Editorial: School board thorough, thoughtful in Montoya decision

Published Sep 12, 2013 at 05:00AM

There’s little doubt that Matt Montoya did some aspects of his job as principal of Bear Creek Elementary School with distinction. Critics as well as supporters give him credit for a passion to help students.

There’s also little doubt that the Bend-La Pine School Board labored long and hard to be fair before voting Tuesday to accept the administration’s recommendation to fire him.

Montoya’s supporters complained about silence and secrecy, and board members expressed frustration that they couldn’t share more information. It’s a painful and unresolvable intersection where the public’s need to know is in direct conflict with state laws that protect the privacy of personnel records.

Board comments did reveal that Montoya was criticized for failing to complete teacher observations, and board member Mike Jensen said there was “an issue of misrepresentation of performance, which is cause of breach between Mr. Montoya and his supervisor and the district.” If this means Montoya misled his supervisors, we can’t imagine how he could be allowed to continue in a position of leadership.

Board members spent hundreds of hours trying to understand the issues surrounding Montoya’s performance, and they received and read voluminous reports and hundreds of emails and letters. This was no knee-jerk reaction.

But Montoya’s supporters have a limited frame of reference. They know about his successes, but they don’t know how he did the rest of his multifaceted job. And like most members of the public, they come to school board meetings only when some issue disturbs them. They don’t know how the board operates, whether members are open-minded, whether they ask the right questions. And therefore, they have no basis for trust.

Nonetheless, most of those who spoke to the board Tuesday expressed themselves with civility and respect. Montoya himself thanked board members for the time they have devoted to the issue. He said he plans to continue to fight their decision because he wants to be a role model of fighting for what’s right.

We hope his passion for kids will direct him to a different approach. Not one that drains his own and the district’s money and energy on a protracted fight, but one that allows for moving forward in a positive direction rather than dwelling in a past of conflict and disappointment.

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