N.Cambria should fix its house

The Northern Cambria school board’s first order of business shouldn’t be to decide the fate of Superintendent John Jubas. It is rumored that some board members want to buy out the final year of Jubas’ contract, which expires on June 30, 2015.

Instead, the board first should heal the divisions that exist among its members.

While the board shouldn’t be a rubber-stamp body, or one where everyone always votes the same way, it should conduct its duties as a unit. That means all members should know what is transpiring at all times, and no member or members should act independently, without specific authorization.

But Jubas’ acknowledgment on Friday that a board member had approached him to discuss the possibility of a buyout was more evidence of the operational chasm that exists among board factions. Three days earlier, at a 2014-15 budget workshop, some board members referred to the buyout issue vaguely, but others who should be in the loop as well admitted only to hearing buyout rumors.

Among the latter was board President Ronald Dolansky, who by virtue of that title should actively be leading the board’s endeavors, not be in the dark, as he currently appears to be.

Regardless of the superintendent’s eventual fate, the board needs to admit that Northern Cambria might not be able to attract the best-available Jubas successor – either now or after June 30, 2015 – if dissension is dominating the board.

Not feeling comfortable about interacting with certain board members, because doing so will anger others, is a big undermining force that a superintendent shouldn’t have to face.

On Friday, Jubas said his main goal is to unite the board so it can address serious academic issues. But judging from last week, that might not be possible during his remaining tenure.

His observation that “it’s time for everybody to play in the same sandbox” is good advice; time will tell whether that recommendation is heeded.

Then there are the costs that would be associated with a buyout. Northern Cambria is not so prosperous that it need not worry about an extra outlay that likely would involve thousands of dollars. Sam Kirk Jr., district finance director, said at the budget workshop that there isn’t money set aside in the proposed 2014-15 spending plan for a buyout.

It would be better if the full board followed the suggestion of board member Brian Bougher, who said even if money was available for a buyout, that money should be spent elsewhere, for students’ benefit.

Unfortunately, the board might be too splintered now to opt for that reasonable alternative.

Finally, there’s the issue of timing, as related to Jubas’ position. Time is short for the district to carry out an extensive superintendent search. It would be better for the board to use most of the 2014-15 business/academic year for advertising the position, reviewing applications and resumes and interviewing candidates.

Haste should not dominate the superintendent search, especially if the board’s own “house” is in a state of disorder.