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School board candidate criticizes Bayfield superintendent

Parent asks for message of inclusiveness from district

A candidate running for Bayfield school board used a public meeting this week to criticize the school district superintendent, saying he has created a toxic atmosphere and hostile work environment in the district.

Wennerstrom

Kira Wennerstrom, one of four people running for two open seats on the school board, first criticized April Tideman, the dean of students and athletic director at Bayfield Middle School. She said Tideman laid off every coach at the middle school, then asked them to reapply.

Coaches should have been given reasons they were removed from their positions, Wennerstrom said.

“Tideman has absolutely no right to fire every coach,” she said during a public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting. “This is a downright abuse of power.”

Wennerstrom also said there is too much turnover in teaching positions in the district, particularly at the middle school, which faced a 59% turnover rate from last year to this year.

She said she interviewed several teachers who resigned from their positions last spring, and they cited a lack of administrative support among their top reasons for leaving.

She then accused Kevin Aten, who has been the superintendent in Bayfield for three years, of mistreating staff members.

Wennerstrom also criticized a recent administrative action at the middle school when a book with some homosexual content was removed from a free reading shelf in a teacher’s classroom.

Another person addressing the board on Tuesday, Molly Orendorff, said she wanted the district to send an email to all students with a message of inclusiveness for all students, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.

“To any LGBTQ student or community member, you are welcome here,” said Orendorff, who is the parent of two students in the district, as well as a teaching aide at Bayfield Primary School. “I’m sorry if it doesn’t always feel that way.”

Aten

In his report to the board, Aten said he cannot comment about a personnel issue or media reports, but read from the district’s nondiscrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation.

Aten said the district welcomes all 1,300 students in the district and embraces their diversity.

∎ ∎ ∎

In other action:

  • The district is recruiting more substitute teachers and has increased pay to $100 per day.
  • The League of Women Voters of La Plata County is hosting a candidates forum for the four school board candidates from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Along with Wennerstrom, the other candidates are incumbent Rebecca Parnell, Jill Shocklee and Matt Turner.

The forum can be viewed at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87851968233, and it will be broadcast live at the Pine River Library.

The forum also will be covered by Four Corners Broadcasting at 930 AM and 97.3 FM.

A recording will be available after Oct. 20 on www.lwvlaplata.org, along with a translation in Spanish.

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