The Fredonia Moccasin Unified School District Board meeting last week had to be moved from its regular meeting room to the gym to accommodate the scores of community members in attendance. 

The meeting began with a brief budget hearing.  Business manager Dorene Mudrow explained there have been several changes in the State allowing a budget increase of $21,573.  The State did not cut quite as much as originally anticipated in capital outlay, but increased the soft capital cut.  These changes resulted in the increase.  

Mudrow then reviewed various programs that require the school to match funding.

After the hearing, the regular meeting began. 

The district is looking to incorporate AP (Advance Placement) classes which would allow students enrolled in the classes to earn college credits if achieve high enough AP test scores at the end of the year.  They are also working on other dual enrollment and other programs that will better prepare students to enter into secondary education.

Public comment began with a reminder from board president Lamar Heaton that each comment is limited to three minutes.  He also warned those in attendance against slander.

Fredonia Elementary Administrative Assistant Teressia Johnson addressed the board.  “I just wanted to publicly thank all of you for putting up with me all these years.  I have enjoyed my years with the school district.” 

Johnson expressed her concern about the public outcry against one person in the district. She stated she felt that the decline in the school is not necessarily the teachers or one person, but the lack of support at home.  Parents need to take a greater part in their child’s education. “We need to work for the survival of our students, it doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of someone we don’t like… we need to work together.”

Guy Finicum expressed his concern about the reduction in students and staff.  He had distributed a statement to the community and asked anyone in attendance who agreed with it to stand as he read it.  As he began to read, the majority of attendees stood in support.

“We could discuss a multitude of concerns from increasing tax burdens on our residents and unsatisfactory ratings from the Department of Education, to ever decreasing student resources and diminishing opportunities.  But, all these concerns and more tie back to, or pale in comparison with, one overriding serious problem: the radical and continuing decline in the high school student population.”

Prior to Finicum finishing the reading, his three-minute time limit was reached. 

Another community member used their time to complete the reading of the statement, which ultimately requested “the board release Mr. Bartlet from his obligations to the Fredonia Moccasin School District.”

Linda Guymon stood to represent a group of concerned teachers.  She also asked those in attendance to stand in support, many did. The concern raised was regarding the plan to combine the seventh and eighth grade classes with the high school.  She informed the board that multiple parents had expressed they would not be sending their children to the school if the transition occurs.

District Office Administrative Assistance Mary Smith spoke, “I love the school and I love the students.  There are great things happening at the school and I see them all the time.  I see teachers who mentor and help.  I see a principal who sits and listens to students…I see great things happening at the school.” She continued, ”It seems like there is a cloud of darkness over the school…I don’t think it is one person’s fault.”  She encouraged everyone to take responsibility and each take steps to improve the situation at the school.

Prior to jumping to conclusions, she encouraged everyone to ask themselves, “Do I have all the facts? Are the facts correct?  Am I listening to gossip?  Should I turn that around and should I come up with a solution?”

Teacher and athletic director Monte Hawkins also stood.  He explained he strongly disagrees with Guy Finicum’s statement.  “I don’t think we can blame one person.” He asked, “Is there concrete evidence that Mr. Bartlett is responsible for a 40% decline in students?  I just thing it is ridiculous to blame one person.  We need to work together for a solution.”

Several other community members as well as district staff presented their feelings about Finicum’s suggestion. Some in support of and some against, some encouraging to see the good and move forward, and some focusing on blame. 

The meeting moved into the regular agenda items. The board accepted the retirements of Janice Hirschi and Teressia Johnson and the resignation of Jessamyn Watt-Lair. 

Board member Ron Johnson expressed his gratitude to Teressia Johnson for her many years of service. “Mrs. Johnson has been here since before I could see over her desk,” he fondly reminisced, “thank you for the good job she has done for our students. He also thanked Mrs. Lair and Mrs. Hirschi for their dedication to the students as well. 

The crowd gave Mrs. Johnson a well-deserved standing ovation.  She is a school icon and will be greatly missed.

The board left the gym to convene in executive session.  Upon their return, they released six staff members, due to budget cuts, as discussed previously: Duane Baird, Leslie Jacobs, Kevin Johnson, Tamara Johnson, Lindsey Jones and Annette Smith. The seventh proposed staff member, Carl Cluff, was discussed in open session. The hour and a half debate over the fate of the counselor resulted in the decision being tabled until next meeting. Vote after vote, the tally was two to two each time, as president Heaton had to abstain due to family ties. 

It was a very late night for the board, administration and community members who stayed to observe.  The discussion will be continued on May 22.