Change is coming to the school board
October 26, 2023
In recent years, our national political culture has moved into a state of mistrust. And over the past months, it has become clear that even in our small school district, board meetings reflect mistrust. At the last meeting of the Naselle Grays River Valley School District on October 17, during public comment, it was again time to complain, insult, and berate the Board and the Superintendent.
Adam Rose: “There is a lack of transparency, a dictatorship. During covid students were told not to protest. Coercion. Then redacted documents. Only time will tell. I’m not a crooked politician. Three questions. One, why all the sudden changes in policies? Two, why are we hiding behind redacted documents? Three, are you guys running the board or is she (superintendent) running you?”
Luke Gardner: “We left the board meeting last month with a consensus to reach out to the attorney to ask that he give out the (redacted) information. Nothing has happened up to this point. Why can’t we get answers? Communication is broken. Citizens need to hold officials accountable.”
Marijane Anderson: “Why the silence? Communication is a major concern. What happened to last year’s petition? We need answers about the redacted communication. Why can’t we get answers?”
Months ago, Luke Gardner made a public records request for a copy of an email that came from the school district’s attorney to the superintendent. When it was delivered, there were sentences redacted, struck through with black ink. Since then, the redaction issue is mentioned consistently.
Many times, Gardner has insisted that Superintendent Lisa Nelson reveal the redacted information, but she has consistently stated in response that there is information in the document that was determined not appropriate for the public. Choosing whether or not to reveal that information is the responsibility of the board, which has consistently supported Nelson’s decision. The issue has become one of mistrust, but it is also a legal issue. At any time, with legal counsel’s advice, the board and superintendent have the right to withhold within a public document, any information that may be deemed inappropriate for legal reasons, just as the board has the right to discuss information regarding personnel, legal documents, and any liability issues only in executive session. But for some members of the community, a redaction implies a conspiracy. But asking for redacted information over and over, with the same response, suggests that if you want it to happen, the next step would be to take the board to court and ask for it.
Each voter has the right at any election to express their wishes for change. Amy Chadwick and Tyson Vogeler have resigned from the Board. Bob Torppa is the lone candidate on the ballot for the Grays River position. Luke Gardner is running against current Board member, Aris Campbell, in the Naselle District, and both Natasha Crater and Marijane Anderson have asked to be considered for the open position vacated by Amy Chadwick for the Parpala area.
Later in the meeting, board member, Aris Campbell reported on the community survey results that gave high marks to the principal, teachers, student safety, academics, and the superintendent. Overall results showed the community’s approval of the district’s leadership and academic results. It is clear from that survey that the community supports and approves of the work of the Board and administration.
Principal Justin Laine presented his goals regarding improvements in curriculum, student activities, academic improvements and teacher training.
By the next School Board meeting on November 21, the Board will be able to fill all the seats on the Board by temporary appointment. Then in December, final decisions will be made regarding officers. The election is November 7. Please vote and show your support of your school district, be it Wahkiakum or Naselle GRV.