Sunday, December 20, 2009

Open Letter to the Davis County School Board and More

To Davis Board of Education

December 20, 2009
Dear Board Member:

I am writing you concerning Paul Smith, principal of Layton High. Friday, after school, representatives of the Davis School District office called the teachers of Layton High together and told them that our great principal, Paul Smith, would not be returning to our school. I felt absolutely helpless.

In the painful hours and days since, I have come to realize that I am not helpless, as a teacher in the Davis School District and a citizen of Davis County, I have you to represent and defend me.
I am asking you to please consider the following points: 1) We were told that we could not be told why Mr. Smith was being removed. 2) We were led to believe that he had been offered another administrative position in the district. 3) It was insinuated that he was not competent to run Layton High.

On the first point: That this ultimatum was delivered without justification or discussion at the last hour (actually after the last hour) of the last day of the year was deeply troubling. The people who know Mr. Smith and Layton High best were cut off from any involvement in or understanding of this decision. It was an attempt to render us powerless and force our acceptance of this injustice.

On the second point, if Mr. Smith is “worthy” to be an administrator on the Davis School District, he is worthy to be the Principal at Layton High. This “demotion” was recognized at once as a ploy to force his retirement and usurp the leadership of the high school.
On the third point: The district spokesman truly sounded foolish as he tried to imply that Mr. Smith, who has been Utah State Principal of the Year, a leader of the Utah State Activities Association, and the guiding force of Layton High for over thirty years is only qualified to be a Vice Principal at a Jr. High. Everyone in the room knew that there is not a better principal anywhere than Mr. Smith. That such innuendo could be mouthed by administrators, who have kept their jobs while millions of dollars have been stolen from under their noses over the past decades, was laughable.

We were given no other information. It was troubling that the Superintendent did not find time to meet with the teachers at Layton High; the people who have worked and benefited from Mr. Smith’s leadership and excellence for decades. It is distressing that the lives which have been blessed by his leadership, disrupted by his absence, and that will be greatly altered by his removal were neither consulted nor given the respect of an explanation.

At Layton High, the students are the great treasure we serve, but our job is to teach. Teaching is the purpose of the school and the district. Teaching is done by teachers, and the support of teachers must be the first job of a principal and a district. I am in my twenty-fifth year as a teacher at Layton High. Mr. Smith never forgot that my success was the best way to serve the students. I fear the district administration has forgotten this. I cannot fathom what would drive them to this irrational decision, and beg you, as the one who has the power to help me, to intervene and prevent this terrible injustice and grave mistake. Please either provide reasonable explanations for Mr. Smith’s removal or restore him to his position as our principal. I would be honored to speak at greater length if you need information. Please feel free to call me.


Teacher - Layton High



To the Agora:


The meeting with the assistant superintendent, mentioned in the letter above, left me angry and frustrated. Indeed I felt helpless. Saturday morning I visited with one of the members of the Davis County School Board. She told me she knew little about Mr. Smith’s situation. She indicated that the School Board didn’t have much involvement in personnel decisions. Surely, our elected school board is in charge of these decisions. If they delegate them to the superintendent and his assistants, the final responsibility, and ultimately the authority, still rests with the elected board members. I asked if I could be put on the agenda at the next board meeting. She said that the agenda was drawn up by the superintendent of the district and the president and vice president of the school board. I asked her if she would request that I be placed on the agenda. She said she would, however she did not seem very confident that it would happen. I asked if she could bring up items for discussion during board meeting, if so I would like to explain my feelings to her so she could share them with the board. She said she was only allowed to speak about things that were on the agenda.

I was very frustrated. I explained that I knew that Mr. Smith was a great principal, and it is obvious that those who were pushing him out have some agenda. How could they know so little about our school, and yet make such overpowering decisions regarding it? I reminded her of the many wonderful things Mr. Smith has done in the past, of the success he has led our school to. I told her how wonderful his support has been for my students and for myself over the many years I have worked for him. There were a thousand proofs of Mr. Smith’s quality I could have offered. I left feeling she would do her best to help me, but not confident that it would be enough.

Now I am calling on all who want to see justice done, and Mr. Smith returned to his position, to write directly to the Davis County School Board members. My letters are already in the mail. Below I provide the addresses of all members of the school board. Please give any arguments or testimonies in Mr. Smith support which you can think of.

Here are some thoughts you may consider:

1. The safety in which all Layton students study and grow, a gift of his wisdom and courageous involvement in the life of our school community.

2. The excellence of many programs offered at Layton High, a school with a broad mix of socio-economic patrons who all find opportunity and support. There is no racial tension, no class conflict, all student feel welcomed and supported because of Mr. Smith’s example and leadership.

3. The dedicated and hard working facility which he has selected, trained, and supported.

4. The “learning-first” attitude of Layton High.

5. The vast number of programs available: clubs, A.P. classes, athletic programs, the drama program, debate, music, the shops and science programs, the computer labs. The new library – on and on and on.

6. What ever problems the district can point to - these cannot outweigh the good that Mr. Smith has done.

7. As a teacher at Layton High I know of the unwavering support I have experienced from Mr. Smith. I know he has also supported the needs of students, parents, and the community.

8. There was never a task too difficult for Mr. Smith. He did not regard any program as trivial, but gave as enthusiastic and sincere support to the Anime club as he did to the football team or the school musical.

9. Most importantly Mr. Smith demanded the best from teachers in the service of students. He inspired by example, and demanded by his presence the best of all who work for him. Consider the vice principles who he has trained, at least two of whom are now principals themselves, Clive Dibble, and Dee Burton - now principal of Davis High.

10. It is unconscionable for a district administration, which for years failed to detect or prevent the recent textbook-purchasing scandal without resigning in disgrace, to attack the integrity of the district’s finest principal on any grounds.

We must act within the next week. The next Board Meeting will be the first week of January. Only by acting in this Christmas week can we have a substantial impact.

I am just a teacher, many who may read this have far greater accomplishments to there credit. Please understand that any service you may have received from my efforts were made possible by Mr. Smith’s leadership and support. Please send a letter of support for Mr. Smith to all of the Board members below. Please include your titles and credentials in the letters on the letterheads you send. If every one of the board members were to receive a flood of letters this week, surely it would embolden them to act. Otherwise they may remain in ignorance until it is too late.

When the assistant superintendent announced that Mr. Smith would not be returning to Layton High, he reminded me of the British Captain demanding that John Paul Jones surrender. As a History teacher, I was inspired to answer, “I have not yet begun to fight.” Please join me in this fight.

Mrs. Marian Storey

1370 N Hwy 89

Kaysville, Utah 84037


Mrs. Tamara Lowe

2466 W 650 N

West Point, Utah 84015


Ms. Barbara Smith

965 S 350 W

Bountiful, Utah 84010


Mr. James Clark

318 S 750 E

Bountiful, Utah 84010


Mr. Walt Bain

536 Woodland Dr

Farmington, Utah 84025


Mrs. Kathie Dalton

272 W Golden Ave

Layton, Utah 84041


L. Burk Larsen

1776 West 2475 South

Syracuse, UT 84075


15 comments:

Mons Peregrinus said...

Lysis in response to your request I have written the school board members to ask for their support. I explained that even in my few encounters with Mr. Smith I detected a sincerity when he talked of teaching as a noble proffession and how teachers impact future leaders. I explained his role in fulfilling the Mission Statement of the Davis School District. Through his leadership Layton High successfully encouraged eduacational excellence and provided a safe environment for students to acquire skills, knowledge, values, and a commitment to adapt to and lead a changing world.

Iasthai said...

I know as captain of the Debate Team, and as a reporter of the Newspaper, Mr. Smith was/and hopefully will continue to be a supporter of these programs. I hope that we can persuade the district to use some common sense. Give us our principal back!

Lysis said...

Mons Pergrinus and lasthai.

Thank you very much for your efforts. It is my hope that this effort will roll out like a snow ball. Please contact all who are supportive of Mr. Smith.

It is not our intent to attack the School Board or Davis County School.

Again I stress that the School Board will surly be on our side, and will be our advocate in this cause if we can just get their attention.

Please contact anyone you can and encourage them to act.

We have not yet begun to fight.

Taylor and Jodi said...
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Taylor and Jodi said...

Lysis, the letters are in the mail. Jodi and I will be stopping by in the next few days.
(you can read my letter at:
http://ask-a-scientist.blogspot.com/2009/12/my-letter-to-davis-school-board-member.html)

Lysis said...

Taylor,

I have read you wonderful letter, and I am very grateful for it. I am extremely proud of your accomplishments, and thankful that Layton High brought us together. Thank you again for this powerful letter. I cannot imagine a rational reader who would not be moved to action by it. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

We have not yet begun to fight.

Hace said...

The letter has been written. I sent it to your email and will print and send shortly. I hope that my small contribution will help.

Lysis said...

Hace,

Great letter, I cannot believe that the School Board will turn a blind eye or a cold heart on such a wise plea for justice.

Anonymous said...

Have you checked statistics about Layton High in comparison to surrounding schools? You people need to open your eyes to the fact that Layton High School can't keep quality teachers and are not even in the top 30 schools in the state. Why is this the case? Administration do have a lot to do with how a school is run and how well programs and schools rate whether you want to believe it or not. Yes, I do have a student at Layton (my oldest) and no, my other children will not attend unless the school undergoes some major changes.

Lysis said...

Anonymous:

Thank you for posting. I too hope that Layton High will become an even better school in the future. That is the goal of all who work there. We hope to be the best for your students. I have had five of my own children graduate from Layton High. All have had the very best experiences and, for the most part, wonderful teachers. I have a seventeen year old high school junior attending Layton right now. He is very happy there, and has been positively influenced by several excellent teachers. Perhaps someday he could explain to you, as he has to me, the differences he found upon his transfer from Morgan High. He has always been pleased with the change, although occasionally complaining that he is required to work much harder at Layton High. As the one responsible for his growth, I am gratified to hear this.

I was interested in your comment about teachers who have left Layton for other schools. I have had many colleagues do so. This is only to be expected; two new schools have been carved out of Layton High in the past twenty years. With one exception, all, weather teachers, support staff, or administrators, have told me how much they miss Layton High and Mr. Smith’s leadership. In fact, their consistent testimony to the quality of the work environment which Mr. Smith provides made me determine, long ago, that I would never leave as long as he is in charge.

Perhaps these great teachers and other educators only say these things to me because they believe it is what I want to hear. Perhaps you too find what you want in the opinions you seek.

Mons Peregrinus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mons Peregrinus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mons Peregrinus said...

Anonymous

In response to your comment I have to argue that while some schools have benefits that Layton High does not, there is nothing about that school that significantly deters learning. Also, one must not neglect the benefits which that school has itself.

I attend Davis High school but have taken multiple courses at Layton High school, including a teaching internship with a teacher whom I trusted to be an astounding role model. While I have many teachers at Davis that have changed my life and inspired me, I also have received the same inspiration from the faculty at Layton High.

In addition, I have noticed that a school's student body has a greater affect on the learning environment then even the faculty. While I understand that I may be overgeneralizing, I have noticed that the students at Davis have a tendency to take for granted their opportunities and many times frown upon anyone who values education. Peer pressure negatively influences a students learning experience there. It has at times hurt my own learning experience. In contrast, my experience at Layton High was the opposite. I was welcomed by the students immediatley. I felt more comfortable in the first day at Layton than in the first year at Davis. The students their don't care who you are or what your background is. They never push their peers away from learning.

I many times seriously contemplated changing schools because of my experience attending Layton High, and my parents would have supported me. My decision to stay at Davis was soley based on my wanting to stay in close proximity to my friends.

I realize I am only a student and you may think I don't know what is good for me, but I value my education more then the average teenager. My success is based on what I do, not what my teachers do. I also understand that parents often times have misconceptions on what school should be like for their kids. There are many ordinances in place at all schools that negatively affect students, because parents were wrongfully upset about something in which they did not have all the facts.

Further more, please note that statistics don't determine the future.

Lysis said...

M. P.

Very well said and good to hear. Let me reiterate one particularly profound point you make. A student’s success is based on what they do, not on their teachers. You have done very well.

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