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El Paso County Colorado District 49

School Board – meetings galore

Between May 20 and May 30, the School District 49 Board of Education held five special board meetings in addition to the regular monthly meetings in May and June. The NFH was present at three of the special meetings.May 20 special meetingBoard President Dave Martin first apologized to a packed crowd about scheduling a meeting at board member Dave Stark’s home. The meeting had been canceled and rescheduled at the administration building. Martin insisted that he was doing nothing illegal, just trying to save the district utility and custodial costs associated with keeping the building open in the evenings.D 49 Superintendent Dr. Steven Hull addressed the board regarding an article in the Gazette that reported on the D 49 principals giving Hull a no-confidence vote. He said the first time he heard about the vote was when a Gazette reporter called him for comments. Hull expressed disappointment that an unsigned letter allegedly from 13 principals was given to Martin and then discussed in a closed-door meeting with the other board members and principals without his knowledge. Hull said the letter was a complete shock, and not one school principal had expressed dissatisfaction directly to him.Hull acknowledged that the district is facing many challenges, adding that most in the district have more work than they can complete in a timely fashion. “The working conditions have been pretty tough for these folks,” Hull said.He also discussed the changes in the district as the contributors to some of the problems. The current construction projects are three times the size of anything the district has done before, he said. Within seven to eight years, Hull said D 49 will be the largest district in the region. He added that efforts made to reach out to parents and patrons of the district to get them involved have had a positive impact.During the open forum, a few people expressed their distaste with the D 49 board. Previous board member, Judy Holman, chided the board for going backwards and creating strife among the administration, board and community. Rocky Lanotte, a former superintendent and board secretary, told the board that Martin should not have acted as an intermediary between the principals and Hull. “It’s unprofessional and wrong and will have a trickle down effect,” warned Lanotte. She added that she holds the board responsible for the problems in the district. Karen Hobsen, a parent and district employee, told the board they are creating mistrust because of a lack of communication and meetings scheduled with little notice. Several other community members, teachers and one student also spoke, and most expressed disappointment in how the board handled the anonymous “no-confidence” letter and the lack of communication and micromanaging of the district. Ellen Duckers, patron of the district, told the board she didn’t trust them to give Hull a fair evaluation. “Save your reputations and resign,” she said.May 23 special meetingThis meeting was held to discuss the $5 million over budget cost of the new Falcon High School. The school board called the meeting to allow for public input on possible cutbacks that include paved parking lots, landscaping, football stadiums and excluding an auditorium in the new school.Construction representatives from Nunn Construction, JE Dunn, and GE Johnson were in attendance to answer questions on the cost overruns. Representatives said the rising costs of building materials and labor are responsible for the overruns. For example, the copper used in wiring and plumbing has increased $360,000 in the last two months alone and will continue to rise, they said.Regardless, many residents expressed anger that the school they were promised related to the mill levy override was now in jeopardy of not being delivered. Most said they had voted for the new school buildings on the west side of the district knowing that the kids in the east would eventually get their new buildings as well. Overwhelmingly, they said any substandard building was unacceptable. The new high school should be built as presented prior to the November vote. If necessary, they suggested delaying the new high school No. 3 on the west side.Board President Dave Martin said, according to legalities, the other high school also must be built. Every project listed on the mill levy is binding, he said, but he promised that the board would consider all comments.May 25 special meetingThe school district announced that the board voted unanimously to continue the construction on the new Falcon High School as planned. However, because of the phased design timelines, final features, such as the soccer field, tennis courts and football stadium won’t be addressed by the board until September. Meanwhile, the board is reviewing other ways to generate revenue for the project.June regular board meetingThe regular monthly board of education meeting was held June 8, with board members Dave Martin, Anna Bartha, Amy McClelland, and Dave Stark in attendance. Laine Gibson was absent with notice.D 49’s executive director of human resources, Doug Peden, recognized employee Shannon Hathaway, who is in charge of workman compensation claims. Hathaway saved the district more than $25,000 in premiums from 2003 to 2005, and the district received a refund from the insurance company.Sandy Collins, director of growth planning and school support, had resigned her position last month, but was asked to stay and rescinded her resignation. Dr. Lynne Lane, executive director of curriculum and instruction, retired last month and was asked to reconsider as well. Lane told Hull and the board it meant a lot to her to be asked to stay, but she will not accept the offer.The open forum began with Pete Thomas, who asked about the board process to fill exiting board member Laine Gibson’s position. Martin said the board will collect resumes for 30 days and then will choose a new member.Shyrl Springer, former D 49 board president, recommended the board read the book, “The American School Superintendent.” Springer said the board should be “seeking the common good,” and that’s not happening. Springer also told the board that their inexperience is sabotaging Hull’s vision and suggested the board hire a consultant from the Colorado Association of School Boards to stop the downward spiral.Several parents spoke in support of the jump roping team. Coach Lori Deon told the board that once again she is struggling to find a regular place for her team to practice. She said neither the facilities coordinator nor the school principal is addressing her problem.Resident Mark Shook said the board must come to a “meeting of the minds” with Hull. “The superintendent may work for you, but you work for us,” Shook said.Rocky Lanotte asked why the Gazette knew about the vote of no-confidence in Hull by the principals without Hull’s knowledge. She also asked the board to address why they secretly met with the principals, citing their arrogance.Three board members, Bartha, McClelland and Stark were questioned about their attendance at the D 11 board meeting where Superintendent Sharon Thomas was fired. Bartha said she was only interested in their discussion on site management. McClelland said she attended because Bartha requested her presence, and Stark said he went to learn about what other school boards were doing.Hull again addressed the board and community members in attendance. “I love working in this district and want to do some honest problem solving,” Hull said. “This is unusual but these are unusual circumstances.” He then questioned the school board’s behavior after recent meetings regarding his performance and said he felt “a bit betrayed” when he learned that certain board members were contacting his “closest professional friends” behind his back and attempting to turn them against him. Hull did not give more details, but said, “I feel my job is on the line, and I feel it’s unfairly on the line.” He asked the board to consider holding a meeting with community members, principals and Hull to work to resolve the issues.Martin said many issues cannot be disclosed because of privacy laws, and executive sessions have been held to gather information for Hull’s performance evaluation, which was due May 1.The June meeting concluded with an announcement that the next board of education meeting is scheduled July 19.

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