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Superintendent can't serve two masters
Members of the Plumas Charter School board and administration were understandably surprised in December when they received a Notice to Remedy outlining “issues of concern” from Glenn Harris, superintendent of the Plumas County Office of Education and Plumas Unified School District. They were surprised because Harris is technically a member of their board.
As such, didn’t Harris have an obligation to say something, rather than spring a notice on the school? Yes, say attorneys we have spoken to. Harris has a “major conflict of loyalty” said one. According to PCS’s charter, the superintendent or his designee must serve on the board. Because of the inherent conflict, most districts designate a lower-level administrator to serve on the charter school boards they oversee, explained an attorney who specializes in charter schools.
When he took office as county superintendent, Harris swore an oath to serve that entity. When he took a seat on the PCS board, he swore an oath to serve that entity. How can he serve two masters at once, especially given his view of their relationship? Harris told us in no uncertain terms that Staff Writer Mona Hill absolutely could not report on the PUSD board because she had a conflict of interest since she sat on the PCS board. When we suggested that perhaps the two entities could enjoy a complementary and collegial relationship with a focus on serving the needs of all of Plumas County’s children, he said no way, the two are in conflict and competition for students and dollars.
But he can serve on both boards?
Although a permanent member of the charter school board, Harris rarely attends meetings. For him not to serve a board he has sworn to serve, for him to lurk, as it were, in the background and then slap the school with a notice to remedy, that’s downright traitorous.
But then Harris has suffered ethical lapses before. In 2004, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing suspended all his credentials for 60 days for “immoral or unprofessional conduct, or for persistent defiance of, and refusal to obey, the laws regulating the duties of persons serving in the public school system.”
We see on the agenda for tonight, Feb. 8, that the school board will begin its annual performance evaluation of Harris. We encourage the board to take up the matters we’ve outlined here. We call on them to demand that Harris appoint a designee to the charter school board, someone who can actually attend meetings and provide appropriate oversight. If there are problems at the charter school — and we’re not convinced there are — then at least part of the blame has to fall on a superintendent with divided loyalty who can not be bothered to fulfill his sworn duties.