I-S community seeks answers
Wolberg, Huettner named to school board
By Jane Myhra
Residents filled the elementary multi-purpose room when the Iola-Scandinavia School Board met Monday, Feb. 13.
They wanted answers.
Many of their questions could not legally be answered.
“We are not intentionally keeping anything from you,” Board President Kristen Hoyord said at the beginning of the meeting. “We are protecting the district.”
“There is a lot of friction in the community,” Hoyord said. “We need to come together and we need to heal this community.”
The meeting began at 6 p.m. with board members taking turns reading through 23 pages of the board’s corrections to recent public statements and their responses to frequently asked questions.
Concerning a recent opinion piece, the board stated: “Unfortunately, (Joe) Opperman, (Mary) Timdal and (Mary) Olson have attempted to make a legal argument while lacking an understanding of the law.”
To most of the frequently asked questions, the board responded that they legally could not give complete answers. They reiterated that District Administrator David Dyb “has been granted a sabbatical leave (through March 2017) from his position … for the purpose of exploration and educational opportunities.”
All of the 23 pages, including the board’s corrections to postings on a new website, are posted on the district’s website.
The meeting then included two closed sessions prior to allowing for public comments.
The first closed session was for the board to discuss three candidates for the two vacant board positions.
The board chose Adam Wolberg to represent the towns of Iola and New Hope, and Paul Huettner over Aimee Bestul to represent the towns of St. Lawrence and southern Helvetia. Wolberg replaces Bruce Beyersdorf and Huettner replaces Jeff Oppor.
Wolberg and Huettner will serve until the April spring election. Both are officially on the ballot.
After administering the oaths of office, the board went back into closed session to update the new board members on pending professional and support staff personnel matters and to meet with the two track coach candidates.
At about 10:15 p.m. the board returned to open session and proceeded with the meeting.
Diana Jones, who created the “I-S Community Seeks Answers” website, was the first to make a public comment.
“I started this website as a means to disseminate information that I received,” she said. “There are too many things happening that we don’t understand and there is no documentation or paper trail to show that things are being handled according to proper procedures.”
Jones suggested that the board improve their written minutes and encouraged the board to let her know if anything is inaccurate on her website.
“I will not just post anything, but if there is documentation to back up what is being said, then I will post it,” Jones said. “I am not on the side of the board or the side of the opposition. I am on the side of truth.”
“Dr. Dyb’s leaving doesn’t make sense,” Chad Bestul said. “As a community, we deserve answers.”
Bestul gave the board a list of questions to answer concerning Dyb, including when the district administrator’s contract expires. Business Manager Sarah Thiel replied that Dyb is under contract through June 2017.
Keith Williams spoke as the unofficial co-chair of the Iola Tennis Group, which he described as an ad-hoc group.
“I am looking forward to working with the board and clarifying some misinformation,” he said. “We hope the board will continue to support the (tennis court) project.”
Jay Hoyord thanked the board and administration “for serving the best interest of our students.”
“We need to stop the rumors and work together,” he said. “(The) Facebook and website (postings) are not transparent and accountable, yet they ask the (school) board to be transparent and accountable.”
Mary Olson spoke in favor of Dyb, noting that he was a real asset to the community.
“He seemed to get the impossible tasks done,” she said. “He was a strong supporter of the community, so we supported him on the referendum. Little did he know he would not be at the helm to see it to fruition. I feel the rug got pulled out from under us.”
Mary Timdal accused the board of violating open meeting laws by recently holding a vote in closed session.
Board vice president Mike Koles said the vote in question was in open session.
“The problem we have here is we have people trying to be attorneys when we have an attorney right next to me,” he said. “This is costing the district thousands.”
Jana Tappa said everyone should serve on a public board at least once in their life. She noted that most of the board members ran unopposed in every election and thanked them for their service.
“The public is seeking answers right now, but sometimes questions can’t be answered,” she said. “We have a lot to lose in this community and it’s much bigger than tennis courts and a missing district administrator.”
Tappa urged the board and the public to focus on the goal of providing the best education for the community’s youth.
“We need to work as a team and move forward,” said Mark Sether, who serves as a community member on the school’s Finance Committee. “Now is the time to heal. Let’s get this fixed before it wrecks our school. We need support, not negativity.”
In other business, the board appointed Bruce Beyersdorf as head track coach over Asherrie Opporman, the other candidate for the position.
Koles said the board expected to be ridiculed no matter who was chosen as the track coach.
“Ultimately, it came down to experience,” he said.
Board President Kristen Hoyord noted that she had recused herself from the entire coach selection process because Beyersdorf is her father.
The board approved four part-time temporary positions to monitor the doors at each of the school buildings.
Thiel announced that the Krause Foundation is interested in helping the district upgrade its security system.
Koles asked that he be allowed to discuss the tennis court project at an upcoming meeting of the Building and Grounds Committee. “I have ideas where to place the tennis courts,” he said.
The board approved the 2017-18 school calendar pending results of an application of a waiver to the Sept. 1 start date from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.