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As the board chair and superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools, we would like to address the issues brought up in last week’s (Nov. 30) Missoulian editorial and provide some insight on the recent news surrounding three MCPS administrators. We understand that the community of Missoula wants a detailed explanation about the circumstances that led to the administrative suspensions, reassignment and resignation of two of our administrators this school year.

We insist on high standards of professional and ethical conduct from all of our employees. The board of trustees has drafted policies that mandate high standards of personal conduct and professional performance, and it is the job of the superintendent to enforce those policies.

All of our decisions and actions impact your children’s education and they are made in the best interests of our students and employees. That being said, our decisions and actions are guided and limited by Montana law and district policy regarding the investigation and discipline of public employees. The district investigates all allegations of misconduct, and can impose discipline up to and including termination if the misconduct is proven. As a general rule, the district must demonstrate that it has just cause to terminate the employment of a public employee. This is a high standard set by law, and without it, the district may not terminate a public employee.

In addition to that, Montana law recognizes that public employees are entitled to a right of privacy in certain employment matters that may not be infringed unless the board chair determines that the public’s right to know outweighs the employee’s right to privacy. This requires a balancing of two Montana constitutional provisions and has been the subject of much litigation over the years. The board takes this responsibility very seriously and strives to balance the rights of its employees with the public’s right to know.

These recent events have focused the public’s attention on accountability. We are encouraged to see so many willing to engage in dialog about how our district conducts business. Our request is that the community recognize that the board’s actions are bound by the laws of the state of Montana.

While we cannot detail the issues in any of these personnel matters, we can commit to you that we serve at the pleasure of the taxpayer and the community. We commit to you that district decisions have been and will be made in the best interest of the students and staff of Missoula County Public Schools; and that we take our charge as trustees and superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools seriously when making such difficult and controversial decisions.

We have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews that attend our schools. We understand that students need to trust their leaders. We understand the importance of leaders in mentoring and providing needed discipline to students within their schools. We also understand the need for our staff to work in an environment that holds everyone accountable to the standards set forth by the board in policy. These standards require professional, ethical conduct in all relationships with subordinates and peers.

As the trustees and superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools, we commit to uphold the principles set forth in district policy and state law. We owe you no less.

We ask that you continue to support our students and our district as we ensure that this essential community asset – a free, open, challenging 21st Century public education system – continues to lead the state in student success.

Dr. Joseph Knapp is board chair of Missoula County Public Schools. Alex P. Apostle is superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools.

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