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Teachers protest district's changes in administration

Sun Advocate publisher

A number of teachers at Mont Harmon Junior High will face many changes after returning to the school next fall.

A few weeks ago, Carbon School District announced major changes in the administrative duties of a number of principals in various schools.

The changes involve principals and assistant principals in four of the district's nine schools.

Changes included moving principal Todd Lauritsen to an assistant administration job at Carbon High.

Melissa Hamilton will move to become the principal of Peterson Elementary in East Carbon.

In addition Greg Maughan will move to Wellington Elementary as the principal.

Kerry Jensen, who is currently the principal at the Wellington school, will move to be the principal at Mont Harmon.

Carol Wells will move from Petersen to Mont Harmon as the assistant principal.

At the Carbon Board of Education meeting on May 10, Scott Fincher and Diana Bettino presented a letter to the board outlining the reason for some faculty members's displeasure at the changes.

"We understand that change is inevitable in our profession," noted Fincher as he read from the letter. "We understand that everyone in this district is under pressure to perform at a higher level. We also understand that enrollment issues affect some of our personnel placement. But what we do not understand is the districts view on stability, or the lack thereof, in the administration of our school."

Fincher described the situation as some of the Mont Harmon faculty see it, with the school having five principals in nine years and with Jensen moving in as the seventh in 11 years.

Fincher noted that the teachers appreciated a meeting they had with superintendent David Armstrong, assistant superintendent Patsy Bueno and secondary curriculum director Judy Mainord.

But the teachers were also concerned about some of the answers they received from officials about the changes.

"Dr. Armstrong stated that he believes, as we do, children in the age group we serve require more stability in their lives than other age groups," stated Fincher. "Yet decisions made at the district level seem to contradict that belief."

Fincher said many faculty members have come to believe that Mont Harmon is a stepping stone to other administrative positions and the teachers are "uncomfortable with" that view.

"We feel that excellence at our school requires administrative stability," commented Fincher.

The Mont Harmon representative also said that the day the administrative changes went public much of the schools recently rebuilt morale "was washed away." And trust between the teachers, the district and the board is a problem.

"Darkness begets dark ideas and there have been many that put the district and its leadership in an extremely bad light," stated the Mont Harmon representative.

Fincher said a number of his peers feared for the careers of the involved parties if the Mont Harmon representative voiced his concerns to the board.

"We chose to believe, but the concerns are still there," commented Fincher.

After Fincher's presentation, board member Debbie Blackburn addressed the situation concerning the teachers coming forward.

"We want to hear your concerns about issues in the district," she told the gathered group. "I am truly concerned by the fact that people think there might be retribution for your voicing your concerns."

The issue was on the discussion agenda of the board, so any action by the board was not required although the members listened to the presentation intently.

More discussion about the issue is considered likely in the future, according to the officials.

When the decision to implement the changes was made, Armstrong said most districts have some type of program that moves administrators and, for that matter, some teachers around every year.

He pointed out at the time that many school districts do something similar to train administrators at various levels within the organizations.

In a separate piece of business the board heard from Carbon High principal Robert Cox concerning what progress has been made relating to the forensics program at the school.

At the March meeting it was brought out that the program might be discontinued, primarily because the present debate coach had decided not to continue his part in the program after this year. In addition, over the past few years it has been harder and harder to attract coaches to the school.

"We formed a committee of some current forensics students and some community members who are interested in keeping the program going," said Cox. "We have come up with a plan to keep the program running. First of all, Gayle Scoville has agreed to act as coach for next year. But we also need help for her and so we are asking the board to find some funds to pay a paraprofessional to help aide her in the program."

Scoville is a teacher at the school.

Cox pointed out that Renae Banasky, one of the committee members and a supporter of the program, has agreed to put together a clinic this summer for students. She plans to bring in guest speakers with forensics backgrounds to work with those that attend.

There is also a foundation being set up by Joni Pappas White to help with scholarships for students in forensics.

Many community members have said they would do what they can to not only support, but expand the program.

"We are not sure how we can fund this paraprofessional position," pointed out board member Grady McEvoy. "We will look for the funds to do it, though."

McEvoy's comments came after the board voted unanimously to support the plan.

School district business manager Bill Jewkes told the board that the kind of position proposed would be fairly easy to fund because it required much less money than trying to set up a full time, benefited job.

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