Augusta city commissioners this past week held a retreat to discuss various city issues, and one of their recommendations for making their government run better is to give the city administrator the power to hire and fire.
That authority currently rests with elected commissioners, and under a revised system they would still hear appeals from city workers unhappy with the appointed administrator's decisions.
Augusta officials want to make that change because it's a good system " and it's just like the one used by the Columbia County school board and other school systems.
That's an important perspective to keep in mind when dissecting the messy "fair dismissal" hearing this past week of Lakeside High School teacher Margaret Mudrak.
The veteran teacher's supporters clearly think she was railroaded. Conversely, her accusers believe she helped her special ed students with tests to an unethical degree.
Her school-level accusers took their case to the school system's top administrator, Superintendent Charles Nagle. He judged the allegations credible enough to warrant firing the 30-year educator.
The elected officials " who hired Nagle " heard the evidence against Mrs. Mudrak during a marathon hearing Tuesday, and evaluated her defense against the charges. In the end, the board members unanimously ratified Nagle's decision.
Mrs. Mudrak has further avenues for appealing the decision, both to the state Board of Education and through the court system.
This process demonstrates two important things:
A system that allows the top administrator to hire and fire his own team is a good one, as evidenced by Augusta's current quest for it; and,
As often lamented by critics of public education, it can be a very difficult, time-consuming process to fire a teacher " even one accused, in essence, of helping students cheat.
It's also important to remember that, in the private sector, not only does the top administrator have the right to hire and fire, but employees typically don't have such a broad avenue for appeal.
Mrs. Mudrak, by all accounts, is a fine person, and aside from these accusations generally was a highly regarded educator. But despite her supporters' obvious disappointment at the outcome of her hearing, the fact remains that she received a day in court " one that most workers wouldn't get at all.
Additionally, as Gene Rickaby's letter today points out, Columbia County Sheriff's Deputy Kernaghan lost his job recently and he doesn't get an appeal. A highly regarded deputy until this episode, Kernaghan will be able to fight criminal charges against him in court, but the sheriff has already decided there's enough evidence of those charges to revoke Kernaghan's badge. Case closed.
While Mrs. Mudrak's supporters are upset about her firing, certainly they prefer a system in which she has these opportunities to appeal. Undoubtedly Kernaghan would have traded places to have such an opportunity to fight for his job.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.