School board’s interaction questioned
RONAN – Lake County Commissioner Gale Decker and parent Jennifer O’Connor expressed frustration with the lack of dialogue between members of the Ronan School Board and the public at the board’s Dec. 9 meeting.
O’Connor questioned the board’s previous interactions with her, other parents and the school’s cheerleading squad at the November and October meetings. Although the board listened to comments until Chairman Mark Clary deemed them inappropriate, the board did not ask questions or speak to the public.
O’Connor read the board its own policy.
“You can’t take any board action, but it doesn’t say anywhere from where I can tell on the school board website that there can’t be interaction between the school board and the public,” O’Connor said.
Clary said in the case of O’Connor’s comments, there was no interaction because the issues she brought up should have been handled at a different point in the chain of command.
“That stuff usually doesn’t get to us,” Clary said. “It is handled at the administrative level … it has to start at the administrative level and come up to the board.”
Board member Carmel Couture agreed with Clary.
“It’s not a board issue,” Couture said. “Administrators take care of that and as far as I see administrators did take care of (the bullying issues), so it’s not a board issue.”
Decker said he understood the issue O’Connor raised.
“I think part of the frustration is that items get suggested to be put on the agenda for discussion, and they never get put on the agenda,” Decker said. “Then when people stand during the public comment period and want to discuss something there’s no interaction. The conundrum is that you can’t get it put on the agenda, but then you also can’t discuss it during the public comment period.”
O’Connor said in November that the high school cheerleaders asked to be put on the agenda, but Superintendent Andy Holmlund, who has final say over the agenda, denied their request. A request made by Decker to discuss the school’s transportation budget was approved for the previous November meeting and the board spent more than an hour in a back-and-forth with Decker about spending before the meeting devolved into an unrelated issue of Decker’s denied application for a coaching position.
At the Dec. 9 meeting, Decker said he asked to have more discussion of the transportation budget put on the board’s agenda, but was unsuccessful.
“There’s still some confusion,” Decker said. “I’ve got this school bus information from OPI as of 11-26-2013 and then I’ve got a copy of the changes submitted by the district the day after our last board meeting and the two still don’t jive.”
Decker said the discrepancy is different from the one discussed in November that pertained to 10 buses mistakenly listed as being purchased in 2012. In the corrected budget it is unclear whether the district purchased three buses or six buses in 2011, Decker said.
Decker said the total cost to the taxpayer for bus purchases was $1.2 million in the past year, and the bus depreciation fund had increased 55 percent over five years. He asked the district to consider spending changes to relieve the taxpayer. He suggested depreciating buses over 10 years instead of seven years and retiring buses after 100,000 miles, not 70,000 miles.
Decker said he was only trying to save the taxpayer dollars and read aloud two letters that were sent to him by unhappy taxpayers.
“The majority of my tax bill, like other people here, goes to the schools – about 60 percent,” Decker said. “It’s about evenly divided between the state and the local school district. So when you save money in any of those permissive levies, you save the taxpayers money and I think it’s important to keep that in mind.”
The board did not respond to Decker’s comments.
In other business:
• Holmlund gave board members a copy of the school’s revised emergency management plan that will be approved at a later meeting.
• Holmlund said that there had been little movement to authorize more impact aid by Congress and that temporary sequestration measures are looking more and more like they will become long-term budget cuts. This could negatively impact the school’s budget.
• Sunny Day Real Bird was hired as Indian Education Director.
• Christopher Clary, Lorene LaFromboise, Phillip Peck, Isabel Sucha, Rose Dehne, Dennis Toney, and Amber Welch were hired as substitutes.
• Angela Moss was hired as Ronan Middle School basketball coach.
• Lena Baertsch was hired as high school cheerleading coach for the winter season.
• Adrienna DeCock was hired as the 2014 head volleyball coach.
• Jim Benn was hired as the 2014 head football coach.
• Field trips to Bozeman; Billings; St. Louis, Miss.; Indianapolis, Ind.; and Seattle, Wash. were approved for various school groups.
The next meeting of the Ronan School Board will be held Monday, Jan 13, in the Ronan High School library at 7 p.m.