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Letter Addresses Those Who Care About The Future of Ruthven-Ayrshire School

April 12, 2011
Emmetsburg News

To those who care about the future of the Ruthven-Ayrshire School:

I stood up last Thursday in front of the Ruthven-Ayrshire School Board and a handful of staff and community members in attendance at the Board Meeting to plead my case to keep my secretarial job. I read from a very detailed statement of events from my perspective that had transpired over the last couple of weeks. In the end, it did not matter one iota what I said, even though I ended my plea with the following: "I believe that I am an asset to this school and I have provided you letters from 31 individuals that also appear to believe in me. These letters were given to me by R-A staff members, parents, and students in hopes that you would honor my request to remain the secondary secretary. I have known all of you for several years in varying degrees, and hope that you will respect that relationship enough to take the time to read the information I have provided before making a decision tonight." The ONLY support that was given was from Dave Forey. He motioned to separate my involuntary, mandatory transfer to head cook apart from a couple other personnel motions, instead of lumping them together to be voted on. I was hopeful that they would choose to take the time to review the 70 some pages of data that I had given them. It supported the claim that I was /am good at my job and disproved some of the reasons given for the transfer. After the motion was passed to separate my transfer from the other personnel items on the agenda, Matt Graves looked at me and apologized, but said that he has believed in and supported Dr. Bunt since they hired her. He was going to continue to support her. He made a motion to approve the transfer to the head cook position. It was immediately seconded by Ray Grandstaff. To say the least, I left the meeting very upset at the cold, quick decision.

I should have been considered an asset by our new superintendent, primarily because of the amount of time and money spent by the district on my training and classes over the last 5 years. With the early retirement of Mr. Peters and Mary Lou, I am the only person that has a working knowledge of our in-house database which holds every piece of information for each student. That program is used for mandatory data submission to the Department of Education. It is also linked to Grade Quick which is the on-line grade book. Replacement of these programs would cost several thousand dollars. Although registration is only once a year, I can imagine that it will be quite an ordeal this year with a couple of new secretarys. I understand that everyone is replaceable but will it really be cost effective or feasible for the district to find and train another individual about everything I have learned in my years here. How can we be saving money when I know that I personally was offered more money to take the head cook's job than I was making in my secretarial job and I would also be able to keep my full-time status and benefits too?

I believe this situation is bigger than just a secretarial job. My negativity and attitude were two of the things stated as the reasons why I would be unable to keep my current job. I admit to having been vocal throughout this. I believe I have that right as an American citizen and I thought the community had a right to know what was going on; if changes are being done for the betterment of the school and for the students, then why all the secrecy? The imminent closure of the school will probably try to be blamed on the newly formed teacher's union and the amount of money that it might likely cost in order to get their salaries even in the ballpark of what their counterparts in other areas earn. I hope you will realize that there has never been consideration of starting a union until this year; and that blame can be laid at the feet of the current superintendent and the Board that supports her. Ruthven is one of only a few schools in Iowa that does not have a union and that is because they have always felt secure with and believed in their administration enough that they didn't feel the need to have one.

The staff members are unhappy with the way things are headed and the way things are being handled. Many of them feel mistreated and are actively looking for positions elsewhere. They will have to move from a community that is their home in order to find jobs. How does the board go from entrusting a staff with the education and care of their students for all these years but now cast them aside, and blindly follow someone they have known less than a year? All of you know at least one member of the Ruthven-Ayrshire staff well enough to be able to talk to them about how they feel and what is going on at the school. I don't need to direct you to any certain ones because there are so few that are happy and supportive of the decisions being made. Though they are scared of the negative repercussions, I hope they will speak freely to you, and no more of them will be threatened with termination. I encourage you to talk to Board Members; hopefully they will more receptive to talking and listening to community members than they have been to staff members.

The school needs you to step up and show you are a concerned citizen that supports the school, the staff, and what it means to our community. I hope you plan to attend the next school board meeting on April 11. The first part is planned as a board/community member meeting to discuss the sharing of basketball next year. I agreed wholeheartedly with the community member that spoke up at the March 16 board meeting. He stated that he loved basketball just as much as the next guy, but if we're going to have community meetings about sharing basketball, shouldn't we be putting the same importance on all of the district wide changes that are trying to be passed?

The Board has been quick to point out that we are in financial straits from the past administration and that is the reasoning for the drastic measures they are taking. If all of these cuts are being made for strictly financial reasons, then we should expect the longevity of our school to be prolonged, instead of shortened as it appears may be the case. I hope they plan on showing proof that all cuts will result in providing savings for the district. The newly appointed .3 principal also received an extremely nice package which includes full individual insurance and the board president is quoted in the Zip Code that no raise has been discussed for the superintendent. In this time of our budget crisis, does this really sound like someone who is making cuts because she cares about our school and community?

The Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School Mission Statement is read at the beginning of every Board Meeting and states as follows: "The Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School, together with parents and the community, will provide a supportive and caring, yet challenging environment. Students will have a variety of opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills, to learn to think creatively, and to act responsibly in order to meet the challenges of today and the opportunities of tomorrow." A key word that sticks out to me in that sentence is "together" and yet there has never been more discord, uncertainty, division, and lack of trust than any other time.

As secretary, I do know a lot about the inner workings of the school and I offer this letter to you in hopes you will understand that I have nothing to gain from writing this and much to lose. I am doing this in hopes that you will take part in what is happening now and not save your words for later when we all are bemoaning the loss of our beloved school. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Katie Meyer

Ruthven, IA



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