By BROOKE STEVENSON
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — Residents have found yet another reason to voice their disapproval with the Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education.
During their March 17 meeting, members argued over the way to handle administrator contract extensions. Supt. Patricia Cole’s contract extension was not on the agenda because board President Robert Kirby said he “wanted to prove a point.”
In addition, the motion to extend the contract of Jane Allman, the district’s personnel and policy director, was skipped over by Treasurer Dana Browning because some board members wanted to explore cutting the position without discussing it first.
The board’s opposing factions — Kirby, Browning, Vice President Kevin Van Boxell and Trustee Jerry Kupser (who was excused from the meeting), who typically have tended to vote against Secretary Michael Peters, Trustees Kathy Bedikian and Michael Swiecki — were in evidence once again. Cole did not get a contract extension, and Allman received hers after Bedikian brought the motion back on the table (see related story).
Parents in the audience took exception to the way the board argued over the way to handle the district’s administration.
“I was quite disgusted by some of the topics discussed,” said resident Amy Farkas. “I find it utterly ridiculous that high-level administrators like (Allman and Cole) should be asked to wait to find out about a contract extension when it is brought up in a public forum at a school board meeting.
“Is it traditional to blindside administrators like this?” Farkas said even the thought of cutting the position of personnel and policy director was “ridiculous,” and that no one else in the district could do Allman’s job.
Resident Chris Calvin also took issue with the way the board was arguing over administrators.
“I believe the amount of hours we have in a classroom are 1,039,” he said. “That is a lot of time working with our students.
“It takes a whole team of people together — administrators, teachers, custodians, bus drivers — everybody has an impact on this school district.”
He told the board to start listening to Cole and her recommendations, because she is the one who regularly is in contact with administrators.
“I think I have a pretty good understanding of the role this board is supposed to fulfill, and I’ve read the bylaws many times,” resident Jim Zang said. “Yet I still see board members disregarding the rules in the bylaws.
“They seem just hellbent on trying to run roughshod over the proper procedure of doing the district’s business and second-guessing already-made decisions without obvious valid cause and trying to pick and choose what resources (Cole) has to work with.”
He added that if the board continues to “micromanage,” it ultimately will suffer — or even fail.
“As a board, you will have become the acid that is dissolving the very process you were elected to protect, preserve … and then what?” he said. “Will that failure be blamed on (Cole) and how she utilized her resources?
“Or will the blame be placed on the hands of a few? Those who utilized the power of their elected position in a political fashion to undermine a viable process that once flourished?”
He then asked the board to support Cole and her decisions on administrators throughout the district.
Instead of demanding change from the board, some parents appealed to residents to make a change during the upcoming election in May.
Resident Bob Schweyen said it was imperative for residents to come out and vote.
“We can’t have elections where 150 people decide what happens (at the board table),” he said. “Nobody expects complete agreement. That’s impossible, you’re never going to have it.
“But there has to be some kind of ground met here. We go back and forth and back and forth.”
He added that residents watching at home should “pay close attention to how all the board members behave.”
“My call is to get the citizens of Wyandotte involved and recognize this is a crucial situation,” Schweyen said.
Resident Christine Elmore said she has been speaking out about the school board for about two years, and that people call her part of the “silent minority.”
“I think that if other Wyandotte citizens get up enough courage or interest to come and join me at this podium, you will find that I’m more of a member of the majority,” she said.
Vernon Elmore said the bickering between board members “needs to stop.”
“The people of this city are going to vote in about a month on what they want this board to look like — and what they don’t want it to look like,” he said.
Vernon Elmore said he has heard some board members say they will resign if certain candidates are elected.
“If you’re going to resign, do it today so we can fill the job,” he said. “Do it now and get it over with.
“Give President Kirby your resignation and be done with it. We need to start focusing on these kids.”
In the past there has been talk among parents of a recall for certain board members. While it’s never come to fruition, Vernon Elmore warned it is still a possibility.
“It’s not too late to start a recall for the remaining board members that are not up for re-election,” he said.
Terms expiring this year include those of Bedikian, Swiecki and Van Boxell. Peters will not seek re-election.