Board won't reconsider

Motion to rescind consolidation doesn't make agenda

Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The school board will not reconsider its decision to approve the consolidation of Sears and Mountain View elementary schools in Kenai.

School board member Debbie Brown of Kasilof, opened Monday's meeting with a motion to add to the agenda an action item for the board to rescind it's decision to consolidate the two schools. Bill Hatch, of Kenai, seconded the motion, and Brown said her intent was to debate the measure at Monday's meeting, and to postpone action on the item until the board's Aug. 6 meeting to give time for more public testimony on the topic.

Brown said she brought forward the motion because of the public scrutiny since the decision to consolidate the schools was made during a board meeting on Feb. 19. The board has heard a great deal of public testimony on the topic since then, particularly from people disappointed in the administration's decision to make former Sears principal John Cook the administrator of the consolidated Mountain View Elementary, instead of former Mountain View principal Jim Dawson.

"I believe it should be put on the agenda because of the great public interest in many things that have transpired since (the Feb. 19 decision)," Brown said.

Following Brown's motion, the board was able to ask questions of Colette Thompson, the borough attorney, regarding legal ramifications if the motion were to pass. Thompson told the board that if actions had been taken as a result of the board's earlier decision that could not be undone — for example, if contracts had been signed of money paid — then the board could not rescind it's decision. Thompson said two items presented by Superintendent Donna Peterson gave her "pause": Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science, a district charter school, exited a lease agreement at the Willow Street mall to move into Sears; and the district has compensated Sears and Mountain View staff for two days of work related to the move.

Brown said because of public questioning of the process, the item should at least be put on the agenda for debate. She said any items moved could be moved back.

"Just as we entered into this direction, we could enter out of it," Brown said.

Brown's motion failed on a 7-1 vote. Board member Marty Anderson, of Sterling, said it would have been irresponsible to take an action that would have opened the district up to legal action. Hatch, who said he had seconded the motion with the intent to support it, said he voted "no" because with teachers reporting for work on Aug. 15 and students starting Aug. 22, putting off a decision until Aug. 6 was untenable.

"Regardless of whether or not there are legal ramifications, if we delay for another meeting, that's the start of school. We need to vote on this tonight, or else there will be a lot of other things that can't be undone," said board member Nels Anderson, of Soldotna.

Brown was the only board member to vote for the motion; board president Debra Mullins, from Nikiski, was absent from the meeting.

At the conclusion of the meeting, after hearing from members of the public disappointed the board did not revisit the consolidation decision and the administration's choice of principals, motioned for a legal analysis of the scope of the school board's authority. At past meetings, members of the public have suggested the board has the authority to overrule the administration on placement of school administrators. The board has declined to take up the issue at past meetings, and Brown's motion failed on a 7-1 vote.

Brown also asked for an executive session. The motion failed.

While several members of the public expressed disappointment in the board for not revisiting its consolidation decision, Donna Anderson testified that she is looking forward to teaching at Mountain View this year. She said she disagreed with the opinions expressed by the Concerned Citizens Coalition, and that many people understood the process being question by the group. Because the group was formed after the administration's decision to place Cook, and not Dawson, at the consolidated school, she questioned the coalition's motives.

"The Concerned Citizens Coalition is only concerned about one citizen," she said.

The board also heard testimony from Patty Rich, the rights chair for the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, the union which represents district support staff. She said she wished to bring to the board's attention the plight of several longtime employees who felt they had been treated unfairly. Rich said that several employees had their hours cut and because of those cuts, were no longer eligible for benefits. Others had their positions cut altogether and had been "released" by the district, just a few years away from their retirements.

In other business the board:

* Approved policy revisions regarding organizations supporting student activities. The revisions are intended to address fundraising concerns and an effort to develop a "super booster" club to be used by all schools in the district.

* Amended and approved a revision to the Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association handbook to increase suggested admission fees for extracurricular activities. Language regarding student activity passes was deleted.

* Postponed action on adoption of board goals for the 2007-08 school year until the next board meeting, on Aug. 6 at the borough building in Soldotna.

Will Morrow can be reached at

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