The Valley Reporter reached out to the Warren School Board and Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) superintendent Brigid Scheffert-Nease about issues raised at a July 21 school board meeting. Michael Ketchel, chair of the school board, responded to those questions.
At that meeting, during which the board faced questions from community members about why 27-year administrative assistant Laurie Jones’ contract was not renewed, Scheffert-Nease outlined nonconformance issues such as average daily attendance reporting, subsidized lunch reporting and the afterschool program operating without insurance.
VR: Why were the noncompliance issues at the school not brought to parents and the community?
Ketchel: All noncompliance issues at the school are the responsibility of the school board to address. As soon as we are made aware of these issues it is done in open public meetings and the information is available both in our minutes and in the MRVTV recordings. Where the noncompliance issues relate to employee performance, we are required to address those issues in executive session for the privacy of the employee.
VR: In a work flow chart, whose responsibilities were those issues?
Ketchel: There have been a number of noncompliance issues over the years relating to a variety of different employees, be they administrative staff, teachers or support staff. Ultimately, it is the school board's responsibility to bring the school back into compliance. As the Vermont School Board Association is fond to point out, "Our responsibility is to see that schools are well run, but not to run them."
VR: Did discussion of the noncompliance issues violate the confidentiality agreement that the school/district have with Laurie Jones?
VR: Can we read the confidentiality agreement, not the terms of the settlement, which are public knowledge, but the specific wording of the agreement, absent any mention of cause for nonrenewal of her contract?
Ketchel: No. There is no specific "confidentiality agreement." We have a separation agreement with Laurie Jones, the terms of which are confidential and not a matter of public record.
VR: What are the consequences of violating the confidentiality agreement?
Ketchel: I cannot speak to that.
VR: Why did not one on the board correct The Valley Reporter’s mistake in printing that Laurie Jones’ separation package included one year's salary over two years, versus one-half year's salary over two years?
Ketchel: This board never provided any information about the specifics of the separation agreement and cannot speak about any portion of the agreement. Sorry, I know that's not a comfortable answer but it is the law.*
VR: There are two almost identical ads on schoolspring.com – one for Waitsfield Elementary School and one for Warren Elementary School. The Waitsfield ad directs applicants to the school principal and the Warren ad directs applicants to WWSU. Why is that?
Ketchel: While I cannot speak to the details of how Waitsfield School posted their advertisement, our board made the decision about the expansion of our preschool program while our school administrator was on vacation. Our preschool program director worked with the supervisory union's director of student support services and preschool coordinator Donarae Dawson on getting the new positions posted as soon as possible since it is so late in the summer and school is opening up soon. Ultimately it is the same team that makes the hiring decisions.
*Information on which law Ketchel was referring to in one of his answers was not available by press time.