Some parents with children at an east Wichita elementary school asked school board members Monday to stop the proposed transfer of two teachers from the school, saying the teachers are integral and shouldn’t be forced to leave.
“The very fabric of our school is being torn apart, and two teachers are being used in the process,” said Rebecca Snell, a parent. “How this process got sent in motion, I still do not fully understand. But it’s currently in auto-drive, and it needs to be stopped.”
The parents, whose children attend Hyde Elementary School, 210 N. Oliver, are circulating an online petition to stop the proposed transfers of Dorothy Adams, a fifth-grade teacher, and Kali Barnett, a music teacher, whom they say are being asked to move to other schools next school year against their will.
Their comments during the public communications portion of Monday’s meeting prompted a brief debate among board members over whether the board has the authority to question or reject such transfers.
Addressing one of the parents, board president Jeff Davis said, “Based on the superintendent’s contract, personnel matters … are the responsibility of the superintendent. Administrative transfers that are done at the direction of the superintendent are done in the best interest of students and staff.”
“Am I incorrect that this board says yes to administrative transfers? You do not?” asked parent Patricia Hileman.
“We do not,” Davis answered.
Board member Joy Eakins disagreed and then read from a district policy on assignments and transfers, which says, “The Board of Education shall assign and transfer employees to positions which the Board determines to be in the best interests of the school system and the individual employee.”
Eakins then noted another policy on board functions, which says the board “has final authority within the provision of the statutes for the operation of the schools” and that it can “exercise its own judgment on the basis of recommendations of the Superintendent.”
“So it is within our jurisdiction to hear the concerns and then to have a conversation, if we so choose, in the future,” Eakins said.
Board members took no action on the matter Monday. Board members typically approve transfers and other personnel matters as part of the district personnel report, which occasionally appears on the board’s consent agenda. There was no personnel report Monday.
After the meeting, superintendent John Allison would not comment on the Hyde situation specifically but said “part of the role of the superintendent and the administration is to make those decisions.”
“Other than tacitly approving them on an HR report, (that) has not been a regular function of the board,” he said.
Board member Lynn Rogers said he thinks administration has the authority to transfer teachers or administrators based on “what’s best for the culture of that school and the district as a whole.”
“We’ve got to let management manage and the Board of Education direct,” Rogers said. “We delegate to our manager, and if there are serious questions about management issues, that’s something we’d address with our manager and deal with it at that point.”
Tracy Rittmueller, who has a son in second grade at Hyde, said she hopes board members will make sure the teachers stay at the school.
“To fill the role of each one of those teachers, you’d need three teachers,” Rittmueller said. “They go above and beyond, and they touch students in a way that others cannot seem to reach them.”
Reached by phone after the meeting, Adams, who is in her 11th year teaching fifth grade at Hyde, said, “I do appreciate the parents and families for their support. That’s what makes Hyde such a special place.”
Barnett, in her third year teaching music, said, “Hyde is a very unique school. It is a close-knit neighborhood magnet school, and it has incredible children and incredible parent support, which is one of the reasons why I’ll be brokenhearted if I have to leave.”