated Monday, it said in regard to its awareness of concerns for Hobbs' conduct:
“That is not to say the Board has not been made aware of recurring concerns and some disagreement regarding the implementation of District policy at RSS. For the last several months, the Board has attempted to address these issues and will continue to do so in a way that best serves our community and our common educational goals.”
Yet, in the letter to the editor, you'd think that this had just been sprung upon the board. One imagines a sleepy symbiotic relationship being snapped by Hobbs' cries that he was about to be fired by a boss whose intentions were less than noble.
In other words, the board had been duped into firing their first-rate principal and there was nothing, shy of an angry mob’s protests, that could stop it.
The board member who wrote the letter admits he doesn't read the newspaper often and is a bit uninformed. But in this case, is he telling us that the majority of the board was uninformed about this entire affair? We know the board was aware for months by its own admission.  
These contradictions come from a board member who still views the law-breaking behavior of his assemblage last year—when it was conducting board meetings without properly, lawfully, noticing its electorate—as defendable behavior (and the behavior of those in the community who protested as “bass-ackward”). This steward of our children's educations is telling us that the board was not square with the public Monday night when it listened to comments, interacted willfully and told them that Hobbs' job was not a foregone conclusion.
Could it be this board member felt he was in the minority in wanting to keep Hobbs and thought he would be on the short end of the vote? If so, why didn’t he voice his concerns during the prior week’s board meeting? If he’s so quick to mock and denigrate this newspaper for trying to offer a cautious voice last week, why wasn’t he just as quick to publicly come to the defense of Hobbs? Instead, he leads us to believe that the only person who could have saved Hobbs’ job was Hobbs himself.
We’re used to getting beat up for our opinions at the newspaper. Even having school board members use conflations of cuss words in defending prior unlawful behavior is not a shock. But when it comes to standing up for your convictions, evidently, that’s a bit more difficult.
But, really? Why not focus your energies on the one or ones who let it get to this point? Obviously, we're at a disadvantage in knowing just exactly what is going on. Members of the board, on the other hand, not only should know exactly what's going on, they are elected to effect positive change.
We questioned last week whether Hobbs should have “jumped the gun” by going public with action that had, to that point, only been made public by Mr. Hobbs himself. It doesn’t take an occasional, uninformed reader to understand that Hobbs’ six-page letter he wrote and circulated to the public was a last-ditch effort to save his job. Hardly explained at the time, however, and yet to be explained, is why Hobbs was defending himself against action that had not been taken or made public by his boss.
The board member said in his letter that we faulted Hobbs for taking the initiative and defending his record. With a record like his, why wouldn't he defend it in a proper method? The question remains, is that the way the school district wants its employees to go about defending their jobs? The next time a cafeteria cook is reprimanded, can he or she write a letter to the public and have people on campus plaster signs and slogans all over the window and walls that say "Save the Cook?" If that's the process that is being defended, then we stand aside.
Since this board member has corrected the record and informed all of us that had the board not been thumped on the forehead last week it would have dismissed a prized administrator that has led his school to a number one statewide ranking, we suppose we should offer our mea culpa.
Along with approximately 100 members of the public who expressed their thoughts Monday night, we are so very sorry. Not sorry that Hobbs did take the impending perils of his employment public, seemingly snatching his job from the jaws of dismissal. Sorry, instead, that he had to take the impending perils of his employment public.
We’re so glad someone is now paying attention.
Mea culpa.

Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at 970-325-2838 or