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Teachers, trustees, superintendent meet

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

In an effort to mend fences with the teachers, Douglas County School Board members have been holding meetings at each school over the past two months.

The final meeting will be Monday at Carson Valley Middle School.

Each meeting included district administrators, Superintendent Pendery Clark and no more than two school board members.

The Record-Courier was asked not to attend the meetings.

Teachers were not required to attend the meetings, but those who did say they appreciated the effort put forth by the school district.

n Jacks Valley Elementary School. Christine Jezek at Jacks Valley Elementary School said she didn’t ask any questions, but got a lot of answers at the Sept. 18 meeting.

“A lot of the questions brought up by other teachers were questions I had. It was really good to see the viewpoint of the district on personnel issues. Things were explained that didn’t make sense to me before that now I understand. It did help with communication,” she said.

Jezek said Clark, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel John Soderman and Coordinator of Curriculum Cris Etchegoyhen were at the meeting.

Eric Egan was at the same meeting and said he was impressed by the time and effort put in by district administrators.

“I think communication is something everybody needs to work on. I thought it was good. It seemed very open and relaxed,” Egan said.

He said there were few teachers there and the meetings should be earlier to accommodate teachers’ schedules.

Egan said there is still a feeling among some teachers that they are not free to express their concerns.

“Some people don’t feel comfortable communicating openly. In a educational institution, there should be a free flow of ideas and there shouldn’t be any concern about what you might be saying and they should respond to that in like terms,” Egan said. “When you have letters to the editor like the ones written by the school board members lately, it creates an intimidating atmosphere for somebody to step up to the podium and speak their mind. I think when we live in a state of concern regarding opinions you may have, then it inhibits the quality and quantity of educational expression that can occur.”

n Scarselli Elementary. Teacher Martha Framsted was at the meeting held at Scarselli Thursday afternoon. She said the meeting went on for almost 2-1/2 hours.

“They heard all of our concerns, but with very little solutions. We appreciated them coming, but what we really want are plans put in place about how to find solutions,” Framstead said.

She said about 20 teachers talked about low teacher morale, lack of planning time coupled with the added requirements, Clark’s contract and remediation.

“We tried to make a point it wasn’t just the association (with complaints), that all of us were feeling this way and it needed to be realized. (School board President Don Forrester said) one of the reasons they are having the meetings is to have more internal communication between teachers and administrators. I think those of us who were there feel it’s important they continue to come out. But the verdict is still out what will be done and what financially can be done.”

n Douglas High School. Adam Lazear of Douglas High School said there were probably 20 teachers at the DHS meeting Oct. 12.

“I went with a couple of questions related to the contract issues and I was very interested in the competency implementation. That’s how the discussion went – on competency problems and the district line about the competencies we’ve been getting for the past year,” Lazear said.

He said while some teachers felt the meeting was a blatant attempt to influence teachers’ opinions, he was glad the district was willing to listen to teachers.

“My impression was it was good, however, somewhat late. I think the board members and Pendery are worried what the elections will do to the programs she has been trumpeting,” he said. “We have tried to go to the board meetings and tried to get on the agenda, and they refused. It forced us into public comment, and we felt we really didn’t have a voice. There were some hard-to-ask questions that were discussed stemming from contract, salary and class issues.”

Lazear said the meeting started at 2:30 and went on almost three hours.

School board Vice President Cheri Johnson was at the DHS meeting and said there was a good exchange of ideas.

“I was pleased to see the positive solutions coming from teachers directly involved in competency implementation. The foreign language teachers have a lot of really good points,” she said. “I will definitely be one of the leaders of the charge to make sure we do these next year. They should definitely be done every six months.”

Johnson said the feeling that teachers can’t speak openly for fear of retribution comes from the teacher’s union.

“I don’t hear feelings like that from teachers on the street – I hear them from the union. Retribution is such an unprofessional word. I do talk to a lot of teachers who are excited to be a part of the student achievement and higher standards in this district,” Johnson said.

Douglas County Professional Educators Association President Marty Cronin, also a teacher at DHS, went to the meeting at his school and said teachers’ concerns centered on competency assessments and implementation.

“I think teachers want the dialog to continue, but I think after this particular meeting, there is a fair amount of concern that what is being raised will actually be resolved in a meaningful way. The association would like to see these meetings continue,” Cronin said.

School board member George Echan said all the issues will be addressed by the school board members.

“In the end when we’re done, then the intention of the board is to have a special meeting. The only subject is reporting back from board members to deal with those things. At the end of the last board meeting, we directed the superintendent to have a permanent agenda item related to reports back from the schools as they occur,” Echan said. “I think it is a great, positive effort, and I’d like to see it continue. I think it is more effective than public comment at the middle of a long board meeting. And even more effective than going into a classroom because the teacher has a class to run.”

n C.C. Meneley Elementary. Lisa Bytheway of C.C. Meneley Elementary School said there were few teachers at the Oct. 5 meeting there because of teacher conferences.

She said questions centered on college courses for salary advancement, ALT scores and tests, the teacher contract and personal education plans.

“I think the forum was definitely something that could be very valuable. I appreciated the fact they took the time to come out,” Bytheway said. “The feeling was people were trying to communicate. Some people felt their questions were not really answered or they were not given a really satisfactory answer. A lot of things were brushed aside or skipped.”

n Pinon Hills Elementary. Susan Moore of Pinon Hills Elementary School said while she couldn’t stay for the whole meeting, she felt it was a step in the right direction.

“I was happy to see the initiative, but it can’t be a one shot deal. I’d like to see them a couple of times a year,” Moore said.

The PHES meeting was held Sept. 28, and Moore said teachers there also had difficulty getting to the meeting, so they gave her a list of questions to ask. Teachers wanted to know about budgeting, the teacher raise and contract language.