Moffat County’s new school board sorts old tensions, establishes protocol, goals
December 1, 2015
Craig — Four recently elected Moffat County School District Board of Education members joined three existing members Monday for a board retreat to define the new board's goals, protocols and direction.
With the new member majority bringing raw energy and perspective on issues such as balancing the budget, improving public perception of the school district and boosting student achievement, the one-day retreat promised a fresh start for the board.
The proceedings became mired at several points, however, by old tensions between board veterans Tony Peroulis, Sue Voloshin and Darrell Camilletti, now president of the board.
Peroulis called out Camilletti and Voloshin early in the retreat, proclaiming the need for stricter and more well-defined protocol for board communications as well as public relations and how to deal with the media. At the center of his complaints was an email sent to the board by Camilletti in the spring.
"Have you ever gotten an email from a board member in the prior years totally condescending and degrading and just ripping you apart and then you're going to work with those people going forward? It don't work. That's why it's all about protocol," Peroulis said.
Later in the day, the board discussed protocol for handling complaints and concerns from parents or community members, also at issue for Peroulis. They agreed that the board would follow existing policy and would refer issues to Superintendent Brent Curtice if referral to a teacher, principal or department director was not possible.
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"I think if we shut ourselves to the community, we're not doing any good either," said Board Secretary Charity Neal.
Peroulis also asserted that the board should not speak to the press outside of regularly convened meetings, including at the upcoming Coffee and a Newspaper Wednesday hosted by the Craig Daily Press. This month's event invited school board members to discuss their goals with the community for the coming year.
"When somebody on this board makes a statement to the media outside regularly convened meetings, it gives the public the perception that that's what the board feels," Peroulis said. "We function as a group. We have no right as individual board members to give comment to the media."
Camilletti, however, disagreed.
"One of the things I think is crucial is transparency," he said. "I think as long as we're doing the right thing, we don't have to worry about talking to the newspaper."
Neal and Board Vice President JoBeth Tupa also defended the need for the board to connect with the community through such events as Coffee and a Newspaper.
Tensions came to a head after lunch when Peroulis accused Voloshin of having a conflict of interest in her service to the board because of her professional relationship to Camilletti, for whom she works. The heated exchange ended in tears for some, but the board proceeded with its business following a short break.
During a brief official meeting at the start of the retreat, the board voted in favor of adopting a generic benefits policy modeled after Colorado Association of School Boards policy. The board had suspended its benefits policy at the Nov. 19 meeting because it specified the district would not pay insurance costs for dependents of employees. The district elected this year to offset the cost of family health insurance plans due to a sharp rise in insurance rates.
Over the course of the retreat, the board also discussed communication protocol between the board and superintendent, heard a budget presentation by Finance Director Tinneal Gerber and reviewed Curtice's self-evaluation. The board will publicly complete their evaluation of the superintendent at the Dec. 14 board meeting.
Neal advocated for soliciting input from district staff to inform their evaluation via a short web survey, however board members Jo Ann Baxter and Tupa didn't think two weeks was enough time to gather staff input in that manner.
Prior to Gerber's budget presentation, Camilletti clarified with her that the budget deficit for the current school year adds up to about $1,364,000, though Gerber projected that the actual deficit may only come out to about $700,000 once final expenditures and revenue is tallied at the end of the fiscal year.