Menomonie School Board discusses COVID-19, petitions | Wis.Community

Menomonie School Board discusses COVID-19, petitions

September 14, 2020 - 5:06pm

Menomonie School Board Meeting 9/9/2020

Primary items in this meeting:

IV. ACTION AGENDA

A. Policy 171.2, Agenda Preparation and Dissemination - 30:00 

After a half-hour of discussion and an amendment, this was passed unanimously

B. Update to the SDMA Employee Handbook - 1:01 

This was an adjustment to accrual of leave for hourly employees that, in view of the pandemic, allows them to use their leave before it is accrued. It passed unanimously

C. Update to 2020-2021 Staffing Plan - 1:04:45

This involved the hiring of an energy manager position for the district and passed unanimously.

V. DISCUSSION ITEMS/POLICY REVIEW

A. COVID-19 Report - 1:21

This was a long report which largely described how well the beginning of school has gone so far. There have been no COVID-19 cases in the school district since school started.

There will be limited attendance for the public at sports events. Previously it had been announced that there will be no public attendance at the school football games due to restrictions on the stadium at Stout, but now there will be a limited attendance of 50 people for all outdoor sports and 25 for indoor sports, in keeping with the county COVID-19 guidelines. There was also some discussion about the possibility of using the sports complex for more of the sports events in the future, particularly soccer.

B. Foust Petition For Safe Schools - 3:47

After receiving an email from Judy Foust (attached), this item was requested by Tricia Thompson to be placed on the Board meeting agenda.  The signatures and comments provided by Judy Foust are attached. The petition description posted by Judy Foust says:

"As a retired educator in the Menomonie School District, I am very concerned about the lack of meaningful safety measures being taken to protect our school district's children, teachers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.  I am creating this petition with support from community members and staff.

 Menomonie's Kids and Teachers are Not Safe

 The District Administrator and Board of Education have misled the parents and the community.

 The District Administrator said that “most classrooms” would have 6 feet of distancing. At the last Board meeting, we found out that NO classrooms in grades 7-12 will have 6 feet of distancing and the High School will be at “full capacity.”

 In addition to making false promises, there are four major problems with the district plan that threaten the safety of our schools:

 First, there is NO provision for distancing on our buses. None. It was stated that some buses will have 2-3 kids per seat. The buses are not safe. This will put many families at risk who cannot afford other options. Those students, their families, teachers, staff, and their classmates are all now at increased risk. Unacceptable.

 Second, the Board of Education voted to approve student participation in high risk contact sports IN SPITE OF BEING ADVISED NOT TO DO SO by the Dunn County Department of Health and the Mayo physicians who advise them. This irresponsible decision puts teachers, staff, students, and the community at increased risk. Unacceptable.

 Third, teachers will have no protection, no PPE, and no distancing requirements. TEACHERS ARE THE MOST AT RISK.  The District Administrator and the Board of Education have told them they are on their own. Unacceptable. 

 Fourth, the district has no plans for masking after the Governor’s mask order runs out on September 28.  After that, they are all on our own. Unacceptable.

 It is time for citizens to act when their elected officials don’t.

 By signing this petition you are sending a strong message to our elected officials that they have failed to protect our kids and community and they are obligated to hold an emergency meeting and do the job we elected them for."\

There was a long discussion on this item. It was pointed out that many of the claims in this petition were incorrect, although board member Freeman suggested that many of the items may have been correct at the time the petition was circulated. Board member Burstad brought up the fact that many of those signing the petition were outside of the district. There was also a discussion of whether the board was being respectful enough of the opinions of constituents, and if bringing things like this petition to the board was harmful to the district.

C. Summer School Report  - 2:42

D. Report and Timeline for Program Resource Reviews - 2:49

E. Process and Timeline for the 2021 Medical Insurance Renewal - 2:53

F. Paulson Petition About the Use of Legal Counsel - 2:54

After receiving an email from Dan Paulson (attached), this item was requested by Tricia Thompson to be placed on the Board meeting agenda. The signatures provided by Dan Paulson are attached. The petition description posted by Dan Paulson says:

 "We, the taxpayers of the Menomonie Area School District, demand that the School Board President reimburse the School District for incurring unauthorized legal fees in the Jim Swanson censure action.  The Board President did not have prior approval of the Board before he engaged the School District's attorney, at considerable cost to the taxpayers, to prepare a statement of censure.  Censure is not a legal action; it is covered in Roberts Rules of Order.  If the Board President felt he needed to consult the attorney, he should have sought approval from the majority of Board members to do so beforehand.  In this case, the Board President acted on his own in the name of the Board.  He should reimburse the School District and the taxpayers for his unauthorized actions.

 Please sign this petition to demand the reimbursement of taxpayer money."

 After learning of the petition, District Administrator Joe Zydowsky contacted Dan Paulson to inform him that the attorney was hired by the district administrator in accordance with . Dan Paulson responded by posting the following update to his petition:

 "It appears the the District Administrator secretly called the Board's Attorney.  School Board Policy 142 states the "School Board and the District Administrator..may employ legal counsel .."  It does not allow for the District Administrator to secretly employ legal counsel for a Board Member to secretly draft a motion."  

A very long and somewhat heated discussion followed on this item as it quickly fell back to re-visiting the censure meeting against board member Jim Swanson. Superintendent Zydowsky believed that much of the information in the petition was inaccurate and that he was simply following policy by engaging the district lawyer on this item. 

The discussion quickly moved away from the discussion about the issue of payment of the attorney and moved toward the procedure that was used in the censure meeting. This was wide-ranging and perhaps is best followed by watching the video.

 

G. Items Related to Next Meeting Dates, Board Committees, and Reports - 3:47

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