The Brookings-Harbor School Board held a special meeting Friday to discuss what members considered major communication and trust issues among each other and with the Superintendent.
After an intense six-hour session during which tempers flared at times, the board members emerged with a better understanding of each other and an optimistic view on their ability to move forward as a group.
We tackled some difficult issues and I really do think it was productive, said Board Chairman Brian Larsson. I think we all got something good out of it.
It took several hours before the board began talking about the sorest point comments made by board member Bill Ferry to The Pilot and published in the Jan. 30 issue in a story about the announcement of a $765,000 budget shortfall for this year.
In the article, Ferry claimed the administration, and Prevenas in particular, withheld news of the shortfall in order to get a 2 percent salary increase for the administration.
Bills accusation that we purposely withheld the information to sneak the 2 percent increase past the board was very mean spirited, Prevenas told the board Friday. It hurt me and the administrative staff deeply.
Bill, what were you thinking when you said that?
Prevenas said he was worried that having a board member make such an accusation had damaged his integrity and ability to deal openly with teachers, principals and union representatives.
Earlier in the meeting, Larsson chastised Ferry, saying he violated established board policy by speaking outside the group and specifically by not identifying his comments to the newspaper as being his own opinion and not of the board.
Because of your simple statements the damage control has been incredible, Larsson said.
Ferry, who was elected to the board last year, responded, saying his comments to the paper were spurred by a continued frustration in not getting answers from Prevenas and others to his request for information about various issues.
I felt intimidated by the rules and regulations, Ferry said. I didnt feel I could call anybody. I did call The Pilot. I felt like the doors of communication were not open.
He added that he didnt feel comfortable in Pauls office.
What can I do? he said. I dont get calls returned. I send letters and theres no response.
He said he was surprised by the announcement at the last board meeting about the budget shortfall.
Board member Larry Anderson, while he didnt condone what Ferry said to the newspaper, said he could understand Ferrys frustration.
Im used to getting information a certain way and when I didnt get the information I requested I felt like I was out of the loop, he said. But I have since learned how to get the information I contact the superintendent directly. Its what Ive done to make it work for me.
As for the budget shortfall for the current school year, Anderson said, I was shocked when I heard about the budget shortfall for this year.
Anderson said he looked at all the written updates and memos hes received from the administration for the last two months and not once did any of them mention a shortfall for this year.
Was I surprised? Yes. Was I shocked? Yes.
He added that if he had known about the shortfall for this year, he would not have been a part of the board committee that determined the 2 percent increase for administration.
Prevenas explained that he knew of a $250,000 shortfall before the winter break, but as for the rest of the $764,000 shortfall, he knew only days before the Jan. 28 board meeting.
I myself was surprised at the amount, he said. It was a matter of five different things coming together at one time to make it such a big deficit.
He said the fact that the district was in the middle of hiring a new finance manager at the time may have contributed to the lateness in discovering how bad the situation was.
By the end of Fridays meeting, the board members agreed to have mutual respect for each other and to adhere to the existing board policies when it comes to communicating with each other and speaking to the public and the press about issues.
Larsson encouraged the board members to obtain accurate information before speaking out.
As to the rift between Ferry and Prevenas, Larsson said he has scheduled a meeting later this month in which he, Ferry and Prevenas will meet to discuss their personal issues.
At one point in the meeting, Ferry said I have a genuine desire to work with Paul.
He said toward the end of the meeting, Im looking forward to the Feb 25 board meeting and making a fresh start with the board and communicating with the superintendent.