To the Editor:
The social services community is reeling from the abrupt dismissal of Ann Baird, who, for 15 years, served as Island Elderly Housing’s service coordinator. Ms. Baird is a highly experienced and skilled professional, who ensured IEH’s 170 residents had adequate health insurance, nutrition, transportation, and other supports needed for successful aging in place. Her role required planned collaboration with numerous human service agencies to see that residents’ needs were met. Ann took her job to the highest level, embodying compassion, diligence, and a work ethic that impressed both those she served and her peers in the community. Over the years, Ms. Baird became highly respected and beloved by IEH’s many residents, and became the face of IEH, reaching out to convey its mission with allegiance and grace.
Unfortunately, Ms. Baird’s dismissal does not come as a surprise to those who have witnessed, or been subject to, IEH’s high turnover, a practice which has targeted talented employees, some of whom later became community leaders within other human service organizations.
We wish to continue being the supporters and cheerleaders of IEH. While it may be too late for IEH to provide remedies for those who have been unreasonably treated, it is strongly recommended that IEH revise its policies and procedures so that hiring and firing practices have full board support, and to avoid personnel actions that appear arbitrary and capricious. It is also recommended that IEH implement proper discipline procedures and eliminate its “at will” employment policy so that dismissals cannot occur without reasonable cause. Employees should be given the benefit of identifying personal strengths and weaknesses, supplemented with ongoing opportunities for professional development.
Improved human resource oversight with appropriate checks and balances by the IEH board will prevent deterioration of staff morale and reputation, while ensuring services of the highest quality. The Island community would like to view Island Elderly Housing as a model of managerial excellence and provider of human services. The members of the IEH board are volunteers who donate their time, energy, and talents without compensation. We are grateful for their efforts, and look forward to reforms that will treat their employees fairly, fostering collaboration with social service organizations, while fulfilling their mission of providing safe, secure, and comfortable housing for our island elderly.
Victoria Haeselbarth, Mary Leddy, Jo Ann Murphy, Joyce Stiles-Tucker, Joyce Albertine, Leslie Clapp and Rose Cogliano