I'm just sayin': Hire raises questions

It was reported in a Glendale News-Press article on June 10 that Fremont Elementary School Principal Cynthia Livingston is the longtime girlfriend of Glendale Unified Supt. Michael Escalante.

Livingston has recently been promoted to principal at Rosemont Middle School, and the article quoted school board President Greg Krikorian saying that the relationship played no role in her promotion.

First, let me say that I do not know Livingston and have heard only good things about her. No one questions her qualifications for the job.

However, over the past couple of weeks I've spoken with other parents and teachers who are as uncomfortable as I am with the idea of a school district superintendent dating a subordinate.

One parent asked what the board knew and when they knew it. Specifically, was Escalante already dating Livingston when he was hired and, if so, was the board made aware of it?

On Monday I spoke with Krikorian, who told me that when Escalante first interviewed in 2004, "he openly disclosed his relationship" with Livingston.

Why would the board hire someone knowing that it would place them in a position of authority over the person they were dating? Krikorian declined to go into further detail.

I passed on this information to a parent who was quite shocked with the board's decision to create this circumstance. His reaction was, "That just sets themselves up for problems in the future. It's unethical."

Obviously, these kinds of relationships can easily lead to favoritism or the appearance of favoritism. Morale and respect among colleagues can suffer when there are the inevitable questions about preferential treatment.

While everyone in the News-Press article denied any favoritism in this case, just the appearance of bias can cause trouble.

Several people wanted to know if the school district has a policy regarding dating between bosses and employees. While most companies, and other organizations, have anti-fraternization policies, apparently Glendale Unified's policy only restricts employees from being under direct supervision of an immediate family member.

A mom made the comparison of a teacher dating the parent of one of their students. When asked if the board would condone that, Krikorian responded, "We had a principal dating a parent at one time. It's human nature."

Again, the point in question for the parents and teachers is with the Board of Education policy and not with personalities. Those I talked with wished Livingston well in her new position and had no doubt that she'd be a fine principal.

While this particular situation goes away when Escalante retires at the end of this month, the larger issue remains, and the Board of Education will need to address it sooner or later. Let's hope that it's sooner.

A mom told me that she holds school administrators and board members to a "higher moral standard" because they are role models for our children. Indeed they are.

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