by Jaye Sudar
WALSENBURG- The meeting started off badly with confusion over the Sunshine Law and executive sessions. After roll call, the board moved into executive session. Doc Siders, who had been notified via email Tuesday morning, asked for the right to be heard in open session. At first the board refused to hear her and stated that she was not the only one involved with the executive session.
A large number of the Gardner staff and Doc Siders were present for the executive session. A few minutes after the audience was dismissed, the Gardner staff appeared in the auditorium, having been dismissed. It is presumed that they were presenting budget alternatives. Five minutes later, the rest of the audience was recalled. Doc Siders was given her open executive session.
During the session, one of Doc Sider’s complaints was lack of timely notification. Superintendent Dawn Olson stated that she had sent out the email concerning the special meeting on Friday. The newspapers and reporters received their copy of the email on Friday, April 8, but Doc Siders stated that she and the staff of John Mall did not receive the email until 9:14 am on Tuesday. Furthermore, Doc Siders was called at 2:30 pm by the superintendent and notified of the meeting and given a chance to resign at that time. According to the Sunshine Law, notification must be given with at least 24 hours notice in advance.
Superintendent Olson stated that the budget cuts required the district to cut one administrative position, and due to various factors which were not made clear during the meeting, she recommended that Doc Siders be cut. This decision contradicts a recommendation made by the CADE evaluation of the district. Siders asked the board specifically to know why she was being cut considering that her evaluation had been fine, John Mall was doing well and Becky Smith of CDE and various individuals of the Edison Learning group had lauded Doc Siders and John Mall High School. She also asked whether this was a decision made only by Superintendent Olson, only by the board or a combination of both parties. She received no answers to those questions. The board then voted unanimously to not renew Doc Siders’ contract for the 2011-2012 school year.
In other business, the board postponed the sale of the 7th Street administration building until they could contact the district attorney for advice. They approved HW Houston Construction to be the contractor for the ADA Project at John Mall High School. They approved the District Mission, Beliefs, Value Statements and Commitments which were begun over five months ago then postponed, and the discontinuation of the Opportunity and Enrichment School in its present form. There was discussion that the program would be discontinued at the Washington School building and that O & E students would be folded into the high school population.
The board discussed the BOCES services and costs as well as the updated budget. The state will cut $250,000 from the education budget, and the district is taking a hard look at what must be cut to balance the budget. So far there have been many suggestions and nothing is set in stone. Some of the cuts suggested have been stipends for coaches, bus routes, another administration position, and furlough days for the entire staff.