Longtime East Valley school board member Mitch Jensen will step down from his seat effective Oct. 14.
“I am not giving in, I am not giving up, I have simply had enough,” Jensen said in his letter of resignation. “I am a proud parent of a Knight and will turn my energies to being involved solely as a parent.”
Jensen joined the board in 2007 after running unopposed. In 2011, he was chairman of the board when it made the decision to reconfigure the district’s way of teaching students to a K-8 model.
The 2013-14 school year started its first full year of implementation of K-8. Parents complained about boarded up facilities and a lack of lockers for older students. By November, voters elected three new members to the school board. The board held public meetings to discuss whether to keep K-8 or move forward with a middle school.
In February, the board and Superintendent John Glenewinkel agreed to part ways. Jensen’s was the sole vote against accepting the severance agreement.
By March, the board voted to dismantle the K-8 model, reverting to K-6 elementary schools and a middle school. Again, Jensen voted against this plan.
“Within eight weeks, 56 days, of being sworn into office, not only had the new board shut out the superintendent, they made the ill-thought-out decision to reverse the K-8 by the start of the upcoming school year, a mere six months away,” he said in his letter. “There was no study, no research, no work sessions and certainly no due diligence.”
Jensen’s letter accused the current board of violating the Open Public Meetings Act.
“Decisions are made before board meetings, evidenced by text messages I have from January 2014 in which the board chair refers to the previous superintendent as a ‘lame duck superintendent’ – two weeks before any mention was made about a separation between the superintendent and the district,” he said in his letter.
Board Chairman Mike Novakovich denies this. He said he met with Glenewinkel on several occasions before a decision was made. He liked Glenewinkel and thought he was a good superintendent.
“I can guarantee you nothing illegal has been done,” Novakovich said, saying he conferred with the board’s attorney every step of the way.
Novakovich said he can understand Jensen’s frustration with the current board and had a suspicion this was coming. During the last meeting Jensen attended, Aug. 26, Jensen questioned why some teachers were leaving the district, leading to an argument with board member Justin Voelker.
“I’ve always said I’d love to have opposing opinions,” Novakovich said. “There’s a proper way to do it.”
Interim Superintendent Tom Gresch said the district will have some big shoes to fill with Jensen’s departure.
“I have great appreciation for Mitch and what he has done for our school district in the past,” Gresch said. The board will need to vote during its next meeting to officially accept his resignation and begin a plan to select a replacement to finish Jensen’s term which expires in November 2015.
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