Nikki McLeslie: Is this best for our kids?

To the editor:

I recently resigned from my position as athletic secretary/attendance clerk at Moffat County High School.

Since I resigned, I have received numerous phone calls or people have been asking me what happened when I am seen in public. I decided that now would be the time for me to let you, the public, know what happened.

In the fall of 2010, all of the classified staff — employees who are school secretaries or maintenance workers, including the custodians — of the school district were informed of a 6.5-percent cut in pay. The teachers and administration would take a pay freeze, which later became a 1-percent raise. I can only guess this happened because classified staff are the only employees who are not at the top of the pecking order, or not members of a teachers union.

But I, along with the other classified employees, dealt with the situation because we believed it was necessary.

This past spring, Richard Wildenhaus, who had been the athletic director for two years, requested that his job description be adjusted to athletic director/assistant principal. He was told by Thom Schnellinger that the position would never be that way.Wildenhaus explained that he had no choice but to look for another job that would afford him the ability to perform his duties effectively.

Shortly after their conversation, Richie was offered a position at Fort Morgan High School.

Just a week after Richie resigned, Schnellinger, in a meeting, explained that Richie was “moving on,” but the administration agreed to advertise his job as athletic director/assistant principal. Schnellinger was asked in this meeting why we would not offer the position to Richie and attempt to keep him because he was a valuable part of our staff.

Schnellinger said that would not be possible.

I was then informed that at the start of the 2011/12 school year, my duties would also include attendance because a full-time attendance clerk who had retired would not be replaced. I was very concerned and voiced my opinion that the athletic secretary position alone was a full-time job. I even asked finance director Mark Rydberg to look at what my duties as athletic secretary included.

He told me that he really did not care and that was just the way it was going to be.

Then, at the start of the 2011/12 school year, it was decided that all three administrators would be in the second-floor office. I, as athletic secretary/attendance clerk, would be in the first-floor office. I explained that I felt that was not right and that the athletic director, at the very least, needed to be down with me for purposes of communication as athletics and activities pose many issues that need to be discussed with the athletic director.

I was told that just would not happen at this time.

As the school year proceeded, I could not get the work done. I was struggling to complete deadlines as the athletic secretary that were in place by the Colorado High School Activities Association, the state’s governing body for high school sports.

When I voiced my concerns to Schnellinger and/or Jeff Simon, I was told that they could “take the work from me and spread it to the other two secretaries in the building,” who had already taken on extra duties and responsibilities. I finally dug in my heels and asked for at least a part-time person to come in and help with attendance. At four hours a day/four days a week, this person would not have any health insurance benefits and would be a small financial burden to the school district.

I was told that my concern was taken to the “core” team and that this would not be a possibility, so I simply needed to work more efficiently.

After much discussion with my family, we decided that it just did not make sense for me to continue to work where. It was clear I was no longer valued as an employee.

My question to Schnellinger, as well as the school district, was that it was interesting that when assistant superintendent Christine Villard resigned, Dr. Joseph Petrone knew that he could not do the work of two people and quickly hired a replacement.

I find it very troubling that the school district can take care of the people at the top, but the people that are in the trenches every day taking care of our students are treated so poorly.

Many may question why I am airing this now. I just want the public to know and to ask questions of our school board as well as our administration.

The classified employees should not be taken advantage of by this district by being assigned extra duties and asked to take pay cuts without some type of help or support.

If nothing else, I hope that my leaving will open the door for them to be treated with the respect they deserve.

How many good employees are we going to let walk out the doors of the school district?

I want to thank all of the staff members and students whose support my last few days of work was appreciated so much.

Many brought gifts and hugs to tell me how much I would be missed. Thank you all — it means more than you will ever know.

The administration’s claim that every decision is based on the best interests of students is one I question, and so should the taxpayers of Moffat County.

So, is every decision really based on what is best for students?

Nikki McLeslie

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Comments

Colette Erickson 2 years, 6 months ago

As per the usual, those in power and/or at the top get what they want, and everyone else is just supposed to "suck it up."

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Tammy Showalter 2 years, 6 months ago

I am so glad to see this in print! The part about Richard Wildenhaus I have always wondered about. I am sure he is probably much happier elsewhere, he was treated as though he didn't matter also. It is sad that you left Nikki, but you too will probably be much happier. It seems this is the pyramid in Craig though...and now they want more money...to do what with???

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onewhocares 2 years, 6 months ago

I, too am very happy to see this in print. First of all, you were always very kind to both of my kids throughout their high school years & please know I really do appreciate it!!

Secondly, my experience with Thom Schellinger goes right in line with yours.Approx. 3 yrs ago he asked me to be a teachers aide to Karen Cheney at the Alternative School. Despite the advice of my daughter I took the position. I instantly began connecting with very hardened kids most w/ a history of drug/alcohol use struggling to pass their classes (despite Thom's denial to their activities). I talked to them about life things since many didn't have active parents in their lives, played basketball and hakey sack with them on breaks and showed the few that were interested how to study & pass tests, helping them go from failing classes to A's in their topics. Almost immediately, I went up against adversity from Karen & Thom, because I feel they were threatened with my connection to the students. Then one male who had zero desire to be there with a very known & serious drug habit assaulted me right in front of the high school while I was going to parent/teacher night for my son. I had all ready confronted this student for touching me in areas totally not okay & advised Karen & Thom on this situation, only to be told it was my fault this student did this. I was told I should have ignored his advances, but because I brought it to his attention, I encouraged the behavior. Needless to say, I was sickened & shocked by their reasoning. I have always held my children accountable for their actions, not enabling them. I wanted charges pressed against him, but instead of this happening I was the one fired by Thom. The students at the Alternative school called me in tears and were furious which meant the world to me & thanked me for helping them out, but the intent of Thom (& Karen) was very clear at that point. They were more worried about power & control, than truly helping the children. (Note, not as a brag, but a point: both my kids were or currently are straight A students, never got in trouble, were active in sports & Speech & Debate & now my daughter a research scientist at CSU's vet school & my son in the honor society playing sports. I, too have a totally clean history. Ironically, Karen did not have any children of her own at the time nor ever raised kids but yet they fired me.) Talk about twisted logic. Somehow, they felt I would hurt the kids. So there you go Nikki, you & Richard are not alone dealing with a very unhealthy & limited mentality.

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native_craig_guy 2 years, 6 months ago

The teacher's union should not have gotten the teachers a 1% raise for their members. This is just another example of union greed during a recession. It is deplorable that they got raises... the only teachers in the state who got raises.... btw... Right after our teacher's union got raises for their staff they turn around and want another ballot initiative to fund the school? BS. We want to save money for schools cut athletics. They do nothing to prepare kids for the future (oh, but everyone will say how football teaches leadership and all that other junk people use to justify the continued funding of our athletic programs.) and it is not like we would be preventing them from earning a state title... We would probably win just as many games a year if we didn't have a football team. The point is that schools need to prioritize and focus on their reason for creation..... education not athletics. Cut all teams and use the money saved to lower the student to teacher ratio and improve the learning environment. Either that or make it truly self funded. Have the kids or sponsors pay all the costs associated with a football team if they want one that bad. Same goes for track, basketball, baseball, volleyball and soccer. I digress, in addition to the greedy mentality of the unions, our teachers don't have to take drug tests either. They can do drugs and teach your kids. Unions bankrupted the auto industry and are doing the same in the public sector. Unions are against the very fabric of America. They are socialism imbodied and no one seems to see it!!!! It is too bad that Nikki left the school district. Maybe we need to get all the strongly pro-union school board members off there.... get some balance instead of giving into all of the union's ridiculous demands.

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whereabouT 2 years, 5 months ago

In response to native_craig_guy you are so right about the drug testing why are only school-bus drivers drug tested. How insane. So in this day and age of chronic drug abuse bus-drivers are the only ones that are prone to drug and alcohol use? Someone needs to wake up here and smell the roses either that or take those signs down on the front doors of the schools "This is a drug-free work zone."

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