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Blind petition asks La Veta school board to separate positions of superintendent, principal, and coach

LA VETA — La Veta resident Jeremy Coe addressed the La Veta School Board at its February 8 meeting, presenting a petition entitled “Restore Accountability and End the Conflict of Interest within the La Veta School Administration.” The petition, which Coe stressed was authored by him alone, makes three main points: the school should separate the positions of superintendent and principal; the superintendent and/or principal should not be able to coach a sport; and a committee of at least three people should be set up for all hiring. “It’s not a petition to bash Bree [Lessar] as the school principal,” said Coe, adding the petition was not meant as a barb towards Lester Berry, the current athletic director at the school. The bottom line, according to Coe, is that anyone with a concern deserves to have a voice and a place to safely express themselves. The petition asks the question, “Who do the teachers, staff, students and parents go to if an issue arises with the superintendent/principal?” Accountability, balance of power, and removal of conflicts of interest “will create a safe place to express concerns,” Coe said. He explained the petition came to be a blind petition “because people were scared.” According to Coe, those who signed are just trying to create a safe atmosphere to voice opinions and concerns, and until the other 60 people can feel completely safe, the names will not be divulged. The petition states, “there is a known discipline problem within the junior high that teachers, parents and kids are all talking about.” It also says, “the extra time required to be both a

superintendent and a principal make it impossible to also put in the 20+hrs/week as a coach, and be able to do any of these jobs well.” The petition refers to restoring a “balance of power.” Board president Donovan told Coe, “We’ve heard you.” The board plans to discuss the points covered by the petition and to look into what they can improve. “I would like [everyone’s] concerns shared,” said Coe. “If people do have issues, they need to bring them to me.” Donovan reported on the school’s proposed grading dashboard, which shows the evolution of students’ grades from the beginning of the year to the middle and then to the end. “It’s a way to get a snapshot,” Donovan said. “There’s almost always room for improvement.” He said special attention should “definitely” be given to certain subjects, but the students are performing well. Several parent safety training meetings, called “Safety Open Houses,” have been planned in February and March. The goal of these meetings is to practice school lock-downs and talk with parents about emergency preparedness plans and expectations for safety responses in the La Veta schools. The board approved elementary school volunteers Virginia Carlson, Peggy Littlefield, Pamela MacDonald, and Elizabeth McLean, pending background checks. It also approved Adam Ortivez as a volunteer for the athletic program. The board then approved of in-state, overnight travel for the fourth grade class field trip to Mesa Verde National Park from April 21 to 23. Donovan reported that Jim VanLue, who had previously requested usage of La Veta school property to host a music festival, has withdrawn his request. In his letter, VanLue cited concerns about alcohol on school property and nearby homeowners and said “it will be easier and more beneficial to use an alternate property.”