Two Williston Public School District No. 8 board members are being recalled as documents were received by the district Thursday to re-elect board members Monica Chamley and Katie Peterson.
As complaints and investigations piled on the district from parents, frustrations soared causing some parents to believe that their voices are still not being heard.
Terrie Nehring, a mother whose daughter attends Round Prairie school said that she is unhappy with the way Fran Swensgard, Superintendent of District No. 8 treats teachers and parents, and faults the school board for not correcting issues in the district.
“[The school board] wouldn’t work with us – they didn’t ever take our complaints seriously and they’re backing [Swensgard] a hundred percent. There’s no one for [the school board] to answer to and there’s no rules or regulations for [Swensgard] so she picks and chooses how to treat teachers and parents,” Nehring said.
On Oct. 10, Nehring made a complaint about Swensgard to Debbie Brown, school board president who conducted an investigation to produce a report that was completed Dec. 7 and kept on file. In the report, Brown interviewed teachers, principal Steve Guglich and Swensgard. Based on Brown’s findings, she said the results of the information provided during each interview showed that the main problem in the district was miscommunication.
Nehring said the investigation resulted in a legitimate report, but felt as though her words and complaints were “watered down” and making it appear as though complaints and issues throughout the district were “just a bunch of parents and teachers whining,” which further confirmed Nehring’s choice to gather signatures for the recalling of school board officials.
“The board is not set up to help, it’s set up to be ignorant – especially when [parents or teachers] can’t be on meeting agendas and the board says ‘it’s not public meetings, but meetings held in public.’ It’s not conducive to a functioning school when teachers have no one to turn to with their complaints and problems.”
After making her own report in regards to the investigation on Swensgard and receiving the documents on the recall of Chamley and Peterson, Brown said it seems as though all of the information and complaints on Swensgard on the report were “just dittoed as the same complaints on these two board members.”
“Something has to stop. There are so many wonderful things going on in our district and then this comes up,” Brown said. “My main question is if the superintendent is doing all of this (which I didn’t find that about Fran) is the board really guilty of this also? Why are these two board members guilty of this?”
Brown as well as board member David Rockstad cannot be recalled since they are due for reelection in June. Brown said she will not be running for another school board position.
“I decided a long time ago that I needed to cut back – I’m retired now and I want to spend my time with family,” Brown said. “But I’m also not running because no matter all the good you do, someone ties you up – I did everything I could and they just tie you up – I’ve been tied up again and again by this.”
Brown said she believes Nehring has interest in running as a school board official as a result of the recall, however Nehring said she does not have any plans to run but feels as though change needs to come from the district somewhere, starting with the board.
“There were none of these issues last year and the old administration was willing to work with you – kids weren’t getting pink slips left and right, and there was better communication throughout the district. What is what’s happening at our school starts happening at all three schools?” Nehring said. “If (voters) are happy, vote that they’re happy, if not, vote that they’re not. I just want to see people get up and show something – everyone says its this huge split with Round Prairie and it’s not, and I think voting numbers will show that.”
Brown said it is a loss and a very sad day in District No. 8 to have two wonderful people on the school board be recalled like this.
“Whoever is going to be on the school board absolutely has to be interested in the best things for the district – You can’t run on an agenda, you have to remember when you’re on a board, you’re one vote,” Brown said. “I don’t want to ben raking the district through the coals all the time and we need our patrons to know that this is wrong.”