Oroville School Board accused of meeting illegally

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OROVILLE – Steve Colvin told the Oroville School Board that they were holding an illegal meeting, as there was not a quorum because the terms of two board members had ended the day before and a recently elected member had not been seated.

“In its present form this meeting is illegal because the board does not have a quorum. Two members are not in good standing,” said Colvin, who said he had contacted the county auditor’s office which told him the terms of Position 2 and 4 had expired as of the day before at 11:59 p.m.

Colvin went on to say that the county and state no longer recognized Verle Rowton and Jerry Nelson as legal board members as they had declined to seek reelection to new terms in the recent general election. He suggested Phil Barker, who won a seat on the board in Position 5, be sworn in as provided by state law which says that when a position is empty it should be filled by the elected candidate, rather then waiting for the first of the year. Tim Whiteaker vacated that board position after he learned he did not live in the part of the district that included Position 5. It was too late to take Whiteaker’s name off the ballot so even though he received the most votes, Barker, who does live in the right area of the district, won as one of two last minute write-in candidates. He received the next highest number of votes.

According to Colvin, Tedi Fletcher and Amy Wise were the only board members that could make decisions and vote on issues and since it takes at least three members to make a quorum any decisions made by the board at the Tuesday, Nov. 24 meeting would be illegal.

“The election was certified as of 11:52 a.m. today according to the auditor,” said Colvin. “The law says as soon as the election is certified the winning candidate should be seated at the next board meeting. That’s today.”

Superintendent Ernie Bartelson said the district’s policy is to swear in the new member at the next board meeting following written confirmation that the election has been certified.

There was no more discussion on whether the meeting was proper or not until it came time to approve a motion to pay payroll and other expenses. Board member Nelson quipped, “If it’s a question of whether we are going to be illegal or not, maybe we should just wait on getting people their checks.”

Colvin, a teacher and head of the Oroville Education Association, replied from his seat at the back of the room, “Technically that’s right.”

Verle Rowton made a motion to approve a large consent agenda, including moving the Monday, Dec. 28 board meeting to Thursday, Dec. 17 due to the upcoming winter holidays. In addition, several hires were approved. Yusuf Quidwai was hired for Traffic Safety Instruction through Dec. 16, Jordon Weddle for K-8 Math Specialist for the remainder of the school year, John Simila as a certified long term substitute, Kristin Sarmiento as head tennis coach for the upcoming season, Courtney Montowski as a kindergarten paraprofessional and Tina Koepke as a kindergarten paraprofessional.

The board also approved the resignation of Supt. Bartelson, effective June 30.

A motion for payment to the North Central Education Services District for a superintendent search was approved in an amount to not exceed $10,000.

Oroville High School Principal Steve Quick gave his principal’s report. He said there was a 92 percent attendance at the student led parent-teacher conferences.

“Students and teachers did a great job at getting parents to come in,” he said.

He also reported on the success of the recent performances by the Missoula Children’s Theatre.

“I’d like to thank the booster club for their support of the event. They continue to support our kids through sports, the Missoula Children’s Theatre, student trips and much more,” Quick said.

Austianna Quick, a senior at Oroville High School, began the meeting with a report about her student trip to Denver Colorado with other student leaders.

“It was really fun,” said Quick, who added that many of the students had never been to Colorado before.

She also thanked the Booster Club for supporting her by paying $200 toward expenses.

She said that Oroville was unique in the fact that the Eastern Washington Representative to the state board had come from the Oroville School District two years in a row.

Joe Finsen asked that he be considered for a position on the board in the position formerly held by Nelson whose term of office had ended the day before.