Board hears about adult ed concerns, community survey results

The Ennis School Board heard recurring questions about their adult education program, discussed a proposal for creating a study hall for junior high and high schoolers, and looked at community survey results at their regular monthly meeting last week.

Prior to the regular meeting, the board held a performance evaluation for superintendent Doug Walsh. The meeting was opened in public, but board vice president Jim McNally closed the meeting soon thereafter when Walsh requested the review be done in closed session.

Last year, the board took public comment on Walsh’s performance, but not this year. Instead, McNally offered members of the public to come into the board’s meeting room one at a time to express their feelings about Walsh’s performance.

Board member Lisa Frye pushed to have the performance review open to the public.

“I believe the public has a right to see how this board operates,” Frye said.

However, board members Mike McKitrick and McNally voted to keep the meeting closed after a short phone consultation with the school board’s lawyer Elizabeth Kaleva.

Kaleva explained that a recent Montana Supreme Court decision reinforced the idea that employee evaluations should be kept private.

“Employees have a right to privacy in their performance evaluation,” Kaleva told the board.

The board’s regular meeting began at about 5 p.m. and started with general public comment from David Kelley and Kelly Robinson, who both questioned the board about the adult education budget and expenditures.

Kelley referred to recent communication he had with the school district that indicated the district’s adult education budget for this year
included about $2.2 million for equipment expenditures. However, the board has yet to have any public discussion about what those expenditures would actually be for, he said.

Robinson questioned why the adult education program wasn’t on the agenda for the meeting, when last month the board indicated it would be. She also had questions about what the adult education coordinator was making.

The board didn’t address either Kelley or Robinson’s questions. McNally told them that public comment was only meant to listen to comments from the public, not to be a question and answer session.

Later in the meeting, in his principal’s report, Ennis High School Principal John Sullivan unveiled the initial proposal for a study hall.

Several students have requested a study hall to allow them time to work on homework and other studies, Sullivan said.

His proposal would go into effect on a trial basis for the last quarter of the year and would involve extending the school day by seven minutes and each 53-minute class would be shortened to 50 minutes. This would allow for a 30-minute study hall for all students at the end of the day from 2:40 to 3:10, he said.

Under this plan, all teachers would be responsible for a study hall and about 10 students. However, some classes or subjects would have more need for a study hall than others, Sullivan said. But if each teacher is responsible for a group of students, then passes could be handed out if some of those students needed to go to another class or lab.

Sullivan wanted to try the new schedule and study hall during the fourth quarter this school year to see if it worked and would be worth continuing.

The board also was provided with results from a recent community survey on the school. McNally worked with three community members – Cindy McKitrick, Mariah Oliver and Rikki Dilschneider – to develop the survey, which focused on curriculum, communication and school programs.

The survey had 44 responses from the community with 24 being from parents of students, 15 from community members, two from faculty and three from other sources.

The plan is to meet with teachers at the school before the first of the year and use that information combined with the community survey to begin setting goals for the school board and district, McNally said.

In other news, the board closed the general meeting to discuss rescinding the resignation of Cliff McAllister.

McAllister’s resignation was on the October school board agenda, but was tabled when his attorney Stephanie Kruer told the board the part-time contract McAllister had signed earlier in the year and was officially resigning from was not legal. That contract had been improperly signed by Walsh and school board president Marc Glines without full board approval.

After the October meeting, Kruer negotiated a reinstatement of McAllister under his original full time contract.

Frye was frustrated with the situation and felt it was inappropriate that the matter had been settled by the school board’s attorney without the board convening to discuss it.

“The district is who Elizabeth Kaleva and Megan Morris represent, not Doug Walsh,” Frye said. “There was a situation that got resolved without board input.”

However, the resignation still was a tabled matter before the board and needed dealt with. McAllister waived his right to privacy and wanted to keep the meeting open. However, he had no comments on the situation.

Kaleva was called again for consultation and said the board also had an obligation to acknowledge Walsh’s right to privacy with the matter. Walsh wanted the meeting closed.

Attendees to the meeting were asked to leave the room and the meeting was closed.

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