Barker says he'll resign from school board

OROVILLE – Phil Barker said he will resign from the Oroville School Board at their next meeting, scheduled for Monday, May 29.

Barker made the statement in a letter to the editor in this week’s Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune, citing his principals and speculating that his “John Wayne style” might not be suitable for politics.

Barker and fellow board member Rocky DeVon and to a lesser extent, Amy Wise, have clashed at recent board meetings on decisions involving the extension of Superintendent Steve Quick’s contract and the rehiring of Mike Bourn as high school girls basketball coach, as well as other issues, including the use of levy funds to pay for installation of the new reader board.

With the resignation the board will be left with only four sitting members. Christina Rise, who has moved from her electoral district was prepared to resign, which is the current policy of the board. However, the board made a policy change that would not require her to resign. They had the first reading at the April 23 board meeting. The second reading and more discussion on changing the policy will occur at the May 29 meeting.

At the last board meeting, Supt. Quick announced the district had received a $355,000 energy grant to upgrade heating and cooling systems at the high school. He said the grant was similar to the one received a few years ago to upgrade the same systems at the elementary school. Those upgrades have cut the energy use there by a third.

“This is something I proposed several times, but was never pursued, so I proposed it again,” said board member Barker. “There have been several lighting proposals, but I thought this thing was better and now we have it.

“Instead of taking heat from boilers it will take heat from water wells, it could save as much as $5000 a month during the heating season,” said the Barker, who owns his own heating and air conditioning business in Oroville.

In other news, Supt. Quick said several extra-curricular activities were cancelled because the district is short a bus driver. He said the district will be taking applications in the spring.

“Several districts in the region are looking for bus drivers,” Quick said.

In the elementary principal’s report, Joan Hoehn said during the Kindergarten Roundup, 21 kids were signed up for kindergarten with an additional two were expected to have forms returned for them soon. She also said their were 13 preschoolers signed up.

Hoehn also talked about the osprey camera that is viewable at the district’s website and that the fifth graders released salmon that had been hatched and reared by the kids in the classroom.

High School Principal Kristin Sarmiento said Mr. Kindred and Mr. Thornton had gone to New York working on a journalism program through the iEarn International Partnership, the same group that helped fund student exchanges to the Dominican Republic and Turkey.

When it came time to approve policy changes that would bring the district in line with state law, Barker questioned the policy regarding electronic communication.

“I want an attorney’s opinion because of this conflict between the state and the federal laws because it has come up before,” said Barker, referring to an incident where the district had printed out an email he had sent to a coach without either party’s permission.

Barker said the federal law protected his correspondence even if it was stored on the district’s computer system. At a previous board meeting he said the email should not have been printed and given to someone who requested it under the state’s open public records act without a court order because the federal law overruled the state law.

“I think the federal law always trumps state law,” said Barker.