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Silver State Charter school’s board divided

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com

The divide in Silver State Charter School’s governing board has become so wide business has all but come to a standstill.

“It’s pretty easy to feel the dissension in the room,” said board member Maureen Stair. “A lot of things have been neglected by the board for a few years now. I think, frankly, there have been some personal agendas on the board.”

Tuesday’s board meeting, which lasted more than three hours and often erupted into shouting matches where the security guard had to step in, started off with dueling agendas. President Edie Grub presented one agenda — with the main item to appoint a new member to the board, which is short two trustees — and board member Dan Leck brought his own. After about a half hour of arguing back and forth, each side accusing the other of having an alternate agenda and failing to follow the board’s bylaws, the two sides compromised to combine the agendas.

But that’s where the compromise ended.

One of the first items on the agenda was to reconfirm Jeff Blanck as the board’s legal counsel, after the school’s founder and director Steve Knight, with Grub’s support, tried to fire him.

Blanck countered school administrators could not terminate his contract, rather it would have to be a majority vote by the board.

Leck said it was a move counter to the school’s bylaws.

“I’m just disgusted in you Edie,” Leck said. “You’ve gone out and made decisions that have been voted on by the board to circumvent the board.”

In every vote, Leck was joined by Sue Cocking and Johanna Davis. Voting opposite on every issue was Grub and Stair.

The board voted 3-2 to hire a firm to perform an independent forensic audit. It’s part of ongoing skepticism into the accounting practices at the school.

Kellie Graham, the school’s financial officer, said it’s a glitch in the accounting program — one that was verified by two independent accountants during the board meeting.

“We have not conspired to do anything wrong,” Graham said. “We have not embezzled or hidden any money away. I’m tired of my reputation and my character being bashed at the board meetings every month.”

Perhaps the most heated moment of the night came during Kimberly Pilant’s application to the board as a parent representative. Pilant is the mother of one student who graduated from Silver State and four more who still are enrolled.

Leck came prepared with a PowerPoint presentation to question Pilant about the school’s academic statistics, while members of the crowd called out he was conducting an interrogation rather than an interview.

Grub countered that had never been done before.

“We have not ever, ever vetted anyone else for this board,” she said. “It’s not fair.”

Leck countered it was not about the questions, rather about following protocol set forth in the bylaws to form a committee to advertise and recommend candidates to the board.

“You want to change the rules to benefit you,” Leck said. “This is a huge problem for me.”

The motion to appoint Pilant to the board died on the table.

Jeanette Geary, who had submitted her application for the open seat to represent finance and business, said she was no longer interested.

“Each one of us has the moral obligation to give them the leadership they need on this board,” she said. “Until you are ready to do that, I am pulling my résumé.”

Grub said she spoke with representatives from the Nevada Department of Education and was worried about the future of the school.

“I came away with the distinct impression they would like us to get our act together,” she said.