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Crowd demands school action on discipline


Jesse Utz, vice president of the Public Service Employees union, addresses the school board during a tense time when about 40 union members showed up to express their dissatisfaction with the way the school administration has responded to serious discipline problems. The board meeting lasted until nearly midnight. Some 60 people showed up for the meeting Monday night. - Roger Lucas photo

The school board Monday night appeared surprised that many of the school staff and the general public see discipline, or the lack of it, as the number-one issue in the district.

The near six-hour meeting, which ended just short of midnight, had barely begun when Chair Joette Barry opened it up for the traditional time when individuals can address the board.

And did they ever.

For the next two hours, members of the Grand Coulee Dam School District staff and general public told story after story of the sad state of discipline in the district. Tales of bullying, assault of teachers by students, disruptions in the classrooms, in the halls and, in one case, a concern expressed by a parent regarding an alleged sex offender riding one of the buses.

Some commenters hinted of intimidation and retaliation by the district when teachers and staff members complain about the support they get from the administration in discipline matters.

School board member Ken Stanger tried to explain that the district feels boxed in on discipline because of state regulations. But it was a hard sell, and those attending were not buying in to the suggestion.

Chairman Barry stated that people needed to come to the school board meetings and let the board know what is going on and what their concerns were.

But the gathering wasn't buying into any idea that the board didn't know of the discipline problems within the district. One person commented that the district is known for not following through on discipline matters, and that that was why so many parents had taken their children out of the district and enrolled them in Wilbur and ACH (Almira-Coulee City-Hartline) schools.

Superintendent Turner said Tuesday that about a dozen students from this district have transferred to Wilbur.

In regard to the Monday night meeting, Turner stated, "We are going to educate all of our students, and continue to work with our staff and parents to improve discipline."

Turner said he planned to meet with administrators later Tuesday who felt beat up from the night before.

Monday night's meeting attracted about 60 people, including about 40 from the Public Service Employees union who were poised to share their concerns during an agenda time of their own. (See separate story on the PSE presentation to the board.)

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