TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District held a work session on Thursday for professional development.
The meeting started at 6:20 p.m. outside of the Central Administration building. Not for the school board, but for community members in favor of the board’s decision of the mask mandate which was passed at a special board meeting on Sept. 2.
The board and the community have seen several displays of disapproval to the decision since it happened including a protest, kids being pulled out of the school system, and parents addressing the board at the regular meeting on Sept 14.
Thursday was the first public demonstration in favor of the decision.
About ten people including the Goshen County Democratic Party Chairman Rob Branham stood outside the Central Administration building with signs promoting masks. Branham said those against the mandate are in the minority but have been receiving a lot of coverage in the media over the past few months.
“We decided it was time for the other side to get some coverage and to speak up and let [the board] know we’re out here and we support what they are doing for our kids,” Branham said.
Some of the board members saw the support firsthand as trustees Kerry Bullington and Katherine Patrick were met with applause and hugs as they entered the building.
Branham said they picked Thursday’s meeting to organize the demonstration because it was not an official meeting, and they knew the board members would be there. Not all the trustees were present for the meeting, however, as Carlos Saucedo and Taylor Schmick attended via Zoom while Matt Cushman and Dylan Hager were excused.
The other reason for choosing to wait three weeks after the official decision to show support was a fear of threats from those who disagree with their beliefs according to Branham. Marci Shaver said she didn’t feel safe going to a meeting where a large majority in attendance were not wearing masks.
“There was no way I was going to go to a meeting where that many unmasked people yelling” Shaver said. “It was dangerous.”
By the time the work session began, the demonstrators left but about ten other community members filled the two rows of seats in the back of the board room.
Rod Kessler, Director of Leadership Development at Wyoming School Boards Association (WSBA), talked to the board members about board governance leadership and ways to improve in areas of concern.
Kessler explained board governance as how board members do business.
“You guys as a district adopted some policies on what’s called board governance leadership which kind of talks about your roles and responsibilities,” Kessler said.
The present members discussed some areas they would like to work on such as communication, responsibilities, and making the best use out of public comment time in meetings.
Kessler talked about how school boards are in unique situations since they conduct business in front of the public.
“It’s not a public meeting. It’s a meeting held in the public,” Kessler said.
Kessler reminded the board of their role to make the best decisions for the students of the parents, or “stakeholders” according to Kessler, who voted them into the position.
The way the board does this is by following the mission which is on the school district website.
According to the website “Our Commitment is to prepare each student to become a career and college ready citizen. We will partner with families and community to provide an engaging and challenging education in a safe and positive environment.”
Kessler provided the board with activities to work on at their own time to self-reflect on their roles and to find way to improve individually and for the whole board.
Kessler also talked about how most people do not know about all the responsibilities of a board member and communication is key with the public to help them understand.
Socialization between members was also encouraged outside of meeting. Trustee Zach Miller asked if it was acceptable to have a group dinner and how to assure to the public no business is being conducted. Kessler said they should meet outside of meetings, and they need to be clear with the community about what they can and cannot do.
Kessler concluded the presentation by giving the board some questions to ask themselves after meeting such as what went well and what can improve.
The board’s next regular meeting will be on Tuesday Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.