Superintendent: Personal problems ‘small issues’

“I believe the overall mission of the district is being accomplished. We are here for the children of Wyandotte, and they are thriving.”

—Supt. Patricia Cole


Sunday Times Newspapers


WYANDOTTE — A month after her evaluation from Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education members, Supt. Patricia Cole gave her response.


During the Feb. 17 board meeting, members’ familiar 4-3 split was seen again in regard to their opinions of Cole’s performance.


Trustees Kathy Bedikian and Michael Swiecki and Secretary Michael Peters praised Cole for her accomplishments throughout the district.


President Robert Kirby, Vice President Kevin Van Boxell, Treasurer Dana Browning and Trustee Jerry Kupser voiced concerns and displeasure with Cole during the evaluation.


The split has become commonplace over the last few years and has been a cause for controversy in the past.
Cole prefaced her response Tuesday by thanking Peters, Swiecki and Bedikian.


“Your comments on the district’s progress, the quality of our staff and their outstanding achievements during the last year means so much to me and the staff,” Cole said. “I love my job and my district.


“My goal is to make a difference, and I believe I can do so … (to ensure) that we make a difference in the lives of our students on a daily basis.”


She then addressed the concerns of the other four board members, including a lack of communication.
Cole said she communicates “a lot” with all board members through a weekly packet that summarizes the highlights from the district each week.


“I respond to their e-mails and calls,” she said, “at night, on weekends and during holidays.


“I was very disappointed that I did not feel evaluated on the goals of the board for the district, but rather on personal issues.”


Kupser told Cole during her evaluation that he felt the lines of communication were not open.


“This school year Mr. Kupser has sent me 38 e-mails, all of them insulting, negative and unprofessional,” she said.


Kupser was excused from Tuesday’s meeting.


Browning took issue when Cole said she didn’t know how to fix the broken lines of communication on the board.


“She was right. I said, ‘I don’t know how,’” Cole said. “As I have shared with her, some board members have demanded some things that I can’t accommodate in good conscience, which made for bad relationships.”


Some of Van Boxell’s concerns focused on the budget and administration. He has spoken in several meetings about cutting administration and secretaries before teachers.


“He said I violated confidential matters,” Cole said. “I have no idea what that means. I think he has forgotten that I am the only central office administrator who is charged 100 percent to the general fund.”


Most secretaries’ salaries come from grants and other programs.


Cole said the district has cut secretaries at the board office and at Roosevelt High School, along with counselors, librarians and social workers throughout the district to avoid cutting teachers.


“Our student body has reduced in size, so just like every other district we have to rightsize and reduce our staff and class sizes,” she said.


Cole also addressed concerns over the hiring process for administrators.


“We have a sophisticated, professional protocol that would hold up in court, that is as objective and unbiased as possible, so that we find the very best candidates for the position,” she said.


Kirby brought up the issue of “mutual respect” during Cole’s evaluation, saying she should treat every board member equally.


“I try to make appropriate recommendations for the district based on my knowledge, education and experience,” Cole said. “If a board member doesn’t agree, but I believe it is wrong, and the board as a whole has not asked me to do it, I sometimes cannot do what a board member has asked.


“In spite of all these small issues — and I see them as small, because they were personal between me and a board member on particular issues — I believe the overall mission of the district is being accomplished.


“We are here for the children of Wyandotte, and they are thriving.” Cole said she answers to the board as a whole, not to individual members, which is difficult when dealing with seven people.


“I appreciate your support on the important issues, and I look forward to working for the district for several more years,” she said.


After Cole spoke, members voted on two motions. One giving Cole a “satisfactory evaluation and one-year contract extension,” and the other only affirming a “satisfactory evaluation” without the extension.


The extension vote was deadlocked at 3-3 with no action taken; members approved the latter motion 5-1(see related story).