Put Sloan back in the rotation

Dave Waddell is Advisor to the Chico State University newspaper, The Orion, journalism instructor and free-lance journalist

About a year ago, I wrote an in-depth story for the News & Review about the Chico Unified School District’s Jeff Sloan brouhaha. I spent the better part of two weeks investigating the allegations and recriminations, yet I came away with a loose grip on the whole sordid affair. And though I wrote more than 6,000 words, I certainly didn’t tell the complete story.

Sloan was accused of financial irregularities that the district spent a lot of effort documenting. He was never accused of benefiting personally from his maneuvering, and much of what he did fits in with Sloan’s image of himself as an innovative risk-taker who always strove to take Marsh to higher educational levels. He insists that the practices he was skewered for continue to this day in the district.

I was never convinced that questionable financial moves were the sole reason for Sloan’s demotion. I think it had a lot to do with Sloan rubbing his bosses (district Superintendent Scott Brown and the school board) the wrong way.

Another key factor, I suspect, was that students matriculating out of Chapman School, in one of Chico’s lowest socio-economic areas, transferred in huge numbers so they could attend Chico Junior instead of Marsh. As students from wealthier families transferred in to take seats intended for Chapman students, Marsh became seen as a school for the community’s elite. I saw no evidence that Sloan tried to reverse the Chapman outflow and make Marsh more diverse. And that’s to his discredit.

That said, I think Sloan’s treatment by the district has become shoddy. When I talked to Brown last May, he told me the following: “[The school board’s] direction to me was to try to find a place that will keep [Sloan’s] administrative career moving.”

So what did Brown do? He made Sloan assistant principal at the district’s Center for Alternative Learning, a job of such import that it is now being eliminated.

And now what? How does Sloan’s recent reassignment to teaching fulfill the board’s supposed desire to keep his administrative career on track? That quite the opposite has happened lends credence to Sloan supporters who see vengeance at play here. Of course, having to make $1.1 million in budget cuts could have legitimately changed the board’s thinking when it came to Sloan. Yet his dismissal from the administrative ranks widens the divide in a district that still needs to be brought back together.

In my opinion, Sloan has done his penance. End the feud and put him back to work doing what he does best: running a Chico school—one that’s not named Marsh.