Pohl resigns from school policy committee
By Holly Neumann
A discussion of proposed policies became heated during the Feb. 15 Manawa School Board meeting.
During a special board meeting Monday, Feb. 22, Helene Pohl resigned as chair of the Policy and Personnel Committee responsible for the proposed policy changes.
“Throughout the summer a committee of three, who have been tasked to work on policies, met seven times,” Pohl said during the Feb. 15. “The committee members read and pointed out what needed work.”
Pohl said the committee revised more than 240 policies with the help of Neola, a private firm that helps school districts revise or adopt policies that comply with state and federal guidelines.
“Each time they were tweaked, it was with full consensus by the committee,” Pohl said. “Not only did the Board of Education but the community had the opportunity to look them over at the office and library. Today I am asking the board to adopt the policies to support this entire endeavor.”
Charles Hebert said other board members did not get the chance to see three drafts of the policies.
“I want to see the originals and see if I agree with them or not,” he said. “One policy states the administrator has the final say. Are we giving her keys? Another policy says that the board has final say.”
Board President Scott Rice strongly disagreed with giving authority to anyone other than the board.
“In bylaws, the board takes control,” he said. “When you make a policy it has to be ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If you look in the 100s it’s this way, then in the 200s it’s another way. We need a clear and concise directive, to give us a path forward.”
Pohl expressed her disappointment with what Rice had to say.
“You as a board member had every chance to object and you wait to do some grandstanding tonight,” she said. “I acted in good faith as the chair of my committee. Never has a chair been second guessed the way I have been second guessed tonight. I cannot help to take it very personally. I don’t understand why the committee work, now all of a sudden has come into question. We have done everything we have been asked to do.”
Rice went on to say that the full school board has the right to see everything.
“The issue at hand is that the committee does not have more power than the full board,” he said. “There is nothing that says we cannot work with this. I am just saying we have to go about it legally.”
“As a board, we delegate jobs. We delegate, so a committee can do the work for the board,” Pohl responded. “You waited a whole year for your objections. You could not have come to the board before this? It took us a whole year to get to this point. How many years is it going to take to approve policies from now on? You have ruined my credibility with not only the board, but the community.”
Pohl stated that she was going to step down from the committee.
During a special meeting of the Manawa School Board on Feb. 22, Pohl resigned from the Policy and Personnel Committee.
Pohl also criticized Rice for saying that legal counsel recommended against moving the policies forward during the Feb. 15 meeting.
Pohl said she checked with attorney Tony Renning.
“He only stated in a phone conversation with our president that a board is within its rights to approve, reject or amend any resolution,” she said. “In no way, did legal counsel caution the board about the legality of the process. President Rice asks for legal counsel but does not pass the whole story on or worse changes the story.”
Pohl noted that she understands that the board under last Monday’s circumstances would exercise caution and would withhold its vote for much-needed policies.
She reiterate to the board the extraordinary care on her part as chair and the administration’s part to make sure at each step of the way that the board was apprised of the committees progress. She said they not only followed the school board’s instructions to the letter, but allowed anyone to object to the proceedings, to ask for clarification or a slowdown in the process.
“Every meeting was scheduled with the approval of all three members, myself, Mr. Rice and Mr. Johnson,” she said. “Each meeting concluded with a motion passed to recommend a pack of policies to the Board. I will not apologize for having answered the call of our district to wade through 1,200 pages of policies to ensure the proper functioning of our district and to craft the best policies along with our administration’s advice. It was not my fault if some people could not or would not read all the documents.”
Pohl noted that the board approved spending $13,450 last year and $11,290 this year for Neola’s services in creating the proposed policies.
“Do not think for a minute that Neola is going to work pro-bono because of our meandering and capricious leadership,” Pohl said. “This is a disservice to the community and Manawa deserves better.”