There was standing room only at Monday night's West Fargo School Board meeting, as teachers and administrators filled the Boardroom at the Leidal Education Center. The regular Board meeting began with enthusiastic presentations on the Jump Rope for Heart campaign recently conducted by the District's elementary schools, and an update on the positive impact the new Senior High Alternative Center (SHAC) is having on keeping potential dropouts in school and on track for graduation.
Although the remainder of the meeting was held with a professional 'business-as-usual' atmosphere, undercurrents began to emerge when Joan Baltezore, President of the West Fargo Education Association, came forward to present a list of complaints and concerns WFEA members had submitted to the District administration earlier this year. Baltezore said the WFEA was approaching the Board because they felt the Board and the public needed to be aware of what has been going on in the schools.
WFEA's main concerns stemmed from the rapid changes made throughout the District, including the implementation of block scheduling without giving teachers time to buy-in, and heavy reliance on MAP testing scores in evaluation of student performance rather than teaching methods and teachers' contributions. According to input Baltezore has received from WFEA members, teachers are not feeling valued or respected by the District, and some teachers have said they feel too intimidated by their administrators to make suggestions concerning all the changes taking place.
"Teacher morale is at an all-time low in our District," Baltezore said. "Communication is a huge problem at all levels in our schools," she added.
Baltezore went on to say that there is a lack of trust, not only between the staff and administration, but also between the administration and the School Board.
"I fear that the best, brightest and award-winning teachers will leave the District," Baltezore said. "We want the best working environment for staff, and the best learning atmosphere for students."
Two other surprises surfaced during the meeting, with a letter of resignation from District Business Manager Mark Lemer, and an announcement stating that the Board would be holding a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night to contemplate the non-renewal of the Superintendent of School's contract. No additional information was disclosed, and following the meeting, Board President Duane Hanson said he had no comments for the press.
Hanson recommended that the Board delay action concerning Lemer's resignation until the next Board meeting, when the whole Board would be present. Susan Bailey and Troy Aswege were absent last night, both having other commitments.
Speaking as a concerned citizen, Sen. Judy Lee told the group that she has been hearing comments around the whole metro area, and even across the state, about problems of communication within the West Fargo School District. "There's some rumbling and humming going on out there. I urge you to get a handle on it," Lee said.
A memo emailed from the District offices Tuesday morning officially announced a Special Meeting of the West Fargo School Board to contemplate the non-renewal of Superintendent Dr. Dana Diesel Wallace's contract to be held on Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. in the Leidal Education Center Boardroom. The meeting is open to the public.