Albany County School Board: Transparency is Key
Albany County School Board Trustee Janice Marshall said, “This process has lacked transparency.”
The name of the game in last night’s school board meeting was transparency. The closing of Beitel is not a decision to be made now; as Trustee Nate Martin said, “Nothing is getting decided right now. It will be decided in the culmination of a budget next year.”
Also tabled was the discussion of the Reduction in Force policy, where district employees are going to be notified by January if they’ll be cut.
Though the closure is a continuing conversation, multiple teachers and parents from Beitel spoke out against the potential of its closing; “We’re a family. You don’t shut down family.” “Beitel is kind, and Beitel is strong.” “This is not in the best interests of our kids.”
But the most resonating comments concerned the lack of transparency and effective communication from the school board.
Lisa Johnson, a first-grade teacher at Beitel, said it best: “What upsets me most as a teacher: we were called into a staff meeting yesterday. After school. To say this was happening, tonight. Someone found the board docs. I don’t want to have to read board docs to find out what's happening at my school. I want the administration to come talk to us.”
The communications specialist position was cut at Central Office, and as Trustee Emily Siegel-Stanton said, that’s not the most effective cost-cutting measure as “We have holes. People are being blindsided. Any move we make to right the budget is going to hurt people. But we need to be in communication and connection about that.”
Trustee Marshall elaborated. “This process has lacked transparency. Some teachers didn’t even know about this strategic plan. At one point, I asked who was a part of the group for the strategic plan, and I was told that it was confidential information. That's not transparency to me. That’s very concerning.”
Board Chair Kim Sorenson agreed; he wants more elaboration on the “subcategories” in the strategic plan, because “that’s where the action is.”
There is a Community Open House next Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Laramie Middle School at 6:30 p.m. for the public–and ACSD1 employees–to receive further information and provide input.
Superintendent John Goldhardt reiterated, “These are recommendations, they are not a done deal. I find zero enjoyment in making such a recommendation (for school closure). In fact, it is gut-wrenching. Anything on the table needs to come forward. Any solutions.”
Vice Chairman Beth Bear shared that the superintendent is doing what the board hired him to do: find solutions. “We should not be blasting him, nor the media.”
“The district certainly has been in a state of confusion regarding the budget. We’ve had four CFO’s in as many years. We have owned that, and past mistakes, and are trying to move forward with transparency and the best information we have.”
It seems the takeaway from last night is the lack of ownership and transparency.