Disfunction, dissent continues on Laurel School Board

State Champ soccer team honored; 2020-21 Option A District Calendar approved
By 
Chris Mcconnell
Thursday, January 16, 2020

The 2019 State Champion Loco Girl’s Soccer team was recognized at the trustee meeting. Head Coach Aloma Jess, who was Montana Coaches Association Coach of the Year as well as Coach of the Year for all small schools in the Northwest Region, introduced the team. She thanked Laurel School District administrators, staff, parents and community members for their support over the season. “It was amazing how many showed up for Championship game,” she said.

Then the board voted to approve the lone applicant, Rene Roth, for the vacant trustee position. Trustee Mike Creeden asked if Roth was related to Board Chair Karen Teeters, to which she replied, “Yes, she’s my daughter.” Then Creeden started to ask about nepotism and Teeters said it was irrelevant in this case. Roth was approved as a new trustee by a vote of 3–1, with Creeden voting against and Teeters abstaining.

Then the board turned to the first action item which was to approve the Laurel VFW request to present the American flag at three LHS basketball games. They also asked in a letter if they were allowed to carry their rifles, which were modified to shoot blanks and would be unloaded. Creeden made a motion to table the action item and received no second.

A discussion followed where Creeden said they told him they would agree to not carry the weapons. Activities Director Roger Heimbigner had been working with the VFW and said he hadn’t heard that from them. Eventually an amendment to the motion that they would be allowed to present the colors without the rifles carried, and the motion passed.

A Memorandum of Agreement with RiverStone Health to provide INDEPTH (Intervention for Nicotine Dependence: Education, Prevention, Tobacco and Health program) education to students about the dangers of alternative nicotine delivery, vapor and e–cigarettes with students receiving credit for one day of in or out of school suspension passed.

RiverStone Health is working with all schools in Yellowstone County in response to the increased use of vaping among our youth. Superintendent Linda Filpula and High School Assistant Principal Bryan Kott attended a meeting in Billings to help design a MOA for all school in the county. LHS students in violation of the tobacco policy will have the opportunity to attend the INDEPTH workshop in place of one day of in or out of school suspension.

The Option A District Calendar for the 2020–21 school year was approved after further protest from Creeden who questioned its process and legality. Board members agreed to evaluate and adjust the process at a later date, if necessary, and passed the motion. The Calendar Committee met in December to develop three calendar options and a survey was sent out to staff and the public. A total of 695 votes were cast with 388 choosing Option A.

Then the informational items portion of the meeting began with the board chair addressing ongoing disfunction on the board and revisiting the ongoing theme at meetings in recent months about the expectation of trustees.

Karen Teeters addressed ongoing actions by Creeden, who has filed numerous complaints against school administrators and has been demanding on district employee time and resources.

Teeters first addressed Creeden’s latest complaint against the District Business Manager and Superintendent about the legality of the process by which the essential safety and security project to upgrade and add security features moved forward. At a meeting in late 2019 administrators and trustees had discussed the issue with the consensus to correct any mistakes made and move forward in good faith. District teachers, administrators and staff had spoken at the meeting about the importance of securing the entryways to the schools and the urgency to move forward with the project.

In February of 2019 the Montana Schools Group Insurance Authority gave a presentation at a trustee meeting and stressed that Laurel Schools was not up to the standards of other school districts in the state. Harry Cheff said, “The facilities have challenges. Push button intercom and camera systems are pretty standard throughout the state and we didn’t see that consistently in the Laurel School District.”

Teeters said, “I reviewed the complaint and found the project had been discussed 15 or 16 times. I have completed my investigation and there is no further discussion.”

She addressed other objections Creeden has had over E-rate invoices and compensation for the cheer squad coaches before addressing the issue of Creeden acting on behalf of the school board and advocating to other school board members through multiple emails.

“I checked with legal and it is unacceptable to be sending emails to the full board asking them to advocate to the board chair on certain items. Mr. Creeden is trying to conduct school board meetings via email,” she said.

Teeters said he had asked other board members to “please make a motion” on on action items.

“I would like the school board to work as a team,” she said, but was finding it difficult due to the “constant emails and phone calls bordering on harassment,” adding, “it also happened to the previous board chairs [since Creeden was elected in May 2019].”

She thanked the rest of the school board for not responding to Creeden’s emails and said any requests must be sent to the board chair and then decisions can be made as a board.

“No one board member has the right to request information on his or her own. They can do that as a citizen but not as a board member,” she said.

She also added that any cost associated with requests “will be prepaid at the set district rates,” referring to a request for information on inter-district emails Creeden had requested which was printed using district money and resources, but never paid for or picked up by Creeden.

She finished by reiterating, “One board member has no authority. No one board member has the right to request information independently.”

After Teeters finished speaking, Creeden rolled his eyes and said, “Where Democracy comes to die.”

Trustee Dale Ahrens immediately demanded an apology from Creeden, who declined and requested a break.

In other business:

• Doug Anderson was hired as LHS Play Director for Spring 2020. Heimbigner said Andersen has been involved in the LHS Speech and Drama program for more than seven years and has experience directing plays. “Doug is very qualified and will do a great job. I am excited that he is willing to take this on.”

• Superintendent Filpula announced that as of Dec. 9, 2019, she replaced Lori Hodges as the district representative on the Laurel Chamber of Commerce Board for a three–year term.

• The Superintendent also announced Graff School was the first school to utilize the new control access cards as part of the district safety and security project. Filpula said they hope to have all buildings on board by Jan. 20.

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Upcoming Events

Monday, March 2, 2020
Mondays, 1:30 p.m., 201 1/2 E Main St.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
1st and 3rd Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Council Chambers
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Wednesdays, 7 p.m., 201 1/2 E. Main St., Laurel
Thursday, March 5, 2020
First Thursday, 5 p.m., City of Laurel Council Chamber
Monday, March 9, 2020
2nd Mondays, 6:30 p.m., at Wood's Powr-Grip, 908 West Main St., use the west entrance, open to the public. 
Monday, March 9, 2020
2nd Tuesday, 6 p.m., Laurel Public Library

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