Remove Superintendent Janet Hanson
In the hallways and classrooms of St. Regis School on Friday the traditional structure and function of the establishment turned to chaos as shortly before the end of the school day two teachers were handed paperwork informing them of their non-renewal status and two others were placed on administrative leave. Classrooms were left unattended. Teachers were seen crying in the hallways. Students left the school, some in tears themselves, in confusion to inform their parents of what transpired. At the regular meeting of the St. Regis School Board of Trustees on Monday over 80 students, school staff and members of the community gathered in search of answers. The result was an hour and a half of public comment filled with tears, anger and frustration followed by the beginning of a solution. “I’ve had four kids graduate from this school, I have five that still go to school here – I have never, ever seen the school in the state that it’s in now,” Anita Lewis said. “My kids come home and they just, they are all sad. We are losing some amazing teachers - the teachers are not being supported. When did it go from what’s in the best interest of the kids to what’s the best interest of the powers that be. This is the first time I have considered taking my kids out and bringing them to Superior.” Lewis added that the “turnover rate is crazy” amongst teachers at the school and she felt the reason does not lie with the teachers not doing their jobs properly. “It’s ridiculous reasons,” Lewis said of the teacher turnover. “I don’t even know what to say. My heart is breaking over this school.” After Lewis concluded her comment Carla Jensen, a teacher at St. Regis since 1971, addressed the board and attendees regarding the situation. “In 42 years you can imagine some of the ups and downs that the school has experienced and we have gone through,” Jensen said. “But never, never, have I experienced a year like this one.” Jensen said personally “it has been a pretty great year” for her but looking at the situation her colleagues are facing has been “heartbreaking.” “I think something is wrong here and it needs to be fixed,” Jensen said. “I’m sure you don’t want to discuss it, even if you could discuss it, but it was really hard for a lot of teachers to be here today. I am sure students too. No one wanted to be here.” Concluding her comment, Jensen asked the board “how many teachers do you think will want to come here and teach” in light of the current situation and she is “ashamed of this place.” Jensen’s husband Jim then asked a question to the board about why the board “chooses” the option of pursuing legal action instead of seeking to solve issues in house. Board Chair Shelly Dunlap responded by saying the board “doesn’t really need to engage in public comment” however board member Joe Connolly chose to respond. “You know Jim, in this kind of environment right now I am just as disappointed as you are,” Connolly said. “I am just bummed these kids were so involved in it too. But there are rules and policies we have to follow. We are going to get to the bottom of what happened.” Kindergarten teacher Kim Rebich, who was one of the teachers given non-renewal paperwork on Friday, read from a prepared statement to give her perspective on what happened that day. “On Friday, that was the most chaotic, disorderly and unethical school day that I have experienced in my seven years of professional teaching,” Rebich said. “Pandemonium instead of harmony was what all the parents, students and staff experienced from about one o’clock until the end of the day and past. It was horrible. The staff was visually saddened.” Rebich continued her statement and when she began elaborating on the events of the day she was cut off by Dunlap, who said she was not allowed to speak about staff or administration performance and that she would be asked to leave if she continued to do so. In the conclusion of her statement, Rebich said that when she gave her resignation after being informed of the non-renewal she did so “under distress” and was revoking her resignation. St. Regis junior Fina Lizardi was the first student to speak at the meeting and she read from a statement prior to presenting the board with a petition signed by 54 students and members of the community asking for the removal of Superintendent Janet Hanson from her position. “This is our school,” Lizardi said speaking on behalf of the student body. “We deserve the best education, the best environment and the best example…the teachers who are leaving became our examples. We deserve to know. We deserve the same respect that you require of us.” Lizardi continued by discussing the need students at the school feel for answers to the situation, saying students deserve “more than empty rumors.” “The students must stand up for our teachers,” Lizardi said. “We are here to show how the students are being affected by these actions. We will no longer stand by and watch our school fall apart at the seams.” The petition was then read out loud and presented to the board. Lizardi’s speech prompted many of the students to also speak out. Patience Jones, a sophomore at St. Regis, was the first and her words echoed those of her classmates that followed. “I am so scared. What’s going to happen now,” Jones said. “Please hurry up and figure this out. I don’t think you guys are realizing what’s happening to us.” Students continued to speak, most with tears in their eyes. Kleenex was passed around from attendee to attendee. Tammy Demien, the St. Regis Principal who was placed on administrative leave at the beginning of the year, was seen whispering “from the mouths of babes.” Vice-Chair Charlee Thompson eventually broke the string of student and parent comments and gave her views on the matter at hand – stating her husband “doesn’t even want the kids back in school” and she is “less than pleased with the situation.” “This better be something huge,” Thompson said. “I am disgusted and saddened…I am scared for my kids.” Thompson ended her comment by making a motion for Superintendent Hanson’s resignation saying that she would resign from her position on the board and move her children to Superior otherwise. More comments were made. More tears were shed. Finally the board decided to adjourn to an executive session in order to decide the next step in dealing with the situation. After the session was concluded, the remaining members of the public filed into the music room at the school and were addressed by Dunlap. Dunlap said the board has “a set of laws” it must abide by and next Wednesday they would once again meet with any teacher or parent to personally discuss any issues in the school. A form will be available at the school for those willing to sign-up and meet with the board.