Despite not having a quorum for its June 16 meeting, three Manawa School Board members allowed the public to speak about their concerns for the district’s past and future.
The resignation of three board members has left the board depleted. A fourth member, Paul Sturm, was out of town and not able to attend the meeting.
The only board members in attendance were David Strebe, Rick Lowney and Helene Pohl.
Strebe presided over the meeting, which he said was for informational purposes only. He noted that no motions could be made and no action would be taken.
“I know there has been a lot of turmoil,” Strebe said. “This has been a trying time for everybody.”
Lowney explained that at least half of the seven board members would need to be present for a quorum.
“We were expecting four people to be here tonight,” he said.
Board members resigning were Stephanie Flynn, Carl Artz and Board President Kurt Kreklow.
Kreklow resigned on Monday morning, which left the board without a quorum that evening.
“It is with much consideration and sadness that I resign my position as board of education president with the school district of Manawa,” Kreklow said in his resignation letter.
“As a board member, I need to protect the best interests of the children in our district,” he said. “Unfortunately, the current community atmosphere has dictated that it is no longer about the children. These issues have served as a distraction and the children are no longer at the forefront of our decision making. With this being said, I can no longer fulfill my duties and obligations as a board member.”
Artz refused to comment on why he resigned.
Flynn did not respond to the Waupaca County Post’s efforts to contact her prior to deadline.
Without a quorum, the board could take no action on the resignations of the three board members, District Administrator Ed Dombrowski, and teachers Cindy Jaeckle, Lona Sexton, Kevin Keller and Jeni Mursau,
Second-grade teacher Roseanne Sanderfoot presented her resignation Monday after more than 35 years of teaching.
“The payout is just not there for the workload expected. I leave with a sense of anger and discouragement for what has happened to the school district of Manawa,” she read in a statement to the board.
“With the changes made in the last week, I believe there is some hope,” she added.
The crowd gathered in the board room asked when decisions would be made on some of the important issues facing the school district.
Strebe noted that Sturm, as acting board president, would need to set the next meeting date. He assured the crowd that this meeting should occur within a week.
The issue of an illegal closed meeting was discussed.
“That has been something that came up a month ago,” Strebe said. “I think this board has done an excellent job of staying out of those situations. In my opinion, it is not an issue, but it happened that night.”
Manawa Mayor John Smith said that the penalty for holding an illegal meeting is to pay a $154 fine or attend a two-hour training session.
“I don’t think it was intended to happen, but it did happen. And it happened at a bad time,” Smith said. “Mistakes happen.”
He suggested that school board members join other elected officials in attending a training session “to begin the healing in our community.”
Pohl expressed regret over all of the resignations and thanked everyone for their service.
“We have lost a lot,” Lowney said. “Everybody who has been around a good school knows good schools are run by veteran teachers. Veteran teachers do more than just teach. When you lose a veteran teacher, you lose a lot.”
“The fact that you three are here shows your commitment to change things,” Smith said to the board members at the meeting. “The teachers who have stuck through this and stayed on staff, and the new staff, I applaud you. It hasn’t been easy,” he said.
“Usually sports is my No. 1 priority, but right now we need to get every aspect of this school district back again,” said Mary Griffin. “It seems all we do is defend our school. Everybody is so down right now that they can’t even support good things anymore. We need to start over.”
There were several comments from the crowd asking for the board to appoint an interim district administrator to allow more time to find the right person.
“When you interview for a long-term district administrator, don’t overlook Jim Quinn,” Pete Griffin said. “He knows the students and he knows the community. And there’s one really good thing about Quinn – he lives here.”
Business Manager Dan Storch noted that Dombrowski is still the district administrator, but he is using up his vacation time.
“All decisions are being done in consultation with all of us,” Pohl said.
She encouraged people to apply for positions on the school board and to get involved with the school’s long range planning process “to start the rebuilding of our district.”
The next long-range planning meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 23.
“These last few months have been interesting,” Strebe said. I continually come back to we need your help, and I mean that.”
He asked that the public be careful about what they post on Facebook. He noted that negative comments cause feelings of ill will.
“From now on I am looking forward,” Strebe said. “I don’t want to look back.”