Tensions between the two newly appointed School Board trustees, Krista Barringer and Damion Ferraro, and Superintendent Seth Turner and the remainder of the sitting board members were apparent during the July 8 meetings.
There were two meetings held back to back: an organizational meeting, the primary purpose of which was to designate staffing and service appointments for the upcoming school year, and a regular meeting, during which the board would hear and discuss regular business.
During the organizational meeting, Barringer stopped the proceedings a number of times. Ordinarily, the board votes on staff appointments in blocks, approving a number of staff members or service contracts all at once. Barringer asked to pull several of the appointments, including those of school physician, district fiscal advisor and school attorneys, out of the block to be voted on separately. She argued that they shouldn’t be approved until after their contracts, which were to be voted on in the regular meeting immediately following, were approved.
When it became apparent that the other members of the board were becoming frustrated, Trustee Ferraro asked for leeway, saying that he and Barringer were not intending to cause problems but were trying to learn the process.
Board President George Heidcamp said that the two had recently attended a six-hour orientation with him, board Vice President Tom Ham, and Superintendent Seth Turner. Heidcamp said he asked the two to get in touch with him if they were unclear about anything but that he had received no calls from them.
Barringer’s questions continued throughout the organizational meeting, including the specifics of how often the parent members of the Committee on Special Education were called on last year. Turner said he would have to hire additional administrative staff at the cost of $300,000 in order to answer Barringer’s “litany of questions.”
After the organizational meeting had concluded, Turner said it was unlike any other organizational meeting he had seen in 14 years. During the subsequent regular meeting, he said drama on the School Board causes negative feelings toward the district. If there are negative feelings for the district, he continued, it is more likely that budgets will be voted down, which means cutting programs and hurting kids.
Heidcamp echoed Turner’s remarks, saying that there is no room on the board for grandstanding and that politics and attitudes should stop at the door. He said he hoped in the future they would be able to put this behind them.
Barringer’s questions continued, however, during the remainder of the regular meeting. She asked to be provided with more information about the qualifications and plans of those staff members who were appointed as extra-curricular advisors. She asked, too, to postpone the approval of the district website coordinator’s appointment until she got more information about what the position entails.
In the end, all of the appointments were approved, though Barringer and Ferraro abstained from numerous votes.