I wanted to write something light, this being the first week of summer. Alas. Observers and participants agree that tempers are running high, some people are hurt, others are wounded and discord rifts the La Conner School District. If only the board of directors and administration’s biggest problem was 12 hours a day of way too loud drumming and horns from a marching band rental. To name the elephant in the room: the vast majority of school staff, teachers and support employees, want Superintendent Whitney Meissner gone. The La Conner Education Association, the teachers union, and the Public Support Employees, the support staff, are frustrated with the Board’s response – both in urgency and degree – in the almost three weeks since 80 and 79 percent of their gathered memberships voted “no confidence” in Meissner and sent a letter to the school board stating their many complaints. The Board of Directors met with union staffs yesterday, June 25th, and not on the terms the unions requested. The unions had asked the board for an expanded meeting with their memberships and without Meissner. Instead the union leaders got 60 minutes, with Meissner and perhaps the district’s attorney present. The unions brought a Washington Education Association staffer with them. The Board has shown they respect and support the Superintendent. With their actions throughout a spring of increasing discord they placed themselves in the team Meissner camp. The Board, like a parent, like the mothers before King Solomon faced with splitting a baby in two, needs to prove that they love all their children equally. They must spend the time, get to know their multitude of staff, listen to them and form genuine relationships with them even as the great majority of the staff have drawn their line in the sand: They are through with the Superintendent. Too many have experiences and have informed their co-workers that now they can’t work with her. The unions can’t fire her and the Board wants to extend her contact. How to square this circle? How to get to the bridge to the future? Where will that bridge to the future lead for the wounded La Conner school community? All parties will help themselves and everyone if they recognize every single person is hurting. The Board of Directors, stewards of the school district, must gain the trust of the staff. The Board’s challenge is to understand and get along with staff as well as they do with their Superintendent. All employees are equally the Board’s responsibility. Getting closer to the staff requires putting some space between them and the Superintendent. Like parents with wounded children, the Board must favor those that are in pain and tend to their wounds. But the Board leads as an elected body. Neither the Superintendent nor the unions are equal partners; nor are they children. Parent and child are metaphors, but the need for trust, faith and strong relationships are not ideas but essential values. This is a growth moment for the Board, which has coasted on decades of complacency under former Superintendent Tim Bruce. Superintendent Meissner has lost the trust of her staff. If the staff next loses faith in the district’s elected leadership, there will be an ugly death spiral that, let’s be honest, could take years or even decades to heal.