Editorial: Good policy change resolves grade change issue

Controversy about a grade change at Summit High School has been resolved with a good policy change, but we don’t like any suggestion that school board members shouldn’t be free to advocate for their children.

No one’s exactly saying that, at least not to us, but the issue of powerful parental influence is implicit in the conversation.

The community asks a lot of those who volunteer their time to serve on the school board, but it’s unreasonable to ask them to do any less for their children. No doubt it’s a sensitive matter for principals and teachers when they have a conflict with a school board member or other influential — or even just pushy — parent. If this new policy helps with that, all the better.

The grade change issue arose when Bend-La Pine School Board member Nori Juba asked then-Summit Principal Lynn Baker to change an F to a W on his son’s transcript. The W, for withdrawal, requires a principal’s approval “based on extenuating circumstances” if it occurs after the first 10 class sessions. Baker agreed, the teacher objected, and a grievance was filed.

The issue was resolved with a Memorandum of Understanding that allows Juba’s son to keep his W, but changes procedures for future cases.

Under the new approach, a list of “extenuating circumstances” has been established, including a death in the student’s family, a documented medical condition, incarceration and several others. If a teacher disagrees when a principal wants to change a grade for a circumstance that’s not on the list, a committee will be formed. The committee will include the principal, the teacher, the superintendent or his designee, a union representative and others chosen by the teacher. After hearing that committee’s discussion, the superintendent will make the decision.

Bend Education Association President Mark Molner told us this is not the first case to raise these issues, and ideas for change have been percolating for some time. This individual case wasn’t the issue, he said, but the union wanted more openness, an opportunity to present the teacher’s view, and a level of accountability that requires the principal to build his or her case.

Mission accomplished. The new procedure gives teachers an avenue and principals a backup. All good.