Dolores accepts Cooper’s resignation, moves forward with health clinic

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 8:43 PM
Many teachers attended the Dolores School Board Meeting on Thursday evening wearing red shirts that read, “Respect.” They later gave the board a joint statement requesting Roberts Rules of Order be followed.
Dolores teacher Melody McNeill delivers a joint statement from teachers, who stand in solidarity behind her. The letter given to the board and signed by staff was titled, “Employees for meeting norms.”
Superintendent Scott Cooper addresses the crowd at Thursday evening’s school board meeting and thanked the school board.
Dolores Middle School’s Destination Imagination Team presents its project to the school board and gathered attendees. The team will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, on May 23 to compete in a global competition of Destination Imagination teams.
The crowd at Thursday evening’s Dolores school board meeting cheers for the middle school’s Destination Imagination team, which has qualified for global competition.
Dolores Elementary School fifth-graders present their year-end project, a newspaper designed and written by the students.

The Dolores School District Re-4A on May 10 met in executive session with Superintendent Scott Cooper, Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin and District Attorney Will Furse about the sheriff’s investigation into funding for the school-based health clinic.

Before entering executive session, Nowlin reported that the investigation had found no evidence of criminal activity.

After about 20 minutes, the board returned from executive session with no comment and moved onto action items on the agenda.

The board voted near the end of the meeting to approve Weeminuche Construction authority to construct the clinic. The motion passed 3-1, with board Treasurer Casey McClellan voting no.

About 100 teachers, parents and community members gathered for the monthly meeting in the Dolores High School gym. The first three rows of chairs were labeled with “reserved” signs for teachers. Many in attendance ignored the signs. Many teachers attended wearing red T-shirts that read “Respect.”

Before board President Dee Prock opened the meeting to public comment, she stated that she would be holding citizens to the three-minute time constraint. She brought an oversize mallet to the meeting to jokingly show that she would keep the meeting under control. The large mallet was met with laughter from the crowd.

The teachers prepared a statement, read during public comment by elementary teacher Melody McNeill, who implored the board and community to follow board procedures.

“It is our opinion that recent school board meetings of late have not only deviated from set agendas but have also devolved into shouting matches, which have even at times involved pointed derision toward certain individuals,” McNeill read. “We feel this is creating an atmosphere of blame and distrust that is harmful to our school and to our community.”

The letter concluded with a request for respect, responsibility and relationships. Many teachers stood in solidarity with McNeill as she spoke.

“These are the three parts of character that we as teachers have tried to foster in the Dolores school district for many years now,” McNeill read.

Most citizens who addressed the board voiced concern about the school-based health clinic. Deanna Sullivan told the board why she had transfered her son to Cortez schools, Jennifer Adams encouraged the board and Dolores residents to find common ground, Meg Neeley thanked Cooper for seven years of service, and Brenda Hindmarsh read a letter from her son Dalton Hindmarsh about his disapproval of his agriculture achievements being mentioned at April’s board meeting. According to Hindmarsh, he graduated from Dolores High School in 2007 and credits much of his success to FFA.

Board Secretary Deanna Truelsen spoke during public comment about “rumors and facts.” She addressed a few rumors about the board and school and about an alleged secret board meeting.

“This was a public and posted meeting, and the minutes are posted online,” Truelsen said. “We had a meeting and went into executive session to discuss evaluations of Dr. Cooper. A motion to renew his contract was made. There was no wage increase.”

The meeting agenda and minutes are posted on the district’s website.

Board member Vangi McCoy was absent from the meeting to attend her son’s EMT graduation. Secondary Principal Jen Hufman was absent to attend a Dolores track meet.

The board delayed action on approving four Boettcher teacher residents with pay and benefits.

Other board businessStudents from the Destination Imagination Team and fifth-grade students presented projects. The DI team presented its project, which it is taking to the Global Destination Imagination competition on May 23. The fifth-graders presented a newspaper they designed and created.Sheri Maxwell gave a presentation to the board and audience members about the Boettcher Teacher Residency program.Sheriff’s Deputy Kaylee Green gave the Student Resource Officer’s report, noting that there had been an increase in student behavior problems, but that it was normal for the end of the school year. She reported five Safe-to-Tell reports, confiscating a smokeless tobacco product from students, a decrease in traffic stops in the school zone and a broken window of a student’s car.During board discussion, the board discussed the search for a new superintendent. Prock was in favor of hiring an interim superintendent to give the board more time to find a permanent replacement. Other board members had some community members in mind for the job, but did not identify them publicly.Superintendent Scott Cooper, who recently announced his resignation, thanked the board for his seven years in the district at the meeting. “It has been a very challenging, very fun and very rewarding experience,” he said.The board unanimously approved its consent agenda, which included Cooper’s resignation.Other action items in the consent agenda included approval of bills and financial statements and approval of minutes for the April 4 special board meeting, approval of the purchase of transportation building kit and approval of recommendations for expulsions.Other action items in the consent agenda included personnel approval of fourth-grade teacher Renee Nall, fifth-grade teacher Lucas Werner, high school ESS teacher Nyibol Bior, second-grade teacher Danene Yokeum and substitute teacher Richard “Jim” Siscoe.Other action items in the consent agenda included the resignation of industrial arts teacher Clint Schurr, middle and high school physical education teacher Forrest Grosh, fourth-grade teacher Kathy Carpenter, elementary social worker Catherine Anliker and Cooper.