August 31, 2001 11:00 pm

Its a tough lesson, but all communities and government bodies can learn from the way the Baker School Board handled the evaluation, contract extension and soon departure of its superintendent, Toni Hardman.

Baker School District teachers agreed through their union this week to forgo some of their salary increases in order to pay for the buyout of Hardmans contract. That reflects an intense desire on their part to find a new leader for the district.

The move to buy out Hardmans contract surfaced after teachers in August passed a no-confidence vote against her. Teachers had disagreed with Hardmans decisions and management style. For example, the teachers charged that the superintendent had issued mandates without seeking consensus or allowing for different opinions. Teachers also expressed concern about the superintendent and business manager receiving salary increases much greater than their own.

The school board seemed miles apart from the teachers opinion of Hardman when the board issued this statement this week: ... Hardman has served in her capacity as superintendent in exemplary fashion. ... (She) has the full support of the board and management team.

Such favorable impressions undoubtedly led the board last spring to approve a three-year contract with Hardman, who earns $86,000 a year. The question must be asked: Where were the teachers when the board was considering the contract? Were they hiding out somewhere, failing to share their concerns about Hardman with the board? Was the board seeking out their opinion? If teachers concerns about Hardman had been expressed as loudly then as they are now, would the board been eager to ink an agreement lasting until 2004?

School boards, city councils, county commissioners and employers in general must listen to the voices of employees. The workers, too, must find ways to express themselves on important issues. Problems like those faced in Baker City can be avoided when doors of communication are left open.


Northeast Oregons weather is promising to be splendid as the final holiday of the summer passes by this weekend.

Those going camping, hiking or picnicking can expect temperatures in the low to mid-80s through Tuesday, almost ideal for kicking back and enjoying the waning days of summer.

The sunny days, while enjoyable to so many, have taken a toll on water being available for agriculture, power production and spawning fish.

Lets all enjoy the warm holiday weekend, but lets hope that the heavens gush forth with plenty of water in the days and months ahead. As for clouds, we need them.