GOSHEN COUNTY – Goshen County School District (GCSD) held a special meeting, which began with an executive session, on Monday, Jan. 16, at Torrington High School’s (THS) Auditorium to reconsider a tabled agenda item from its January board meeting as it relates to extending Superintendent Ryan Kramer’s contract.
Chairman Michael Sussex called for a motion to reconsider the tabled superintendent’s contract, Trustee Wade Phipps called for the motion and GCSD Trustee Carlos Saucedo seconded it.
Clerk Chris Alexander, Treasurer Bob Peterson and Trustee Matthew Cushman voted against the motion while Sussex, Vice Chair Sarah Chaires and Trustees Justin Hurley, Dylan Hager, Phipps and Saucedo voted to reconsider the superintendent’s contract.
Upon voting to reconsider the superintendent’s contract, board members voted by hand to decide whether or not to extend Kramer’s contract.
Board Members Phipps, Hager, Sussex, Chaires and Saucedo voted to extend Kramer’s contract through the end of the 2024-2025 school year in the rolling two-year term. Meanwhile, Board Members Alexander, Peterson, Hurley and Cushman voted against extending Kramer’s contract.
Trustee Cushman was late to Monday’s meeting but did vote on both items during the public meeting duration. Per Wyoming Statutes and district policies, board members are unable to speak about what was said during the executive sessions it has held regarding Kramer’s contract, or about any executive session it enters.
Kramer and a number of board members thanked the public for their time and input regarding this topic but asked the public to not speculate or circulate potentially harmful rumors regarding the executive sessions of board members.
The meeting, which began promptly at 5:30 p.m. with a near full high school auditorium consisting of various district employees, parents, guardians and other interested community members, began with board members voting to go into executive session.
Chaires moved for the board to begin its executive session and Saucedo seconded it; the board unanimously voted to enter executive session at 5:31 p.m.
The board returned from executive session at 6:37 p.m. and at which time began its special meeting to reconsider its decision regarding Kramer’s two-year rolling contracts to include the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years. Kramer’s current contract ends next year at the end of the 2023-2024 school year. The new contract now extends Kramer’s contract through the end of the 2025 school year at which time would need board approval to be renewed or terminated.
The Telegram spoke to Kramer while the board was in executive session for more clarity regarding the gravity of not extending his contract along with a number of other questions.
Kramer explained the board’s decision regarding his contract could potentially negatively impact his career as an educator, his career as a superintendent and potentially have far-reaching effects with GCSD students and families.
Kramer began as GCSD Superintendent on July 1, 2019 after a lengthy selection process; previously he had been the superintendent at West Sioux Community School District in Iowa.
GCSD parent and school nurse Darby Hoffman said she would not have made it through the last couple of years without Kramer’s support.
“First and foremost, I’m a parent, active community member and I’m also a school nurse in the district,” Hoffman said. “The last couple of years have been extremely hard – as all the above, a parent, a staff member and a community member.”
Adding, “I would not have made it through the last couple of years without Mr. (Ryan) Kramer, without his leadership and his support.”
Goshen Count resident Corey Steinmetz delivered a message from him and his wife and said, “Many of you know my wife, Senator Cheri Steinmetz (R-Torrington), she and I both graduated from Torrington High School (THS), she graduated with honors, me not so much for my own lack of effort. But she had a few words just to share with the board.”
“By way of encouragement more than anything else,” Steinmetz said. “We have watched the last couple of election cycles where this board has transitioned – it’s changed in a huge way. I think many in the community would argue – it’s for the better.”
“It looks like we are really supporting the values of Goshen County with the people we’ve elected,” Steinmetz further explained. “But, one caution would be that in carrying out the campaign promises that many of you have made – which are good promises, which I support, she (Cheri Steinmetz) supports – I want to encourage you to remember that’s what’s at stake here is so much more than just the decisions that seem like they make sense on paper.”
Further adding, “They (these decisions) affect our community, they affect our kids and they affect the teachers of our school district. So please be cognizant of those things as you make these decisions and look at the impact they can make.”
Steinmetz also offered a word of caution going forward as the board continues to replace standards-based grading in the district, a move he said Sen. Steinmetz and himself support, so it’s not done “haphazardly.”
Southeast Schools Principal Tim Williams “I’ve been in education in Goshen County for 23 years: 16 as a teacher and seven as an administrator and I have never seen a decision – like the one that you made the other night to table Mr. Kramer’s contract – put a staff on edge as fast as that did.”
“The next day was not pleasurable at all and it was felt throughout the entire building,” Williams added. “I’m here in support of Mr. Kramer – I’ve served under six different superintendents, but he is by far and away the best one.”
Williams further explained, “And I’m not saying that because he agrees with everything I do nor do I agree with everything that he does.”
“Last spring we had a couple of heated discussions; and I said what I needed to say and he said what he needed to say and it moved on,” Williams explained. “I’ve never felt retribution from that, we’re still good friends to this day – we have a great working-relationship and I just feel like we can get through anything in this district, but that man sitting right there (as he pointed to Kramer) should be our leader.”
THS Special Education Teacher Abby Bruch said, “We are here standing in solidarity and support of Mr. Kramer.”
GCSD parent Rebecca Cochran said, “I have students in this district – I have had students in this district for many, many years.”
Cochran expressed that although she supports the removal of standards-based grading, she has concerns in the manner in which the board removed it without any plans to replace it.
Cochran cautioned her fellow parents and community members in speculating about what happened in the executive sessions regarding Kramer’s contract but quoted Robert’s Rules that due to the board voting to table Kramer’s contract the previous week, the board should honor that decision, unless a majority member of the votes called for it to be reconsidered.
Kramer spoke to the Telegram and wanted to remind students, parents, staff members and community members, the district operates under a modified Robert’s Rule, which leans more heavily on intention of actions.
GCSD former parent and THS teacher Doyle Meyer said, “Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to speak.”
“Mr. (Ryan) Kramer is a forward thinking, invested, knowledgeable administrator and educator,” Myer said. “A few years ago COVID happened and I thought he handled the running of our district with grace, professionalism.”
“I think he understands what it takes to effectively, efficiently and competently run a school district,” Myer added. “He does what’s best for all stakeholders for Goshen County.”
Southeast Schools parent Lena Moeller said her family specifically moved back to GCSD because of the way she was able to grow up and of the quality education she received in the district.
“This is the first time that I’ve experienced a superintendent come to school activities,” Moeller said. “I saw his face multiple times – I knew his name – he was familiar to my children, (and other) parents and athletes.”
“I am embarrassed to admit that as a parent, I have not been informed about what was going on with the school board,” Moeller explained. “I have not been informed about what was going on with the school board. I trusted that each and every one school board member is here to do what was best for our kids and to do what was best for our community and teachers.”
Moeller explained how her daughter is one of the newest members of the student board members who were sworn in last week.
“It appeared – from an outsider looking in, but there were decisions being made in haste without discussion without further information coming to the public and to the parents in the community – and these decisions were made quickly,” Moeller stated.
“We need to listen to the teachers, the teachers are standing behind that man – we all need to stand behind Mr. Kramer,” Moeller stated.
Goshen County resident Abe Correa said, “I’ve run and been involved with several youth organizations for a number of years now – it truly takes a community to make a go of it.”
Correa explained how he has worked with Kramer on a number of items.
“Mr. Kramer and his family were pretty quick to get involved with these various organizations,” Correa explained. “I think that says a lot about him.”
Correa also said that despite Kramer’s responsibilities and duties as superintendent, he has seen him “willing to volunteer at times.”
“I personally have been able to reach out to Mr. (Ryan) Kramer for guidance on issues that we face as a nation over the last couple of years,” Correa said. “Mr. (Ryan) Kramer is a good superintendent and good person.”
GCSD parent Kyle Kilty said, “I just want to speak tonight to ask you to slow down.”
“It seems like every meeting, major changes are happening,” Kilty explained. “It sounds like next year we are going to have a hard time with a new grading system because we don’t have one in place or plans for one.”
“I think now more than ever – we need someone who we can at least rely on knowing who they are (as the district transitions to non standards-based grading),” Kilty said. “If we have to search and find a new superintendent in the middle of also trying to figure out grading – also trying to figure out how to hire teachers – it doesn’t sound positive.”
Adding, “So, I just like the board to slow down – they follow what you’re doing. Don’t get in such a rush because every time you’re trying to make five decisions at once it becomes a mess.”
Goshen County resident Hughe Hageman said, “Thank you Mr. Chairman – I don’t really have a title nor kids in the schools right now; I have some grandchildren coming up and I’ve always tried to be involved with what’s going on with the schools.”
“A lot of new board members up there – you can see what a balancing act that you have,” Hageman pointed out. “You’ve got to think about some of the campaign promises you’ve made; You’ve got to think about parents and students. One of the biggest things you really need to think about at this point right now, early in your tenure, is you’ve got a lot of employees to look at.”
Hageman said board members need to, “Let them (district staff members) know that you do have their back – that you do have the best interest of your employees and the students at hand.”
Hagemen encouraged the board members to reach out to one another, get to know one another so that the board could better work cohesively together to make sound, strong decisions for the district.
Determining what is or is not feasible within GCSD versus other districts around the state is one suggestion Hageman gave board members as he continued to caution them in moving forward. Hageman said he prefers if GCSD avoids the type of education woes and concerns coming out of places like Cheyenne and Jackson.
Hageman also encouraged board members to continue to build rapport with GCSD teachers, principals, parents and various stakeholders.
GCSD grandparent and former GCSD Board Member Rod Wagner said, “I’m here to tell you that one of my most proud things is – I was on the school board and hired Mr. (Ryan) Kramer.”
“He is a man of integrity, is an honest man – he is a man of a work ethic that won’t quit,” Wagner said. “He’s also a man who keeps his promises.”
Adding, “He promised us when he interviewed for the job, that he would be at athletic events, at all the other extracurricular events and that he wanted kids to know him.”
“I’m here tonight to encourage you to extend a contract to this man,” Wagner added. “We have a man of integrity, we have a man of worth and you don’t know how hard it is to find someone like that today.”
At its regularly scheduled January board meeting on Jan. 10, the board voted 5-to-2 to table Kramer’s two-year rolling contracts to include the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years; with Chairman Sussex and Vice Chair Chaires voting against tabling the superintendent’s contract. Board members Hager and Saucedo were not in attendance during that meeting and did not vote.
Peterson moved to table the superintendent’s contact until the March GCSD Board meeting, Alexander seconded it.
Shortly after the Telegram’s story ran on Friday, Jan. 13, the newspaper was notified by the district just after 2 p.m., the board posted a public notice to have a special meeting to reconsider the superintendent’s contract.