CCSD superintendent faces tough letter from employees
November 17, 2016
The Churchill County School District Board of Trustees met Tuesday and listened to the reading of a letter from the three employee associations expressing dissatisfaction with the district superintendent.
Members of the Churchill County Administrators' Association, Churchill County Educators' Association and Churchill County Classified Association reported how they took a vote of no confidence against Dr. Sandra Sheldon, and 95 percent of the associations' membership agreed to this action. (Sixty-nine percent of the qualifying staff members are part of these associations.)
The letter also states: "We understand the severity of this decision and did not arrive at it hastily."
The letter included complaints about staff curriculum input, hiring and compensation practices, grant application practices, staff and community relations and spending. It also cited concerns about trust, respect, communication and decision-making.
"I'm not going to go and try to defend every point," Sheldon told the LVN on Thursday. "The work that's being done in the district right now is a response to that letter." She also said her door is always open.
"As long as I have the support of the Board, and I believe I do, I'm going to be here to continue moving this forward," she said of the work being done. "We need some continuity in this district."
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Sheldon said she has to continue working with the trustees to form a united front and create the change that needs to happen to become a stellar school district.
"We need to keep the compass focused on student achievement," she said. "We need to improve our test scores."
She added the district is finally fiscally solvent, and it took three hard years to do that.
Sheldon recalled advice she received a while ago from an old friend that conflicts won't be solved in newspapers and emails, that one has to go ahead and do his or her job — and do what's right. She said that's what she's trying to do in moving forward.
"I hope the Board listens and reflects on what was presented to them, representing the employees from every employee association in the school district," said Keith Boone, president of the Administrators' Association.
The superintendent evaluation is occurring before the end of the year and is scheduled for the next Board meeting on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Old High School auditorium.
Sheldon updated the Board about the three community perception surveys administered to students, parents and the staff. About 1,200 students between the high school and middle school and 360 parents have taken the surveys. The district is working on ideas for gaining more parent and community feedback. Out of 408 staff members, 193 have responded, so the district is going to resend the electronic survey.
Churchill County Middle School English teacher Kristina Loesel commented that when taking the survey, the teacher's school, grade and subject is needed; some staff might be leery their identities could be determined, though the survey is intended to be anonymous.
Sheldon said later that in the past, there was a legitimate fear of retaliation and intimidation — that was the expectation under previous superintendents.
"We're trying to get past that, and it's very difficult," Sheldon said. "Trust is a very difficult thing to build when it's been broken."
Sheldon added that the more specific survey data will be very helpful for the individual school principals, and she would be glad to go over the data that comes in with anyone.
Anne Smith, who teaches physical education at the high school and coaches girls' basketball, addressed the Board with concerns about the recent hiring process for the girls' basketball junior varsity and freshman coach positions. The Board agreed to discuss this further.
Lester de Braga, the high school's head coach of the boys' varsity baseball team, and Assistant Coach Dave Munoz gained the Board's approval for the district to accept donation of a building to house batting cages and storage. Both coaches as well as volunteers have done the work themselves to bring the project to the brink of construction and are presently providing all funding.
In response to the Board, Bryan Byrd, director of Maintenance, said the cost of the building's utilities would be virtually nothing.
Phyllys Dowd, director of Business Services, reported the district passed their financial and compliance audit with "unmodified opinion," the highest level of assurance.
"This is the first time we've had really good news on our financial statements," she said. "We're setting ourselves up really well for fiscal year 2018."
She said everybody involved should applaud themselves on their diligence in trying to save costs while doing some tremendous things. She also said the district is right where a good, healthy district should be.
"This was a very neat and clean audit," said Felicia O'Carroll with the EideBailly firm, specifying that Dowd was very prepared. "It's a pleasure working with Phyllys, it's a pleasure working with your superintendent, and we really enjoy our relationship working with Churchill County School District."
Trustee Tricia Strasdin's motion passed to have an athletic exit interview for giving parents and athletes a voice. Strasdin will be working with the Board's general council, Sharla Hales, and the district's technology integration coach, Nate Waite, to develop the survey.
Board meetings in 2017 will typically be every other Wednesday at 6 p.m. The last meeting of this year, on Dec. 15, will be at 7 p.m. in the Old High School auditorium.