Board fails to follow meeting agenda

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The Pawhuska Board of Education held a meeting Friday afternoon, April 14 that was ostensibly intended as an opportunity for the public to express views regarding the selection of a new superintendent.

David Cash, the current superintendent, has announced he will retire at the end of June. This is the fifth school year for which Cash has been superintendent.

The board did not follow its printed, posted agenda for the meeting, however, and collected very little feedback in the open portion of its meeting. The meeting agenda, which was posted on the school district’s website and handed out to meeting attendees, called for public participation on the subject of hiring a new superintendent followed by an executive session to allow the board to talk confidentially about the question of how best to fill the position.

What the board actually did in the meeting that began at 4 p.m. in the cafeteria of Pawhuska Elementary School was to almost immediately go into an executive session. The board allowed into the executive session several district staff members. Board President Justin Turney indicated that invitations had been extended to some district staff members to comment on the upcoming superintendent hire.

The executive session lasted two hours, during which other community members who had showed up to provide comments waited as long as their personal schedules would allow. About 10 people waited through most of the closed-door session, at first patiently and quietly but eventually in disbelief and dissatisfaction. Those who were waiting voiced concern about a lack of public transparency by the Board of Education, and a lack of concern about hearing from them.

All but one of the approximately 10 persons who were waiting left the meeting before the board emerged from its executive session. Some of those who departed left behind written comments.

The board did not have any administrators or a lawyer present to advise it on the propriety of failing to follow its written, posted agenda.

“I want to say thank-you for your patience to those who have waited,” Turney said, after the board returned to open session.

Alexis Rencountre was the one person, among those who had waited so long in the elementary school cafeteria, who remained.

Rencountre identified herself as the mother of a Pawhuska High School senior. She complained of having had difficulty recently with a coach and some administrators. She added that the one person to whom she turned who proved helpful was Beverly Moore (or “Mrs. B. Moore” as Rencountre referred to her). Rencountre said she thought the board should hire Moore, who has been serving as assistant superintendent, to be the next superintendent.

The board then retired into another executive session, with this one lasting just over 40 minutes. The board adjourned after that executive session without further action or comment. All five board members – Tom Boone, Shannon Shaw Duty, Amy Dwerlkotte, Braxton Redeagle and Justin Turney – attended the meeting. Duty was slightly tardy, arriving after the initial executive session had already started.