Tensions continue with CEL board; renovations near completion; and 4 new hires

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[August 13, 2013]  There was a special meeting of the Chester-East Lincoln school board on Aug. 8. The open session of the meeting was relatively brief, and the meeting room was crowded with guests, including members of the previous school board.

After roll call was taken, board president Jeff Brooks made a statement on the previous meeting, on July 31. Brooks was absent for that meeting, as were other board members. As a result, there was no quorum, and thus no action could be taken that night.

"I did not call that meeting," Brooks said. "I did not consult with Mrs. Hamm on that meeting. My name was put on that; that was all her doing. ... There was no need to for that special meeting at that time," he said.

Brooks also said that he would like to put a stop to rumors going around about the board and their business, and he told those who were signed up to speak to the board to stick with official school business.

"I will not tolerate attacks on any of us personally," Brooks said. "We are going to move this board forward. We are not the old board, and therefore we do not function as the old board. The voters put us on here for a reason."

Brooks also referred to the nearly completed construction on the school and the process that was endured to get it done.

"You've got to remember, you bypassed the voters, so when it comes time that the ed. fund is in trouble and transportation and all of those, who are you going to go back and ask for help re-fund those? The voters, and that's who was stepped on," said Brooks.

After Brooks' comments, the meeting opened with the recognition of the public.

Mark Shew asked if the list for guest speakers could be opened again after Brooks' comments, as there might be people in attendance who would respond. Brooks denied the request.

The first guest to speak was Craig Strampp. He repeated a question from a meeting in May, asking Brooks if he had taken classes that are recommended for new board members when they take their position. Strampp said he hopes to see the board work better together as a whole and that he thinks Brooks should take the classes in order to help make that happen.

Brooks said he had not yet taken the class, but he was still planning on it.

Former board member Leslie Starasta spoke after Strampp. Starasta gave her commendations to board members Kenny Golden, Ben Roland and Jason Toft for attending the previous board meeting.

"I commend them for their commitment to serving this district and the people who voted for them," said Starasta.

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Former board member Kenda Kitner spoke next. Kitner began by saying she was excited about the progress on the new construction. She said everything she has been able to see so far, such as the new windows and the new heating and air systems, has turned out really well.

Kitner also said she was happy to hear that the district is still "in the black" financially. She said it was "a testament to the previous board -- not myself -- the previous board members. I was just filling in for a short time."

Kitner also said that while she has not been in attendance at the last sessions, she has learned of rumors that are being spread after board meetings. She did not comment as to any specifics of the rumors, only that they should be part of an executive session.

"That's not good. Now, there are three board members who don't have kids at this school. I think if you're not going to be committed, you're not going to show up, you're not going to give it 110 percent. The voters and the community deserve somebody -- I don't want to get back on -- but there are willing parents that would," said Kitner.

Brooks interrupted Kitner, reminding her to address the board, not the parents in the room. Kitner told Brooks that the public will "get it," to which Brooks replied that Kitner was out of order.

A guest asked what Brooks meant by that. Brooks replied, "I'm the board president and she's out of order."

Another guest told Brooks that the previous board let him speak out against them without such a response.

Brooks then made a motion to enter an executive session, which the board voted to approve. After nearly an hour, the session was opened to the public again. The following votes were taken and approved:

  • The hiring of Holly Grasch as a new kindergarten teacher.

  • The hiring of Lindsay Andry as a new first-grade teacher.

  • The hiring of Jennifer Lockhart and Shelly Hackett as part-time cooks.

  • The approval of Joel Vinson as a basketball volunteer.

Board members present were Jeff Brooks, president; Lori Birnbaum, vice president; Tish Podunajec, secretary; Ben Roland; Kenny Golden; Randy Wolf; and Jason Toft. Superintendent Jennifer Hamm was also present.


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