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Tensions rise at MVSD 244 board meeting; public input session draws crowd – mostly district teachers to comment



— A reorganization of the Mountain View School District 244 meeting calendar and agenda turned contentious Monday, July 23.

A room full of about 30 patrons, mainly teachers, had signed up to speak during the regular public input session where patrons are allowed three minutes each.

Special negotiations meeting set

A special negotiations meeting with a mediator will take place Thursday, Aug. 16, 9 a.m., at the MVSD 244 District Office. The purpose of the special meeting is to hold negotiations / mediation between the board and the local bargaining unit.

This negotiation / mediation meeting of the board of trustees is called pursuant to Title 33 and Chapter 2, Title 74 Idaho Code.

Meetings for the remainder of the year are as follows: Monday, Aug. 20, 5:30 p.m., Kooskia; Monday, Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m., Elk City; Monday, Oct. 15, 5:30 p.m., Grangeville; Monday, Nov. 19, 5:30 p.m., Kooskia, and Monday, Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m., Grangeville.

The board was reorganized to vote in trustee Lot Smith of Grangeville as chair (Mike Dominguez of Kooskia has been chair for the past year) and trustee Brad Lutz as vice-chair (Lot Smith had previously been board chair prior to Dominguez and was serving as vice chair this past year).

Trustee Casey Smith of Clearwater said he would like to ensure that the proper chain of command is followed with any complaints and concerns.

“Things need to go through that proper chain for staff and teachers – they should be prohibited from addressing the board and airing their problems,” he said.

Trustee Rebecca Warden agreed, saying it was a direct violation of proper procedures and it should be just as it is for the public: to go to the teacher first, principal second, then superintendent before hitting the school board.

“Teachers are also patrons and parents,” said Grangeville Elementary teacher Bernadette Edwards.

Warden said they need to sign in and put the reason they are speaking and then it can be denied if necessary.

Joe Tosten, teacher at Clearwater Valley Elementary School in Kooskia, said there is a fine line between a teacher and a patron; for example, he sometimes sees things in the classroom that concern him as both.

The board decided that any questions should go to them the Thursday prior to each meeting so they can be vetted and see if they need to be placed on the agenda. Otherwise, any three-minute public voice can be heard during the proper sections of the meeting but cannot be addressed or discussed – only heard.

When the night’s list of those signed up to speak came later in the meeting, patron John Warford of Mt. Idaho, first on the list, stated he would “like to address the walkout, but cannot seem to get the truth,” so he was moving on.

“Do you intend to do the honorable thing and reduce the levy by what SRS funds came in?” he asked, also stating he had tried to obtain certain previous minutes and was unable to do so thus far.

“We will not decide that until our next levy meeting,” Lot Smith said.

Dominguez asked if Warford knew that amount he was discussing and Warford answered it was $1.3 million.

“No, it was $400,000,” Dominguez said.

“Again, we have not made any decisions yet,” Lot Smith stated, moving on.

Next ensued a discussion from the board on whether to allow the teachers who signed up to speak. Relationships between the board and teachers/staff have been noticeably tense since prior to negotiations starting in June. A lawyer from Boise was brought in the assist with these proceedings, which many teachers have voiced is the wrong decision.

“Isn’t this a democracy? Don’t we have the right to speak?” asked Vinnie Martinez, a teacher at Clearwater Valley High School in Kooskia. At one point, Lot Smith asked Martinez to sit down, which he did.

“As a board, don’t you want to hear what’s offered?” Tosten questioned.

“I am not a teacher, I’m here as a patron, and I would like to hear the dialog,” called out Cody Edwards.

“This is not a town meeting – it’s a business meeting,” Lot Smith told the group.

“When was the last time any of you were at a meeting?” he questioned, with about 10 raising their hands.

“The problem is, this room is full of teachers, and we’re in open negotiations,” Dominguez said.

The room was full of chatter as someone called out,” but it’s OK for you to go to the Lewiston Tribune?”

“We are not here to trash on you, but I have a problem with the {recent] Lewiston Tribune article, and I want to address you and have a dialogue,” Tosten said. “I have that right as a parents, teacher and patron.”

Lot Smith said the ISBA (Idaho School Board Association) told them to not participate in open discussion with the audience during tis meetings.

“I don’t like that you’ve decided what I can and cannot hear,” said patron Leslie Wright, who also said she wants current students to have the same opportunities in MVSD that she and he children had.

“This is getting out of control,” Lot Smith rapped the gavel, followed by a quick conversation with trustees and then the announcement of “we will allow three minutes each with each with the hope it does not get redundant.”

CVHS Char McKinney spoke first, referring the recent Tribune article.

“I did not get a 4 percent increase; I got a step,” she said. “The article says those with a master earned $59,000. This is untrue.”

“Can everyone here with a masters stand up?” she asked, with about eight people standing up. “If you made $59,000 last year, stay standing.” All sat down.

“First, I appreciate that you are public servants,” Tosten told the board. “It’s not an easy job. However, the Tribune article was full of misinformation. The overall process of hiring a lawyer or mediator was against our wishes. We want to find a solution through dialogue. Mr. Dominguez – there were things attributed to you that are just not true. Mr. Scheibe – you hired a confrontational, expensive lawyer and it’s not been a good road to go down.”

“I teach music [at GEMS] and to know there are new hires last year who made more than me is a slap in the face,” said Karla Astle. “And concerning the chain of command – as a parent and as a teacher I have tried this and it doesn’t always work. People don’t get back to you. Where do you go?”

Jessica Robinson, GEMS teacher, said she feels no bond with the board.

“When does the ugliness stop?” she asked. “You’re paying someone from Boise to break any bond we could have. Teaching is my passion and I invite any of you to my classroom, because I have never seen any of you there.”

“I don’t get the wall,” said Grangeville High School teacher Kaila Williams. “Why can’t you sit with us teachers and discuss things?”

The room was silent as Melanie Martinez, a 19-year teacher at CVES, stood and said, “I’ve never felt this disrespected as a teacher.”

GEMS teacher Amanda Bush said articles such as the one in the Tribune are counterproductive.

“When you speak like that in public, when you make us sound greedy and unmoving, you undermine our authority in the classroom. Parents talk about this, kids listen. They bring those attitudes to school,” she said. “That’s unacceptable. What have I done to deserve treatment like this from you? I don’t know.”

When discussing the monthly agenda, Casey Smith also said he liked when the administrators – building principals specifically — would come in and personally give reports. In the past two to three months, that practice stopped, and all reports were written.

Dominguez agreed with the caveat that principals not have to travel to the adjacent communities for meetings but would show up when the meeting is at their closest school.


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