Multiple controversies erupt at the School Board meeting

/ 13 April 2012 / jennifer

Doug DeDecker, St. James News, April 13, 2012 –

Approximately fifty teachers and citizens from St. James attended the meeting of the St. James School Board on Tuesday night. There was extensive discussion of several issues of great concern to many people at the meeting.

First and foremost among the controversies was the District budget for 2012-2013 school year.

Revenues are projected to be less, and that’s led to the Superintendent and the Board propose to cut to teaching positions, educational services, and rearranging personnel to perform other duties from their present assignments.

Cuts in the amount of $192,000 have been proposed. The discussion and opinions voiced by those in attendance was prolonged and pointed. While much was discussed, no final action was taken at the meeting. The Board scheduled a public meeting to further discuss the budget.

The meeting will be held on:

Special Work Session of the School Board to discuss the budget:

Wednesday April 18, at 5 p.m. at the Armstrong Media Center. The meeting is open to the public.

In other areas the Board accepted the resignation of two District employees. Those staff members are Darci DePoppe and LeAnn Petterson. The Plaindealer acquired the resignation letters from these two employees. The DePoppe letter reads in part, “The hostilities directed towards me by the administration in the past 12 months has made it impossible for me to continue employment with the school district.”

The Petterson letter reads in part, “Due to the lack of support from Administration and the St. James School Board and the hostile working relationship with them, I feel it is impossible for me to continue to work for the St. James School District.”

After the Petterson resignation was accepted by the Board, Nikole

Kolden spoke up from the audience, “Two people resigning in two weeks – there’s something fishy. I hope you (the Board) are looking into it.”

Attending the meeting was Mike Tonsager who questioned how the Board came to approve a school calendar for next year. It would have had the school year starting before Labor Day.

He noted that the calendar committee at the school level had signed off on a traditional calendar with an after Labor Day start. He then noted that the calendar the Board approved was not the one that the committee had voted upon. He then asked the Board, “Is that true?”

There was a long pause. “It’s not complicated,” Tonsager said when the Board was slow to respond. Expanding on this process of how the calendar came about Tonsager said, “My problem with that is this is about the whole concept of communication, honesty, credibility.”

He then suggested that Superintendent Becky Cselovski had not provided the Board with accurate information.

But it was next year’s budget that raised the greatest number of concerns. Teacher and head basketball coach Steve Walker noted that it was going to be difficult to lay cuts on the staff while the budget has an increase of one half time principal.

Kent Franklin, the District’s Curriculum Coordinator, suggested the Superintendent’s salary be cut by 25%, because 25% of her duties were supposed to function as a principal. That could be used to offset the proposed half time increase for an elementary principal.

Board Chairman Bill Brown said the cutting of the administrative positions had gone too deep, and he felt a half time principal position had to be added.

Board member Dustin Anderson summed up the classic budget shortfall issue by commenting to the audience about how we could do it (provide the teaching and services everyone wants) with the funds at the level they are.