Submitted by Chris Aiken
From recent allegations of sexual harassment to a school-wide lockdown, Lopez School has found itself in the midst of chaos and crisis unlike any in recent memory. In my view, these events and the subsequent roller coaster ride are largely unnecessary. I see these events and issues as symptoms of a root disease: an avoidant and reactive leadership style displayed by the current Superintendent, Brian Auckland. Lopez needs to turn the page and get a fresh start at Lopez School. The solution is new and proactive administrative leadership.
With proactive leadership, reports of unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances do not get swept under the rug and lead to a full-blown tort claim. Instead, staff concerns and negative experiences are immediately addressed, met with an engaged and empathetic response, and worked through until they are dealt with appropriately.
With proactive leadership, a threat involving a student bringing firearms to school does not get personally addressed by the superintendent with a motive to “make it go away.” Instead, the proactive leader informs law enforcement of the threat and communicates with staff. The social media rumors that cropped up (after the valid threat) did so specifically because there was no official information provided. The superintendent’s choice to sidestep safety protocols, not inform law enforcement and not communicate with staff created the environment for the rumors that drove the school lockdown.
The proactive leader does not believe they can make concerns go away by ignoring them. Instead, the proactive leader welcomes red flags because that is how we make our school better. They communicate often in order to create a dialogue, build consensus and invite frequent feedback. They are accountable. The proactive leader brings people together in order to lead the way on critical issues. We need to get ahead of issues, not react to their eventual crisis. When we avoid issues, they escalate. When issues escalate, they lead to crisis. When we’re in crisis, we are not providing a safe school or a quality education.
The superintendent has not been held accountable for his choices, has sought to cover up his choices, and has chosen to lead from behind on critical issues while reacting to a self-created crisis.
This is not to say that the superintendent is devoid of positive qualities. One who chooses a career in school administration has to genuinely want to work with kids. But good intentions do not equal competence, and I believe the superintendent’s avoidant style is not a match for the needs of Lopez School. I believe, in fact, that the superintendent’s avoidant style is the number one safety concern at Lopez School and the number one reason for parent and student mistrust.
It is time for the Lopez Island School Board to lead us toward positive change. It is time for the Lopez Island School Board to provide an opportunity to start over and step forward together into a new future. It is time for new, proactive leadership at Lopez School.