After months of stagnation, the School District 49 Board of Education came together at June’s end to unanimously approve 22 action items that had been put on hold. Although Tammy Harold, board president, said discord among board members caused the disruption, all members now say it is time to move forward.
But letting bygones be bygones could be a bit premature.
Board members Chris Wright and Chuck Irons have been critical of board president Tammy Harold’s management style. Although Wright supports the new board member, he said Harold should step down as president.
“I think that having a full sitting board is going to help good principles be practiced and that Allen (new board member) will bring a sense of equilibrium to the board,” Wright said.
However, he added, “I think it would be in the best interest of the district if she (Harold) stepped down. I don't think she has the true vision for innovation. I don't think she can lead the board to create the type of autonomy that teachers and parents need. I will continue to work with the board if she doesn't step down, though.”
“Director Chris Wright and I were on the board with the prior president, who ran things differently,” Harold said. “It's just getting used to the new way of leadership because it's a different leadership style than we had in the past.”
Wright first asked for Harold’s resignation at the April meeting, and Wright and Irons submitted a letter to Harold and the board to outline changes to board policies they deemed necessary.
“Anybody who has a reasonable mind who looks at the 11 points we've outlined will see that we aren't trying to get power,” Wright said. “We're trying to get the board to run correctly.”
Wright sent The New Falcon Herald the summary of changes: (the following is verbatim)
In response, Marie LaVere-Wright, board treasurer, said, “I think if you do a close examination of those 11 points, you'd see the vast majority of them have happened at our board meetings. If we're ever going to have those conversations at the board meetings, you have to attend to have those conversations. Director Wright, for a variety of reasons, hasn't been present so he has been left out.”
- All meetings will be published with a minimum of 72 hours public notification.
- No more than one special meeting per month
- Two board members must attend all agenda-setting meetings.
- Monthly board meetings and work sessions will have designated times (one in the evening and one during the morning).
- The Board will hold public open sessions on a quarterly basis.
- Hiring committees for Board of Education direct reports will be subject to Board approval.
- The Board president may be removed by a majority vote of no confidence from the Board.
- The Board president may not characterize the Board of Education's united perspective on issues prior to an open public discussion by the entire Board, and ensure that no personal comments are perceived as Board policy.
- Board leadership and/or members may not use position or status to unduly influence administration, employees or community members from presenting proposals to the entire Board of Education for discussion.
- The Board must define its role as a policy-driven entity.
- New Board leadership should be put into place.
The dissent took place on the heels of the resignation of Joan Johnson, board vice president, in April. The board attempted to officially declare a vacancy multiple times within the 60-day grace period mandated by state statutes, LaVere-Wright said. “It (the vacancy) was on the agenda for the April 25 meeting, which was moved to April 30 because Director Wright and Secretary Irons couldn't make it,” she said. “Then it was set for May 2, May 10 and June 14.”
The April 30 meeting ended early when Wright and Irons walked out; the May 2 meeting was canceled; the May 10 meeting didn't have a quorum because Wright and Irons were absent with prior notice; and the June 14 meeting was canceled.
The Colorado Association of School Boards became involved after receiving numerous calls from the community concerned about the board vacancy.
Kathleen Sullivan, director of legal programs and associate executive director for the CASB, wrote in an e-mail to the NFH, “Since April, several of us at CASB received calls from the board, school district employees and community members with questions about how the Falcon board could move forward following the resignation of one of its members.”
The CASB interceded and told Harold that the position had to be filled immediately.
On June 20, Harold appointed Henry Allen Jr. to the vacant seat on the board. “Legally, we followed the statute and that statute has actually been seconded by CASB, who actually demanded that I take action,” Harold said. “CASB spoke with us, first saying this (the appointment) needed to be done and we needed to act. I went with the guidance of our district counsel to make sure we were following every legal possibility that we could.”
LaVere-Wright said Harold had asked her and other BOE members to independently vote for their top three candidates from the May interviews. “That was going to be the starting point for the board to discuss, but neither director Irons nor director Wright provided feedback.”
LaVere-Wright said she fully supports Harold’s decision to appoint Allen.
Wright doesn’t agree that Harold had the authority to appoint Allen.
“I do think that Allen's appointment procedurally was not done correctly,” Wright said. “I think that legally you can interpret that it was OK, but I think that the board should've made that choice. It really could've been a rallying item to bring the board together.”
But both Wright and Irons agreed that Allen is a positive addition to the board.
“I think Allen is a very positive addition to the board,” Irons said. “I think we need to move forward. I'm not looking back; there's lots to do.”
The Innovation Initiative is a big reason the board needs to act cohesively, Irons said. There is much more to be done.
“What we've done in the last nine months with the beginning of Innovation was small steps,” Irons said. “It's time to take giant strides; we have a long way to go to implement Innovation the way I see it.”
Chuck Irons outlined six areas the Innovation Initiative needs to focus on in the future:
- Teacher's pay – look at performance compensation and reward excellent teachers
- Finance – look at additional enhancements to pass so funding goes directly to individual schools
- Curriculum – look at the vocational curriculum and develop further; look at the early literacy curriculum in kindergarten through fourth grade; enhance the innovation of virtual or online classes into the traditional environment
- Parental involvement – the key to innovation is involvement of the parents at the school level
- Operational support – improve the efficiencies in the business models in the operational support side of the district to support the educational side
- Special education – 10 percent of the student population is involved in the special education arena in one way or another. Irons said, “We need to figure out how to use technology to enhance our productivity there.”