Parents express concerns with SCSD#1 School Board
Hold a public meeting and attend a school board meeting to voice concerns
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
March 12, 2010
Pinedale parents and concerned citizens held a public meeting at the Pinedale Library on Wednesday, March 10th, to discuss issues and concerns they have with the Sublette County School District #1 school board and administration. Many of the same people who attended the Wednesday meeting also attended the regular school board meeting the following evening to present a compilation of the concerns gathered from the Wednesday evening meeting.
The Wednesday citizen meeting was called at the Pinedale Library by Robin Schamber and Kelly Eaton, on behalf of a newly organized group called "Pinedale Parents for Progress." Approximately thirty people attended: parents, a few former teachers and school board members, concerned citizens, and media representatives. Former Sublette County School District Superintendent Doris Woodbury was present. Vern McAdams, acting interim Superintendent, spoke on behalf of the school district and school board.
Topics of concern raised by parents included:
- Perceived inadequate explanation from the school board to the public and parents for the non-renewal of the contract and abrupt firing of popular School Superintendent Doris Woodbury.
- Questioning of the firing of the school technology administrator.
- Frustration over perceived secrecy over administration actions and lack of communication from the school board and administration with parents.
- Clarification of verbiage and consistent application of the school board policy over eligibility of who can be appointed to the school board - specifically defining what "family relationships" make someone ineligible to be appointed if a relation currently works for the school district.
- Concerns by parents over possible conflict of interest for one current school board member who has a family member who works in a position of administrative authority for the school district.
- Clarification of "the new direction" some members of the school board stated they wanted to take the school district in for the future.
- Claims of lack of respect and rude treatment by school administration and board members towards teachers and certain parents who have questioned actions by the school.
- Claims by some teachers, wishing anonymity, that they are afraid to speak up publicly about administration and school board issues for fear of retaliation and losing their jobs.
Organizers for the meeting said their goal was to get improved communication, better lead time for public notice of school board meetings, more frequent updates on the district website, and opportunities for public input into the school’s decision-making process.
It was pointed out that the details of the termination of the contract for Superintendent Doris Woodbury, or any school district employee, could not be released to the public because it is a personnel matter, and legally those reasons cannot be publicly released. All of the comments at the meeting were supportive and favorable for the job performance of Superintendent Woodbury, expressing disfavor with the termination of her contract.
Some comments were made giving kudos to the Pinedale schools over past awards and the reputation for excellence in Pinedale schools, while a couple of parents said they were concerned their children were getting a "poor education".
Another comment was frustration over the way school board meetings are currently held and the public comment period is scheduled at the end of the meeting after votes are taken. This agenda schedule format does not allow the public to have an opportunity for input on earlier agenda line items which may be controversial and members of the public may wish to make comment on before votes are taken. There were comments made that public comment during the school board business meeting can be disruptive, prolong the meetings, and delay the ability of the board to conduct their routine business. There were also comments made that typically the public does not attend the school board business meetings, and non-attendance by parents gives the perception of a lack of interest in the school board routine business decision-making process.
There was discussion over Wyoming Statutes on open/public meeting laws and whether or not several school board members could attend these kinds of public concerned-parent meetings for face-to-face discussions, or if the presence of several board members would constitute a quorum, resulting in actions or decisions being made outside the regular business meeting. McAdams said several board members wanted to attend, but he suggested they not come and he would represent the school district administration and board at the Wednesday evening meeting.
School board members are elected positions. In the event of a resignation, interim board members are appointed without public input to fill vacant terms. There was discussion about what kind of training school board members receive in how to be a board member.
Some parents spoke of lack of communication between parents and the school administration and school board, from basic acknowledgement of receipt of e-mail communications, requesting more frequent updates on the school website and better utilization by the school of electronic notification systems for school-related matters with parents. One parent said there has been an issue with the repetition of conversations with school personnel which were intended to be confidential.
School Board meeting March 11
More than a dozen citizens attended the standing-room-only Sublette County School District #1 school board meeting on Thursday evening in Pinedale. Parents were given the opportunity to speak early in the meeting and not wait until the end of the business meeting to speak to the board.
Parents asked for better communication between the board and the community. Parents also requested a clarification of the school district's conflict of interest policy.
The board agreed to address those concerns by adding a school board email address to Sublette County School District Number One's website, www.pinedaleschools.org, and by publishing a letter that clarifies the school district's conflict of interest policy.
Thank you to Bob Rule, KPIN 101.1 FM Radio, for his contribution to this story.