Tempers flared Tuesday at the East Valley school board meeting during a discussion about teachers who resigned over the summer.
Board member Mitch Jensen asked that the resignation list be taken out of a group of items that needed approval and voted on seperately.
“We’ve got nine teachers here. They’re excellent, that left the district,” Jensen said. “We all know what rats do on a sinking ship.”
“Do not make that assumption,” Interim Superintendent Tom Gresch said.
“Are you saying we’re a sinking ship?” asked board member Justin Voelker. “If you are saying we’re a sinking ship, you should resign your office.”
Jensen said he wanted to know if that was what the teachers were thinking.
“I’ve met with everyone on that list,” Gresch said. He added that while he cannot speak on personnel matters, they all had professional reasons for leaving.
“My assumption is they did leave for professional reasons,” Jensen said.
The discussion between Voelker and Jensen escalated and Voelker ended up moving to an empty seat away from Voelker.
“This ship is sound,” Gresch told the board.
Jensen, Mike Harris and Fred Helms voted to approve the list of staff changes. Voelker abstained. Mike Novakovich was out of town on business.
Gresch expressed frustration afterward about the behavior during the meeting.
“My expectation is that all of our elected officials act with decorum and represent our district well,” Gresch said Thursday. “That’s not appropriate. It takes away from what we’re focusing on.”
He added that it is the board’s responsibility to police themselves and “decorum less than what the public expects detracts from our goals.
“It saddened me,” Gresch said.
Other topics discussed by the board Tuesday:
• Renovations at the former Walker Center cost about $288,000, including about $105,000 for the fire suppression system, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Brian Aiken told the board.
“The facility does look wonderful,” Aiken said.
• Before the argument, Jensen questioned spending more than $34,000 on paint at the middle school, wondering if fixing the roof wouldn’t have been a better option.
Voelker disagreed, saying he felt the new paint created a connection with the community and helps them see the positive changes in the school.
Gresch said the paint had been flaking off the building, so it was a necessity.
• Fifty-four students have registered to take classes at InTec, the district’s new project-based program, which is part of the high school. The program has 2.8 full-time equivalent teachers – two full time and two part time.
Helms asked if the 54 were enough to keep the program – he thought the district needed at least 100 students for InTec to start.
Gresch told him that is not the case.
“We’ve made promises to these 54,” Gresch said.