District should resolve Phillip Shaw's job status

info@islandpacket.comApril 11, 2013 

If any public confidence still remained about the school district's handling of the former H.E. McCracken Middle School principal's employment, it's probably gone now.

The district, citing state law, renewed Phillip Shaw's annual contract last week. Shaw has not worked since early November, but has continued to draw his $93,774 salary. He was reassigned to a new job Jan. 2, but has never reported to it. Interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm says district officials have been unable to schedule a meeting with him to "resolve questions about his job performance."

School board chairman Bill Evans says the district can't resolve his employment until he comes back from leave, which he said expires sometime before June 30.

"It was leave he requested, and by law we had to grant him," Evans said. "It's not indefinite. The issue will be resolved in time."

Evans statement is at odds with Shaw's description of what happened. Shaw, in an early December interview, said district officials placed him on administrative leave and told him it would be described as personal leave.

His version of events seems plausible. Rosswurm and another district official came to see him Nov. 7, the day he left the school, district spokesman Jim Foster has said.

District officials initially said Shaw would only be gone for a few days, but here we are more than four months later, and he's still not at work -- either at McCracken or at his new job as director of Right Choices, an alternative school for students who have been recommended for expulsion. If a few days of leave morphed into months of leave, the district almost certainly bears some of the blame.

District officials continue to hide behind "personnel issues" and privacy concerns as reasons to keep the public in the dark, including students' parents.

Shaw hasn't talked to the newspaper since December, and who can blame him. He's getting paid without having to work. As Evans said, he's got the district between a rock and a hard place.

"The law requires we renew his contract but gives us the ability to say it's conditional until we resolve concerns we have about his performance," he said. "But we cannot do that until he comes back from his leave."

There had to have been a better way to handle whatever issues the district had with Shaw, including whether he should stay or go at any job. All signs point to the district wanting him gone. So do it. If it results in a lawsuit, so be it. Resolution one way or another is long past due.

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