CARSON CITY — Hubbardston resident and business owner Patricia Baese said she had finally heard enough.
She decided to seek answers from Carson City-Crystal Area Schools.
At Monday evening’s Carson City-Crystal Schools Board of Education meeting, community members filled every available chair and appeared to be focused on the same issues as Baese.
Baese, who owns The Celtic Path in Hubbardston, asked a series of questions of the school board and Superintendent Kevin Murphy. As a business owner, Baese said she is often asked questions and “fields a lot of opinions” from her customers involving the CC-C school system and school board.
“I’ve been a huge supporter of this school district through the years,” Baese said. “I maintain neutrality and tell people to go to a meeting and call the right people if you have a question. But when I’m asked the same questions over and over again about the school district, I have to wonder.”
Baese asked six questions, hoping to receive answers. While she received brief responses on several of the questions, she said she was disappointed her questions weren’t answered in more detail by the conclusion of the meeting.
However, Board President Tom Wilcox said it is the board’s policy that Murphy will answer the questions in the days following the meeting, once he contacted in person, by phone or by email.
“It’s the board’s practice to wait until the day after the meeting,” Wilcox said.
In an email to The Daily News and The Gazette, Murphy said he is a “solutions-based superintendent aided by the practice of continuing attempting to communicate directly with concerned citizens.”
“I invite them to contact me directly with their concerns because waiting for a monthly board meeting might allow their concerns to be delayed in being addressed,” he said.
The Daily News asked Murphy each of Baese’s questions, and Murphy responded to each one as follows:
• Q. Is there a district policy in place regarding staff members using social media during staff time?
“The advancement of technology has provided many new ways for individuals to communicate with one another,” Murphy said. “These electronic communications include social networking sites, instant messaging, text messaging, e-mailing and photo-sharing, among others. Additional methods of electronic communication can be anticipated as the technology continues to evolve.”
Murphy said the use of such technologies “must be approached with caution” by school district employees.
“Given the nature of the communications, there is a significant potential both for inappropriate use and for alleged inappropriate use,” he said.
Murphy said rules have been outlined by the district directly related to social media. According to district policy, electronic communications with students should be appropriate in tone, content, and quantity. Stalking, harassment, or other unwelcome behaviors are prohibited, including any type of sexually suggestive comments, photos, or graphics. The same applies for communications between employees.
Baese said she believed a teacher within the district was neglecting her students and spending time on social media websites. Murphy said questions regarding acceptable electronic communications or unwelcome electronic communications from someone associated with the district should be submitted to district administrators.
“If she is willing to meet with me and discuss the situation, then I will continue to look into the matter because I take the actuation seriously,” he said.
According to district policy, records within the district’s control may be reviewed periodically to assure that the policy is being complied with. These may include Internet logs, cellphone records or other similar documentation.
• Q. Why were only certain people invited to earlier bond meetings and not the public in general?
Baese said she was disappointed meetings that have been held in regard to the upcoming bond on school renovations and expansion have been poorly attended. She was concerned the meetings were not openly advertised and were only being attended by individuals who were being selected by the district.
However, Murphy said Baese was misinterpreting focus group meetings with community forum meetings.
“The Baeses have quality input to share and I appreciate the fact that they attended one of our focus groups to discuss the bond,” Murphy said. “Focus groups received a phone call personally inviting them to consider attending, while community forums did not.”
Murphy said the district’s architect firm, which has an 83 percent success rate with school millages, recommended the utilization of focus groups. At the end of the process, the district will have had four community forums and three focus group meetings.
• Q. Can a member of the community go into a classroom to observe?
Baese said she was concerned about an individual who has been observing in a high school classroom, but otherwise “serves no purpose.”
“We have addressed a situation in regards to one of our staff members and a visitor to their classroom this school year,” Murphy said.
According to district policy, the school board welcomes and encourages visits to school by parents, other adult residents of the community and interested educators, but in order for the educational program to continue undisturbed when visitors are present and to prevent the intrusion of disruptive persons into the schools, it is necessary to establish visitor guidelines.
• Q. Why are some students allowed to leave class to work in the weight room? Are they supervised and why aren’t they in class?
Murphy said he would need more information about the situation before he could give an answer.
“It is the building level administration’s responsibility to educate and hold staff accountable for supervising their students,” he said.
Murphy added that if the upcoming bond measure passes, the weight room would be moved next to the school’s gymnasium, allowing physical education teachers to be near the weight room at all times.
Baese said she thinks the only way a teacher can be hired in the Carson City-Crystal school system is to be related to a school board member or to be a candidate as a coach.
Murphy does not agree.
“Since I have started as superintendent 1.75 years ago at Carson City-Crystal, we have hired eight professional staff members and two of those individuals have coached for us,” Murphy said. “I have no knowledge of any of these new hires being related to board members.”
In an email to The Daily News and The Gazette, Baese said she returned the call she can’t meet with Murphy in the middle of a work day as she is a business owner.
“I asked that the answers to my questions be in writing and to be received no later than Monday,” she told The Daily News and The Gazette.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
The board unanimously approved an amended budget for the 2014-2015 school year. Murphy said the district has used a “conservative approach” on the budget, which has an estimated fun balance of $25,000.
“I wanted to bring that out in this April board meeting so that you are aware for the budget we set in June,” Murphy told the board. “We have a little more than two months before we have to set the fiscal year.”
The board will finalize the budget in June.