Board Members Hear Pleas to Lead, Remove Lawyers from Process
Park County school board members heard a theme throughout a night of passionate public comments at last night’s school board meeting: collaborate with the South Park Education Association (SPEA) or step aside to let others lead. Even Board President Kim Bundgaard’s announcement to resign effective Nov. 21 – Park County’s next school board meeting – did little to temper an anxious crowd of more than 100 people who want leadership from the District to resolve an educator strike now in its fifth day.
“We all want to go back to school on Monday, we want this strike resolved,” said Kirsten Kraus, a teacher and single parent of three children, to the Board. She expressed her disappointment that bargaining won’t start until 3:00 p.m. today while the District awaits legal representation to arrive. “If that’s the case, if you can’t speak without your lawyer present, it seems the best step would be to resign now, not to wait until November if there’s no way of us moving forward as quickly as possible.”
“I am disappointed from the leadership I’m seeing from this school board,” echoed parent Josh Voorhis. “You need to be present and engaged to settle this issue. The school board needs to take the lead and not let the lawyers do the leading. I didn’t elect a lawyer. I elected you.”
Kraus and Voorhis were two of 20 people to speak at the meeting, none of whom had anything kind to say about the Board’s handling of the strike or the District’s desperate educator retention crisis. The community voice grave concerns that the Board has mismanaged taxpayer dollars and alienated school staff under Bundgaard’s watch, directly causing the educator strike that shut down all district schools this week and greatly disrupted the Fairplay community.
Parent Robyn Miller has six kids in daycare this week while she works when she would “much rather have them educated by their hard-working, amazing teachers.” She told the Board about a paraprofessional who is “my angel” for caring for her autistic child. “That is not something that just happens. Teaching is instilled in them from birth, they are a blessing for each one of us, and this strike needs to end. It’s madness. Think about the kids, put everything else aside,” Miller pleaded.
Lack of transparency has been a “humongous issues” for Sheila Waite, a parent who delivered a petition with more than 100 signatures to the Board from fellow residents who stand with educators and demand financial transparency from the District. “There’s been no answer from the District on what we need in our beginning fund balance, where the money comes from and where the money goes,” said Wake. “As a community member, I’m just begging for everybody to talk.”
Kylie, a fifth grade student, put the exclamation point on the night when she told the Board, “I love my teachers and I want school again.” Kylie has dyslexia and hasn’t liked school in the past, but told the Board she felt great this year with a real love for learning, until the strike. “Now there’s no school and I feel devastated. I just feel really good now because I understand school. I’m still learning and I want school again.”
See all of the speakers from last night’s school board meeting on a Facebook Live recording at this link. SPEA will start bargaining again with the District today at 3:00 p.m. to work toward ending the educator strike.