Oroville School Board offered a 'pep talk'

OROVILLE – The Oroville School Board met Monday to consider reorganizing the board and to evaluate the superintendent and got a “pep talk” asking them to focus on educating kids.

The Special Board Meeting was originally requested for the annual evaluation of the superintendent at their March 26 meeting, but by April 9 the agenda had grown to include consideration of the reorganization of the board – namely whether Chairman Phil Barker would remain in that position or someone else would assume the chairmanship.

The meeting started out with some back and forth about whether more than one item could be on the agenda for the special meeting and whether board policy allows selection of a chairperson at any time other than the first regular board meeting in December.

Citing an RCW, Barker said he wanted to take “no action” and move on to the evaluation of Supt. Steve Quick.

Board member Rocky DeVon said he had been in touch with the attorney for the state Office of Public Instruction and was advised that considering more than one agenda item was allowed.

“You’re out of order,” said Barker. “I’m going on to Item 6 and with that in mind let’s retire to executive session.”

DeVon started to reiterate what he learned from the OSPI attorney and Barker said, “You’re not recognized.”

The superintendent confirmed that there could be additional items added to the agenda and that a majority vote of the board would supersede the chairman.

“You can’t veer from a published agenda without a majority vote,” said Quick.

“I make a motion to reconsider the reorganization of the board,” said DeVon.

After another attempt to block the motion, DeVon said, “The board overrules you, this is a collective, not a dictatorship.”

Board member David Nutt said he had spoken with a representative of the Washington School Directors Association.

“I also talked to WASDA about whether it was legal and they told me if it is on the agenda it is legal to discuss. Not that I like it, I think we are legally bound to,” said Nutt.

Barker said that he had often encouraged debate amongst the board members.

“As long as it’s had a personal connection to you,” said board member Christina Rise, adding that she was tired of “you guys and your pissing matches.”

Nutt said he felt in order to choose a different chairperson the board would have to override the existing policy calling for selection in December.

DeVon again disagreed saying it was the OSPI opinion that it could be done at any time with a majority vote of the board.

Barker asked, “Is that what you want to do, nominate officers again?”

Rise made a motion to table the issue until the next meeting and there was a second to her motion by Nutt. She and Nutt voted in favor of tabling the issue and DeVon and board member Amy Wise voted against. As chairman Barker casts the deciding vote in a tie, he voted to table the issue. He then opened the meeting up to public comment.

Tedi Fletcher, a former long time board member and board chairwoman, asked Barker, “Did you not come in before Christmas and say you didn’t care about policy or law?”

Barker said he had not and recognized Howard Zosel.

“I only came because I wanted to give the board a little pep talk. You all are professionals and you all have expertise, strengths and weaknesses, as well as a passion to serve,” said Zosel.

“You all have common goals: the best education of the students, a safe environment for learning, the integrity of the staff…. The simplest thing you can do is set aside your personality differences and focus on the things you come to do here.”

Zosel related something he had once heard a banker say.

“The banker said he scrutinized the budget a lot closer when the budget showed there was a lot of dollars to be spent and not as much when the dollars where tight,” said Zosel.

“A point well taken,” Barker replied.

Ed Naillon, a teacher in the Oroville School District, said he’d like to give support to what Zosel said.

“The only way to go ahead is together… we have the minds and hearts right in this room to do that.”

The board then went into executive session to consider Quick’s annual evaluation. Board member DeVon later reported that the superintendent was given fairly high marks, with a few exceptions. He added that when the board came back into open meeting they did not approve continuation of Quick’s contract for another three years, but rather for a single year.

“Some of the board members felt they had not been on the board long enough to make that decision at this time,” said DeVon.