Former employees accuse Chloride school board of violating open meeting law, board policies

Several former employees of the Chloride School District have alleged that members of the district governing board violated the open meeting law and board policies.

Cal Richard said he went to work at Mt.

Tipton School as principal on March 27 and was placed on administrative leave by the board on June 21.

He said he would not return to the school.

"The board has impeded my effectiveness as an educational leader by failing to abide by its own established policies," Richard said.

"The board has been reluctant to follow my attempts to follow the open meeting law and has micromanaged my day-to-day work, which hurt staff morale.

"On May 3, I was asked to leave an executive session that centered on reassignment of my office staff," he said.

"On May 22, the school issued teaching contracts for next year without my input and in complete disregard to the teacher selection committee," Richard said.

"That same day, the board decided not to offer a contract to my highly qualified secretary, offering one instead to someone less qualified who is the daughter of a board member."

Nancy Estenson, president of the governing board, said Richard notified the board at a meeting on May 8 that he would not accept a new contract.

"We decided his input would be of little value to us since he would not be here next year," Estenson said.

The secretary for Richard whose contract was not renewed, Bethany Wilson, said from the day Richard became principal the board undermined his authority.

That affected staff morale to the point where several teachers chose not to return next year, she said.

Other faculty members who will not return next year with the reason in parenthesis according to Richard are seventh-grade teacher Valerie Hayes (resigned), kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Albin (resigned), sixth-grade and music teacher Barbara Pike (resigned), Title I instructor Michaele Jeffers (resigned), special education coordinator Marianne Huffer (retired), financial manager Debbie Clower (no contract) and safe schools officer Melissa Register (requested transfer).

"I signed a contract because I believed in Mr.

Richard and what he was doing," Hayes said.

"He's a professional educator who was trying to make some changes.

"But after I signed the contract, things began to change," she said.

"I attended two board meetings to support him and it was obvious the board would not listen to him."

"(Richard) was trying to give the board proper and legal direction on how to approach things," Hayes said.

"They ignored him and went on and did as they wished."

Estenson explained each of the staff departures as follows:

Hayes has left the school and come back in the past, so her resignation is no surprise; Albin had already planned on leaving; Huffer had talked of retiring for the past two years and did so this year to look into a special education charter; teacher Christine Curtis is going to work with Huffer; Pike resigned at the last minute; Jeffers is an aide and not entitled to a contract; Clower was business manager and responsible for getting the district into the audit situation it faces with the state - she reportedly said she didn't understand the job and the board had to replace her; Register is not a faculty member but assigned from the probation department; Wilson is a secretary and could not be retained due to budgetary considerations.

Estenson added it is up to new principal, Jim Wayland, to pick whomever he wishes to be his secretary.

Cynthia Brown said she works as a volunteer at the school two or three times per week, and that she has sons scheduled to enter the first and sixth grades in the fall.

"One problem we are having is there are no good teachers," Brown said.

"My son in the fifth grade last year went through four teachers.

"My youngest in kindergarten had a fantastic teacher who left, saying she would not put up with the bull any longer," she said.

"It's just a little political group and if you're not a member of the group, you're an outcast."