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School board splits votes on nepotism

Modified: Tuesday, Apr 29th, 2014

Trustees for Uinta County School District No. 1 Kerby Barker, Kay Fackrell and Julie Burleigh discuss a motion concerning nepotism at last week’s school board meeting. The motion, which would prohibit direct family members of school district employees from running for the school board, saw a 3-3 vote at the meeting. (HERALD PHOTO/Bryon Glathar)

By Bryon Glathar

Herald Managing Editor

EVANSTON — The board of trustees for Uinta County School District No. 1 split a vote, 3-3, at last Tuesday’s meeting concerning nepotism. The motion, introduced by Kerby Barker, looked as though it would pass on first reading until one board member changed her mind.

“Can I change my vote?” Julie Burleigh asked, shortly after voting in favor of the motion. Her recast vote left the motion at a stalemate and it will likely be addressed at future meetings.

Barker’s proposal is to change language in Policy BBB, concerning school board elections, to include “Trustees may not have any direct family members working for the district. ‘Direct family,’ for this purpose, is defined as spouse or child.”

Barker emphasized, as he did in the previous meeting, that he wasn’t targeting either one of the two trustees who currently have family members working for the district.

School board member Kay Fackrell’s wife Colleen Fackrell currently works as an administrative secretary for the district and David Bennett’s wife Andra Bennett teaches sixth grade at Davis Middle School.

“I think it would be more appropriate to do a soft slate on it,” Barker said. “So, as long as the current trustees that are on the board desire to run and are still elected, they would still have that option. But at that point, nobody could be elected that has a direct family member [working for the district], and direct in my mind would include a spouse or child.”

School board attorney Geoffrey Phillips cautioned that language regarding nepotism should be carefully and thoughtfully planned, and suggested that if the board does take action at the meeting, it should be to explore the option of nepotism, not necessarily pass a motion to change the language right away.

“The concern that I have,” Barker said, “is that if we don’t pass this and we reduce the board … I guess at this point this holds a little bit of leverage to those that may be on the bubble as far as supporting this motion.”

The board later split the vote, 3-3, with Barker, Monika Anson and Mark Madia in favor and Faddis, Fackrell and Burleigh opposed.

Prior to that, however, there was some confusion about whether or not the board could take action on the motion to downsize the board from nine to seven members — at the last work session, it was tabled until the next “regular” board meeting, but last week’s meeting was a “special” board meeting — the board un-tabled the motion for discussion and voting.

“I still stand the same,” Bennett said about moving the board from nine to seven, which he introduced at a previous meeting. Bennett, who had a medical procedure done earlier in the day, joined the board via teleconference only for this portion of the meeting.

“I, since then, conversed with other people,” Bennett said. “I haven’t found anybody that’s really in favor of leaving it at nine, but then the circle that I travel in may be different than others. … It’s just one of those things that I think is time for a change. And if it doesn’t happen this time, I’ll probably bring it up again.”

Bennett introduced the idea of downsizing the board at two prior board meetings. At the April 8 meeting, the board voted to table the motion to seek more public input on the matter, although, after Tuesday’s work session was changed to a special board meeting, where action can be taken, there was no allotted time for public comment.

Burleigh said she opposed downsizing the board because many board members are on multiple boards throughout the community and decreasing school board members would put even more burden on those willing to serve.

On first reading, the board voted against the motion to downsize itself, 5-2.

In other business, Evanston High School AVID teacher Travis Robinette told the school board that his five graduating AVID students have been offered college scholarships exceeding $137,000. This is the first graduating class for AVID and Robinette said the program is highly successful. AVID students Giuseppe Paucarpura and Jazmine Gruber-Allen were also in attendance. Both students have accepted full-ride scholarships to Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

Also at last week’s meeting, board members approved the $20,000 purchase of a mill for the EHS industrial arts shop. Marty Herman made the request. “If we can get an approval on this,” he said, “there’s nothing that we couldn’t do with metal.”

The school board will next meet at 7 p.m., May 13, at the Evanston Middle School media center for a regular board meeting.

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