Citizens voice frustration with board, administration at meeting

SHERIDAN – At their July meeting the Sheridan School Board added an agenda item to accept written correspondence from the community in response to a petition submitted requesting the resignation of superintendent Kim Harding, but no correspondence was given because former trustee Karen Talley submitted the petition electronically to the district the week before.

Several community members in attendance were confused as to why the correspondence item was added at the last minute and not included in the published agenda, but Harding and board chair Rhonda Boyd explained that the item was nothing more than an opportunity for the board to accept written comments in document form on any matter, similar to a public comment period.

Another former trustee, Jim Kaatz, stood to ask why the petition was not going to be considered or discussed under the correspondence item on the meetings agenda.

“So you have added it after the fact, yet you won’t let the correspondence be read or any discussion be held. Is that correct?” he asked.

Harding explained that since there was no physical hard copy of the petition submitted at the meeting, it would not be considered at this time.

“We assumed that there was going to be a document that was presented, so we created an area for that,” Harding said.

Boyd proceeded to open the floor for public comment period, reminding those in attendance at the meeting that personnel performance issues are not allowed to be discussed openly at a public meeting.

“If we talk about performance issues, then we have to stop,” Boyd said.

Kaatz proceeded to ask how to get a personnel issue on the agenda, but Harding quickly responded that it simply does not work that way.

“It comes back to, again, if it is a performance issue, it may not be discussed in a public meeting. All staff members of a school district have a right to privacy,” Harding said. “Performance issues may not be discussed.”

Community member George Sandidge interjected, asking which officials community members can take their concerns to regarding school personnel if it can’t be discussed in a public meeting.

“It seems like there’s a door there. There’s a wall there. There’s a lot of guardians unhappy here, there’s a lot of kids that are unhappy here, and we’re not allowed to discuss the issues,” Sandidge said. “We don’t know who to direct anything to if there’s nothing that can be discussed about it.”

Kaatz admitted that he did not prepare a statement prior to the meeting, but took the opportunity to reflect on what he views as the duties and responsibilities of the Board of Trustees.

“Sometimes a board member gets confused as to who’s working for who. And you are not working for the superintendent. You are not working for the principal. You are not working for the district clerk. You are working for the taxpayers and the parents of the district that have children and pay the bills,” Kaatz said. “And to hold that responsibility dear, sometimes you’ve got to take a hard stance when there is as much uproar in a community as everyone knows that there is now.”

People in the community feel like the board isn’t interested in listening to their concerns, he told the board. However, the board exists to help foster an excellent education for the students and be good stewards of the school, which is vital to the community.

“It’s your job to convey the wishes of the people of the community, the taxpayers, even the non-taxpayers that have children or have a vested interest in the local school district, to administer, to set policies and curriculum, to teach the kids the way the people of this community want their kids taught and the subjects they want taught,” Kaatz said. “It’s what the people of this district want in the way of an education for their children. And that’s your responsibility.”

Also during the meeting Harding gave in her monthly report, a summary of her achievements and contributions to the Sheridan School District since she took over as superintendent. The board was also presented a draft budget proposal for the 2012-13 school year. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14.

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