Our Voice: Thumbs up to Richland schools handling of concrete letters flap; down to Colorado school with silent professor

Cooler heads prevail

To the Richland School District for keeping emotions in check while handling the removal of popular concrete letters at Fran Rish stadium and Carmichael Middle School.

Critics of the decision to remove the R, H and C a few weeks ago packed a recent school board meeting to condemn the action.

School board members must have been tempted to offer up a scapegoat.

Some were available.

A district investigation found that seven administrators were involved in the decision to remove the letters -- the principals of Richland and Hanford high schools and Carmichael Middle School, Richland High's athletic director, the assistant superintendent for secondary instruction and the executive director of support services.

Neither Superintendent Rick Schulte nor the board were informed about the removal of the letters ahead of time, and there were no written documents ordering the work, according to the investigation.

But the officials responsible for the decision didn't violate school district policy and had the district's interests in mind.

"Nevertheless, given the unique nature of the letters and the strong attachment many people have for them, better judgment would be to seek broader involvement in the decision," Schulte said in a memo to the school board.

But it's important to note that construction work planned at the stadium would have destroyed the letters in any case.

The district plans to replace the letters after work is completed.

It's even more important to note the record of those involved in the decision.

"These staff are excellent employees who work hard to help RSD students succeed," Schulte wrote.

"We are ready to move forward with constructive solutions," he added. That's a policy the community should get behind.

Mum's the word

To Naropa University officials in Boulder, Colo., for reinstating a professor of religious studies who was suspended from teaching after taking an indefinite vow of silence.

Don Matthews said he was protesting institutional racism at the school by refusing to speak in class. Tuition at the school is more than $14,000 a semester. That's a lot of money for the privilege of watching someone mutely sit in the front of a lecture hall.

Naropa, a Buddhist university, does not offer tenure to professors. Matthews said he hired legal representation and filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to see if the suspension violated his civil rights.

What part of the Constitution guarantees continued employment at a job you refuse to do?

Teachable moment

To school officials in Kitsap County for placing an elementary school principal on leave for her alleged use of the N-word to students.

Superintendent Patty Page said Poulsbo Elementary School Principal Claudia Alves went on a leave of absence Wednesday that wasn't considered a disciplinary action, the Kitsap Sun reported.

Alves used the N-word with fifth-graders who were uncomfortable with the word "negro" while rehearsing a play about Martin Luther King Jr.

Alves said "negro" was not the same as the N-word, and she used the actual word, the newspaper reported.

Page says it's not acceptable under district policy for an employee to use the N-word to explain its meaning.

But context is important. Negro was the politically correct term in King's lifetime. "She was using it within historical context. Everyone that I was with was in support of the principal," one parent told the Sun.

The N-word is offensive, of course. But an educator who misses an opportunity to reduce the general level of ignorance is equally offensive.