Another view on tug-of-war over FHES principal: Someone is throwing sand in my eyes | Guest Column

Like everyone else on this island, I’ve been going nuts trying to figure out what really lies behind the bitter conflict between our school board and the principal of our elementary school.

In my experience, when I’m unable to understand something it’s for one of two reasons: 

The first reason is that the issue I’m trying to understand is so complicated and convoluted that I’m just not smart enough to grasp it -- for example, Einstein’s theory of relativity, or our county’s Growth Management Act. 

The second reason I’m unable to understand something is because the people involved are playing games with words and trying to confuse me. For example, I never could figure out what Enron actually did, or what those clowns on Wall Street meant by “unsecured derivative.” When you’re dealing with people who are playing these word-games, it’s like trying to read while someone’s throwing sand in your eyes.

For weeks, all we’d been told about the dispute between the school board and Gary Pflueger is that it stemmed from a “conflict”, which caused a “problem”, which was based on “a difference of philosophy” due to “an incompatibility of viewpoints.”

Now, finally, we seem to be getting a few more details: 

In his March 12 letter, Gary Pflueger says that in February 2010 he received “a less than average evaluation” from the school district’s interim superintendent. So, after weeks of word-games we’re finally told that a year before the conflict became public the school board had a problem with the principal’s performance. The school board never told us about this, and in his letter Pflueger didn’t provide details about the contents of that “less than average” evaluation.

Now we have a letter from school board member David McCauley, in which he tells us that “Mr. Pflueger first received feedback about the need to improve his skills the day he was offered the Friday Harbor Elementary Principal position... He was told that there were concerns about his lack of demonstrated educational leadership.”

Huh? This must be the first instance in world history when someone got a poor performance evaluation even before starting a new job. And if the superintendent and the school board were so concerned about Gary Pflueger’s skills, why did they choose him from among the pool of 14 candidates and two finalists for this job? 

And why, at the time of Gary Pflueger’s selection, did then-superintendent Michael Soltman issue a public statement praising the newly-chosen Pflueger as a “very effective principal who has a strong record of promoting student achievement, creating a safe and collaborative school climate, and developing positive relationships with students, parents and community?” 

This just doesn’t make sense.

When my own children were in our public schools -- and when I served as president of the San Juan Public Schools Foundation -- I knew a lot of teachers, all the principals, and members of the school board. My kids have long since graduated, and I’ve stepped back from all school-related projects. I don’t know Gary Pflueger or any of the school board’s current members. So I’ve no opinion about who’s right, and who’s wrong, in this endless and miserable dispute.

But I know when someone’s throwing sand in my eyes -- and it doesn’t seem to be Gary Pflueger.

Herb Meyer

San Juan Island



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