School district fails to make decision regarding employee layoffs
Bonner Springs-Edwardsville USD 204 Board of Education members failed to approve two terminations Monday, a week after form letters had already been sent out to two district workers notifying them their jobs had been cut.
A motion to approve the terminations of Larry Randall, custodian with Delaware Ridge Elementary, and Roger Smith, district maintenance worker, failed 3-3, with Ray Cox, David Pierce and Lewis Wood opposed. Board member Connie Hadley was absent.
Though the cuts were part of a package of layoffs approved at the May 20 board meeting, Cox said he took issue with the way Randall and Smith were informed of their terminations: by way of a form letter dated June 16, telling them June 16 would be their last day of work with the district. As part of their severance, Randall and Smith would be paid two weeks of salary.
“It’s very impersonal,” Cox said. “I just swore after the December vote (in which layoffs were approved) I was just going to re-evaluate any (future) vote (regarding terminations made by form letter).”
Cox also questioned whether the terminations were among layoffs approved in May. But Tami Koppang, the district’s business and finance director, stressed the board removed the positions from the budget in an effort to make ends meet next school year.
“It’s been a heavy heart when we’ve had to give out any of (the form letters), regardless of who it was,” she said. “The positions we’ve cut, it’s been hard on all of us.”
Prior to Monday, Pierce requested an executive session. The closed session lasted 10 minutes and a motion was made following, which resulted in a tie vote. After the vote, the board was left with the question of what to do next. Board president Gregg Gibson said he had no idea.
Koppang said after the meeting she wasn’t sure whether a vote was needed in the first place. Randall’s and Smith’s positions, Koppang pointed out, had already been cut in May.
“I’m not sure if they needed to approve these or if this really should have been presented as an item of information,” Koppang said in an e-mail Wednesday. “This will be a question I will be asking our attorney.”
Superintendent Robert Van Maren, who was absent from the meeting, said in an e-mail after the meeting other staff members to be laid off had been informed or would be informed via form letter, as this was the district’s standard practice. Among those layoffs are a high school administrator and a part-time accompanist at Clark Middle School.
Gibson said despite the immediate uncertainty after Monday’s failed motion, the district would not be re-evaluating the use of form letters to notify employees of their terminations. He echoed Koppang’s question of whether Monday night’s vote was needed.
“I do not believe it is necessary for the board to re-evaluate our process for notifications of termination,” he said after the meeting. “That policy, process and procedure is in place. We are, however, visiting with our attorney on whether it is necessary, as what occurred Monday night, to formally accept individual terminations of positions that have been eliminated from funding … Based on our budget approvals, staff acted properly and accordingly in notifying affected employees. I don’t believe it was then necessary to come back to the board.”
Koppang said the next step would probably be to schedule a special meeting of the board. As of Wednesday, no such meeting has been scheduled.
Randall, contacted by The Chieftain after the meeting, said he had no issues with being notified of being laid off via a form letter, but he was taken off guard by the news he would no longer be working in the district.
“You’re always thinking about that whenever there’s votes coming and they’re messing with funds,” he said. “But I honestly thought everything had calmed down and everything was going to go smooth.”
Though it is unlikely the outcome of all of this will bring the reinstatement of his job — he is currently looking for other work — Randall said he thought the failed motion at least showed some support for district workers.
“In all honestly, I’m glad the school board is showing some consideration about it,” he said. “It showed support for the school district that they think that there is a just need for … those jobs. It showed that the school board was giving support for people in those jobs.”
Also Monday night, the board:
• Unanimously approved adoption of the agenda.
• Unanimously approved minutes from the June 7 meeting.
• Unanimously approved the treasurer and clerk’s report.
• Unanimously approved warrants totaling $943,789.18.
• Heard a presentation from new Bonner Springs High School principal Joe Hornback, who talked about a new weight room he would like to have installed for students at the high school. Hornback had brought the matter to the board during its June 7 meeting, but the board had asked him to bring more information regarding costs.
If approved, the room would require no actual construction costs, as it will be installed in a room already built at BSHS. The price tag Hornback brought to the board was still a little more than $74,000, however, to include new mirrors, rubber flooring and used equipment, such as dumbbell racks and medicine ball sets, from Scott Fitness.
Hornback said the weight training would room be taken care of by head coaches at BSHS until an actual weight training coach might be hired at a later date when finances are better in the district. He said the room would allow athletes to train together, instead of having to train in shifts at the District P.E. Center, where there is limited equipment.
Board president Gregg Gibson said he was hesitant to spend $74,000 on such a room, saying it might send the wrong message to residents in the district in this tough financial time.
Hornback said he could “cut back” on some of the items, and return to the board with a reduced price tag.
“This is the Cadillac,” he said. “We’ll settle for a Chevy.”
The item will be on the next meeting’s agenda for possible approval.
• Heard a preliminary Adequate Yearly Progress update from Kristi Hoffine, director of secondary instruction and student support, and Leticia Porter, director of elementary instruction and student support. Hoffine said the preliminary results were that that all schools in the district had made AYP this year. Actual results won’t be released, Porter estimated, until August.