The Wichita school board voted Monday to transfer two teachers despite last-minute pleas from several parents and a request from one board member to discuss the issue further.
The board voted 4-1 to approve a personnel report that included the transfers of Dorothy Adams, a fifth-grade teacher at Hyde Elementary School, and Kali Barnett, a music teacher at the school. Some parents whose children attend Hyde, 210 N. Oliver, had lobbied to stop the transfers, which they said were handed down against the teachers’ will.
Board member Joy Eakins, whose son attends Hyde, pulled the human resources report off the board’s consent agenda and made a motion to discuss the matter in executive session. No board member seconded her motion, so it died.
That led to a heated debate between Eakins and board member Lynn Rogers, who said the board delegates the day-to-day management of the district, including personnel decisions, to the superintendent.
“We can overturn the superintendent,” Rogers said. “However, I think one of the things we have to be real careful of is how, when and why.”
Rogers said he felt comfortable that board members had all the facts when they discussed the proposed transfers in executive session on April 14. He added that some decisions can be unpopular but that they generally are done in the best interest of the district.
“I think it’s important for teachers to realize that when they come to work for the district, the contract is with Wichita Public Schools. It’s not with an individual school,” Rogers said.
“There is never a guarantee that a teacher will be assigned to a particular building or remain there for their entire career.”
Eakins said she agreed that the superintendent should manage personnel. However, “Given my relationship with this particular school and the people in it, I have seen things that cause me to question whether we’ve made good decisions along the way in this situation,” she said.
“It’s not just about these two teachers and a principal. It’s about the process we took to get there, and it’s about some concerns I have around those,” she said. “I believe if systems do not have accountability, then they lead down bad roads. No one wants a system with no accountability.
“And the fact that the board will not meet with me in executive session says that you are not willing to listen to the facts and then render your decision, and I think that’s unfortunate.”
Rogers countered that last month’s closed-session discussion – combined with e-mails, letters and other input from people involved – was sufficient for a vote.
“Roll your eyes if you like. That’s fine,” Rogers told Eakins. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you had input. … I do think that we’ve seen the facts, I think we’ve heard all sides, and I think at this point I believe the decision is complete.”
“We did not have all the facts,” Eakins said. Since that meeting, district officials have proposed moving Hyde’s principal to another school “based on facts they heard after that night that the board has not listened to,” she said.
“So we can’t all sit here and say that in that executive session all facts were on the table and a full conversation took place. It’s not true,” Eakins said.
Adams, in her 11th year at Hyde, attended Monday’s board meeting. After the vote, she said she would not transfer to Minneha Elementary as proposed but would instead leave the district. Barnett did not attend the meeting.
Five parents spoke to board members earlier in the meeting, urging them to reject the transfers and keep Hyde’s team of teachers in place.
Regina Anderson, whose son is a fourth grader, said Adams was the only teacher who would agree to help supervise an after-school enrichment program at the school.
“That’s unpaid, volunteer,” Anderson said. “I just ask you guys to be a hero. Save this teacher for our kids. We need her.”
Kevin Stultz, another parent, called the transfers “extremely regretful” for a school that has strong parent involvement and support.
“Isn’t that what you want – involved parents that support the school, support the team?” Stultz said. “We’re here to tell you we want to support this team as it is. We have an excellent team. Why disband it? It has worked.”