Photo courtesy of USD 231

Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Parents and teachers addressed Gardner Edgerton board members at their April 5 board meeting on their opposition to the resignation of the Gardner Elementary principal. BOE members can’t comment on personnel issues, but according to social media the principal’s absence has been reported as both a contract termination or resignation.
Each parent and teacher said that the principal was a man with integrity, enthusiasm and values that would be greatly missed at the school.
Matthew Eilenstine, parent, said he was a concerned taxpayer with great concern on how the district was being run and who was in charge.
“The needs of children should be outweighed by different ideologies,” he said. “And the ideologies should never come before the needs of the children.”
Eilenstine said he didn’t agree with the public not being able to discuss the matter openly with the board.
Shawn Carlisle, board president, said the law doesn’t allow them to talk about certain matters.
Eilenstine said he also understood the board was violating rules of the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
Jamie Burr, parent, said she didn’t know what was going on. “You are failing every single kid by what you are doing and not doing,” she said. “For us to sit here and watch people be pushed out I disagree with it.”
Burr said it breaks her heart that the public can’t sit there with board members and be open. “You all were voted in by the people and people will remember,” she said.
Burr said the board had turned the school upside down, and she was really hurt. “Everything seems so shady,” she said.
Katelyn Staumbaumer, employee, said she had emailed all the board members, and only one board member had acknowledged her email.
“I’m disappointed an administrator is not finishing the school year,” she said. “This person did what was best for our students.”
Jennifer Kimler, parent, said she was a former school counselor at Gardner Elementary and had believed the district would give her kids the best education possible.
“I have seen how passionate our building educators are, and we are blessed with amazing staff and deserve more credit,” she said.
Kimler said she hadn’t seen the same efforts from the board members. “It is a negative dictatorship with harmful decisions to push their own personal agenda,” she said.
Kimler said she had seen valuable school members unjustly pushed out, and it greatly impacts children’s lives. “This is a great loss to Gardner Elementary,” she said.
Kim Silkwood, parent and employee, said as a complete introvert she had to be passionate to speak in front of the board.
“When I told my nine year old son I was speaking tonight he said ‘please don’t I don’t want you to get fired,’” she said. “You might think that is dramatic, but I’ve seen it five times in five years I’ve worked here.”
Silkwood said it was a shame, she was ashamed, and it should never happen. “The school is heartbroken,” she said.
Jason Parker, parent, said he was speaking on behalf of his wife Alisha Parker.
“It’s evident kids are the forefront of Gardner Elementary,” he said. Parker said Gardner Elementary is a Title 1 school where many of the kids have suffered traumatic events in their lives.
“Kids need a solid person in their life and a constant person in their life,” he said. “The principal was that person.” Parker said it was disheartening to hear what was happening and adding more trauma to kids wasn’t going to be good.
“Someone snatched from you like that you expect them to be ok,” he said. “The board of education needs to be for the children and no one else.”
Parker said school is the one constant some kids have in their lives and Gardner Elementary helps nurture a safe place. “Reconsider the impact in the months to follow,” he said. “This will echo in the future.”
Amber McKelvey, parent, said the principal saw the potential in her twin boys and was instrumental in creating the Empower Program. “His values, morals, support system and positivity were unmatched,” she said.
Carlisle said there are thorough processes for different situations including if someone resigns.
“If someone feels it is unjust there is a process for that,” he said. “As for now we had someone submit a resignation that hasn’t advocated for themselves.” Earlier Carlisle had told speakers personnel matters could not be discussed publicly. One of the exemptions under KOMA is specifically personnel matters of nonelected personnel.
Kristen Schultz, board member, said she didn’t think it was fair to have the conversation in an open meeting.
“If your only choice given is to resign or terminate a contract,” she said. “We need to stop this conversation and move to executive session.”
Carlisle said if you’re given a choice and don’t feel it is in the best interest there are ways to go about it.
Schultz said if a choice is given to either resign or not renew a contract what if the person appeals the case, and they stay with the non renewal.
Board members went into several executive sessions for the SB40, the personnel matter and 2021-22 returning administrator contracts. All items passed.