Missing The Mark And Rewarding Failure


Is Great Falls Public Schools rewarding failure when it promotes administrators to higher positions?

In the business world, some would suggest that failure is part of the creative process, and it should be rewarded, and encouraged. Why? Because the fear of failure is an inhibiting force that stifles the presenting of new ideas according to a piece written by Andy Golding for STRIVE – Employee Experience Design. 

Golding reports that: “More and more we are seeing businesses take steps to acknowledge and then reward failure”. She cites the example of “WL Gore, the makers of Goretex, was once voted the most innovative company in the U.S. They have long celebrated when a project doesn’t work, with beer or champagne – just as they would if it had been a success”.

Whether the paradigm of applauding failure should be accepted practice in the operation of a school district, or any entity of government is doubtful. A private business absorbs failure in a financial sense, but the same practice in a school district involves taxpayer’s money and the well-being of students. In this application, failure is failure and shouldn’t be rewarded.

But has less than stellar performance, that could be regarded as failure, been rewarded in our local school district?

The answer may be found in two recent GFPS hires, the new superintendent and the new assistant superintendent for secondary education. As it turned out, the existing assistant superintendent of secondary was promoted to superintendent after the field of applicants was narrowed down to three, one eventually dropping out and the other deemed to have insufficient experience coming from a principal’s position at Lincoln Elementary, finally leaving one candidate for the position – Moore.

The problem, as I see it, is that as assistant superintendent of secondary, Tom Moore’s tenure brought us a decreased graduation rate at Great Falls High of 75.8%, and a combined graduation rate of our two high schools of 80%. That means at best, 20 students out of every 100 do not graduate, albeit on time.

Should presiding over a poor, decreasing graduation rate be rewarded with a promotion to Superintendent and a huge salary raise?

I also believe you can credit Mr. Moore with many of the planning decisions made as result of the $40M construction bonds allocated to the two high school projects, which I believe to have “missed the mark”. Is his promotion to the superintendent position rewarding failure?

Next, with the vacated position of assistant superintendent for secondary, Ms. Heather Hoyer, current principal of Great Falls High, will be promoted to assistant superintendent of secondary education. There is still reason to believe she made a serious error in judgement by not reporting a sexual assault that occurred at Great Falls High School in the fall of 2011 while she held the position of associate principal at the school, by not reporting the incident directly to the police department, or even to the principal of the school.

The incident involving two football players occurred on September 13, 2011 in the locker room shower, and received national attention when reported by KRTV, and later by Yahoo Sports. “the 2011 Great Falls (Mont.) High football team was rocked with a hazing scandal that revolved around an activity called “power gobbling,” in which upper class members of the football team picked up freshmen victims in the shower by their crotch. In the process of that hazing activity, Great Falls senior Alex Mauricio Botina-Roehm allegedly stuck his thumb up a freshman’s rectum.”

As further explained in a letter from the victim’s family to the GFPS school board:

“Power Gobbling is when a student comes up behind you, makes a fist and then rams the fists into the testicles of another individual. This time the rectum was also penetrated, causing excruciating pain.

Initially reported September 15, 2011 by the victim’s family to Kathy Van Tighem, a counselor at GFH:

“From: Kathy Van Tighem <kathy_vantighem@gfps.k12.mt.us> Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2011 12:05 PM To: Sherry Marshall Subject: [Forwarded from mirapoint] FW:

Just to let you know this will be addressed today—Mrs Hoyer does not know who made the report, nor the age of the student, therefore, neither does Coach Krahe. If you are comfortable, please tell Tanner thank you for having to courage to tell you.”

Van Tighem then immediately reported the incident to associate principal Heather Hoyer:

“From: Heather Hoyer Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2011 10:43 AM To: Kathy Van Tighem Subject: RE:

There will be a come to Jesus talk tonight, courtesy of Coach Krahe. It will stop. If this is going on, there is more happening. Matt did say that many of the boys are choosing not to shower here and just go home. Maybe this is why.”

Further, the school’s community resource officer from the Great Falls Police Department was first informed by the victim’s family on October 30, 2011, when the school failed to do so. It was also at that time that the school’s principal was made aware of the incident.

In a case involving sexual assault, Title IX obligates any faculty and staff by law, except those protected by confidentiality (SHARPP, the Counseling Center and Health Services) with knowledge of a sexual assault/act of sexual violence involving a student to report that information immediately to authorities.

In the GFPS Complaint/Incident Report dated November 11, 2011, signed by Heather Hoyer acting as the Building Administrator, and by the 15 year old victim, without parental presence or consent, Hoyer’s notes, “Had decided to wait until season (football) was over before reported to SRO (police school resource officer) & school”. The victim and his family deny that they wanted to wait to report the incident to police.

Is this the kind of judgmental failure that should be rewarded with an elevation in responsibility and pay?

How would you feel if this happened to your child?



Posted by Philip M. Faccenda

Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

Reader interactions

One Reply to “Missing The Mark And Rewarding Failure”

  1. While you are at it, what about the weather? I had hoped to take my backyard today but it’s raining. Obviously Tom Moore has completely lost control of the weather. Point being, there are multiple reasons for decreases in graduation rates, most societal, well beyond the purview of the school superintendent. Rather than constantly whining and moaning, what if you asked how you could help? How can you contribute your skills to assist in the outcome. Be a part of the solution rather than nitpicking those in the trenches actually doing the hard work.


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