Actions of the school board are concerning

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Guest Opinion By Kris Mothershead
Sunday, August 29, 2021
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I attended the Special School Board meeting on August 16 and have to say I am concerned about the direction the Board is taking the School District.

When I learned that the School Board had unanimously passed the Emergency Policy 1905 in July and then at the August 10 Board meeting, one member of the Board, asked to revisit the policy (1905). I did not think this was a problem until I learned the review of the policy would happen at the Special Board meeting on August 16. Although I do not see any reason a Board member should not ask to have a policy brought before the Board for review. There are reasons not to rush it through the way the Board handled the 1905 policy.

I feel this way because:

1. Even though the Board Members are mostly new members they need to come to the meeting prepared. If they do not have the time to read through the agenda information, they should ask for things to be reviewed, like asking the administrators to summarize their Board reports. Something should not be allowed to be returned to an agenda because someone did not take the time to read and review the information in the agenda.

2. By allowing the item to be brought before the Board again, it appears like the Board is not aware of what is going on. So, is the reason it is being review again, because the Board members are easily influenced by other sources and that they will continue to change their minds on other decisions?

Is the new assumption, going forward, that all Board decisions are a temporary decision until one to three months after the vote, to make sure members of the Board are not persuaded to change their minds.

3. Our school district has a union, and it is important to involve the union in many things. Since the policy included allowing the teachers to decide to require masks, the union should have been included in the decision to remove this clause and at the very least, allowed to give input about ways to compromise.

4. And lastly, it makes the Board look like they are not really interested in what is the best for the school district. The Chair should have asked to wait until school started, to see if there were any teachers that would require masks and find out from the parents of those students how it was working for their children. If after trying to work out a compromise for a month or longer, then maybe consider adding it to an agenda to review again.

If a conversation with the teacher’s union had taken place and a conversation with the members who had not come prepared for the meetings, as well as, allowing school to start to see if there was going to be a problem, a lot of people would have not been required to take sides. People would have seen that it wasn’t a problem or if there were issues, the policy could have been rewritten with the teacher’s union and the policy committee, and then brought to the Board to review and vote at the next Board meeting.

Here are a couple other comments I have about the Special Board meeting:

The idea that Board members were saying that if a teacher does not feel safe in their classroom because the Board takes away the teacher’s right to require masks, the teacher should just quit and find another job, is one of the most offensive statements I have heard from a Board member. The Board members need to be reminded that they are the employer of the teacher. How they talk when they are having coffee with buddies does not belong at the Board meeting.

Also, there were a couple statements from Board members about not being concerned on whether the School District is following Federal and State regulations and statutes. That the School District does not need the Federal funding, so we will do what we want. Statements like that scare me because I am concerned to what level these Board members will go. (Since they used a Special Meeting to review the wording in a policy to remove the rights of an employee, five weeks after the policy was unanimously approved.)

I am really concerned for the School District because the comments from some of the Board members and the way things were handled, will continue to inflame strong feelings within our community. It is time to start working on uniting and healing our community, not continuing to create a divide.

I do understand the amount of time and energy that is needed to volunteer as a School Board member. But this is a job that is not a representation of the constituents that voted the Board member into the position. It is a job to represent the School District, which is the students and the employees (teachers, cooks, janitors, coaches, and administrators) of the district. It is important to leave your personal opinion at the door and figure out what is going to be in the best for everyone that will be spending time within the doors of each school building. That is why it is such a difficult job, sometimes you are required to make a decision that your neighbors and friends are telling you is not what is needed. However, since they likely have not researched everything that you have been informed about, they maybe do not know what really is best for the district.

Kris Mothershead is the former chairwoman of the Glendive Unified School Board. She can be reached at kristine.mothershead@wbienergy.com.

I am really concerned for the School District because the comments from some of the Board members and the way things were handled, will continue to inflame strong feelings within our community. It is time to start working on uniting and healing our community, not continuing to create a divide.

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