"Elementary (School), My Dear Watson"

May 28, 2012

It was a dark and stormy night....

A good mystery can be great fun. Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Ellery Queen, Carolyn Keene (aka Edward Stratemeyer), Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout, Franklin W. Dixon, and Raymond Chandler are among the dozens of writers who have given us page after page of who-dunnit excitement. Even Snoopy tried his hand, er, paw.

But no one likes a mystery surrounding their school principal....specifically, why she was suddenly demoted with no explanation, yet still remains employed here. Plots like this can only hatch in the Quite Commonly Secret District. And even the school directors don't have a clue. Who loves ya, baby? Not our administration.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's library of works, master sleuth Sherlock Holmes is best remembered for preceding his explanation of the crime with the famous words "Elementary, my dear Watson" (even though he never actually said that). But in the curious case of the QCSD Mystery of Anita Serge, Superintendent Lisa Andrejko's only explanation of where the former high school principal has been banished to is "Elementary School, my contemptible community".

Does it worry you that Andrejko's hand-picked high school principal is suddenly demoted to an elementary school, with no explanation? And with no successor in sight? As Agatha Christie observed "Very few of us are what we seem". But if there is any position where the community needs to know exactly what they are getting, it is elementary school principal. Perry Mason said it best: "I object, your honor!"

We don't know why Serge was relieved of her duties in early May. We don't know why the demotion was announced more than a month before graduation, instead of allowing Serge to finish out her sixth year as principal. We don't know what Andrejko discovered about her buddy that caused her to move Serge out without so much as a thank-you for her service (though that relationship may explain why Serge is still here). And we don't know why Serge had to pen her own obituary, and distribute it impersonally on the internet.

At least she wasn't forced to write it 100 times on the blackboard.

Inquiring minds want to know. So should every parent in QCSD. If a principal has to be demoted during the school year, we should be told why. And, like Magnum P.I., I know what you are thinking: if that principal is the new top administrator at an elementary school, we surely want to know.

And if Andrejko won't tell the community, the parents, and even the directors, then we have made the leap from mystery to grave concern.

At the school board meeting on May 17, the members asked Andrejko point blank for an explanation. They were told that the transfer was routine, and completely normal. End of story. Not surprisingly, no one believed her.

Director Paul Stepanoff explained "The official word is that the move is the best use of available talent and expertise, just like after any position becomes vacant. There is nothing to read into this except that it is a normal change of assignment. That was the official word, and did not waiver from what we were told in the executive session. From anyone's point of view, this looks like a demotion, and not a lateral move. We also know that many parents complained about Serge as principal, but that is not always a good indicator of performance. Seems like something is going on, but if there is anything, it is definitely top secret."

Another director added "I think it is more like good old fashioned lying. I get the feeling something is going on that we just don't know about yet. At the very least there is a potential for something, and they know what it is but are mum about it. Not too many people in the room were buying the story...like what Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to the Justice Department lawyer opposing the Arizona immigration law: 'Your argument is not selling very well'."

So was it Col. Mustard in the conservatory with the lead pipe? It appears that only two people know what really happened - Serge and Andrejko. No one else, including the school board members, are allowed access to personnel files. Unless either of the ladies is talking - and, not surprisingly, they aren't - the community may never know the answers to all, or any, of the important questions. We'll never get just the facts, ma'am.

And Serge will spend her days at Quakertown Elementary under a cloud of suspicion, while being entrusted with several hundred of our children. You would think that the first thing she would want to do is set everyone's mind at ease by explaining exactly why she was reassigned, and why we should trust her to do a better job at QE than she did at QCHS.

As TV Detective Columbo said "Oh, just one more thing...". Perhaps we haven't heard the end of this mystery after all. Andrejko inadvertently revealed her concerns about the whole Serge matter in the executive session, when she started talking about potential legal action. Out of the blue, she said that if the administration is subpoenaed, then they would have to reveal what went on, and who said what, in that executive session. Everyone was bewildered at how they got from a normal conversation to discussing possible legal actions. That prompted the question of whether any of the administration knew of any potential legal issues. The answer was no.

The same "no" that supposedly fully explained if there was anything we should know about Serge's demotion. But if that is so, why the defensive posturing? Why bring up legal action and subpoenas?

Book 'em, Danno.