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UPDATE: School Board Tables Controversial Policy Proposals

Board member Sandy Gehrke says proposed board policy changes would infringe on the first amendment rights and "result in the gagging of its board members."

UPDATE (10:20 p.m., Oct. 9, 2012): The Hudson School District Board of Education voted to approve a motion to table multiple policy revision recommendations that drew criticism from board member Sandy Gehrke. The recommendations will be referred to an ad hoc board committee for further study.

Sandy Gehrke made the motion and Dan Tjornehoj seconded. It passed 6-1 with Mark Kaisersatt dissenting.

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UPDATE (7:20 p.m., Oct. 9, 2012): Seven PDFs have been added to this post that show the policy changes that are expected to be proposed by attorney Mick Waldspurger later during tonight's school board meeting.

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ORIGINAL POST (3:43 p.m., Oct. 9, 2012): Hudson School District Board of Education member Sandy Gehrke issued a press release Tuesday afternoon speaking out about proposed changes to board and district policies on the agenda for tonight's board meeting.

In her release, Gehrke says some of the policy changes would "result in the gagging of its board members," "forbid board members from expressing any disagreement with decisions of a board majority on any issue" and "threaten any dissident board member with removal."

Gehrke continues to call the proposed policy changes an infringment on First Amendment rights.

Board President Tom Holland sent a statement to Patch later on Tuesday afternoon saying that the policy changes will be presented tonight and that the board would hear public input on them before making its decision. "Any further comment would be premature until the board considers the policy revisions at the meeting," according to Holland's statement. 

The following policy and procedure revisions are in the "topics for action" portion of the agenda for tonight's Board of Education meeting:

  • Policy 1125: Public Suggestions and Complaints (revision)
  • Policy 1230: Loitering or Causing Disturbance (revision) 
  • Procedure 1310.1: Complaints: School Personnel (revision) 
  • Policy 2300: Board-Staff Communications (revision)
  • Policy 7600: School Board Meetings (revision) 
  • Policy 7601: Board Use of Electronic Mail (revision) 
  • Policy 7800: School Board Expectations and Ethics (revision)

Attorney Mick Waldspurger, the same attorney who presided over an investigation into improper action taken by Gehrke, will present the proposed policy changes to the board. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at River Crest Elementary School.

The following is Gehrke's press release in its entirety:

The Hudson School Board is gagging its members. Late last week, the Hudson School District proposed sweeping revisions to school district policy that will result in the gagging of its board members. The policies prohibit school board members from hearing citizen concerns about the schools. They require board members to report all private communications from citizens to the Superintendent. They forbid board members from expressing any disagreement with decisions of a board majority on any issue. And they threaten any dissident board member with removal from the school board.  

One policy instructs the Superintendent to refuse to respond to questions or requests for information from board members the Superintendent deems “unduly burdensome” or “inappropriate.”  There is no right of appeal. 

The proposed new policies were distributed for the first time late on Friday, October 5, 2012. Some were distributed as late as yesterday, October 8 at 11:00 am. They are on the agenda for adoption at tonight’s school board meeting without adequate time for public comment, explanation, or discussion by the board. 

The proposed policies infringe on my First Amendment rights, the rights of my constituents, and most importantly, my obligation as an elected official to make informed decisions about the governance of the Hudson School District. These policies have no purpose but to prohibit criticism of the Superintendent and the school administration. They limit the information that Board members can receive about school district operations. And they make any private communications from parents or teachers to school board members impossible. 

At tonight’s meeting I will move to delay consideration of these policy revisions. They are too important to adopt without thorough consideration. If a majority of the board votes to proceed, I will vote no. And I will continue to speak my conscience as a duly elected member of the Board of Education on matters of vital public concern. 

The following is Holland's statement in its entirety:

At the July 10, 2012 meeting, the Board of Education asked the District’s attorney to recommend revisions to Board policies as a result of findings of an investigation into a school board member’s conduct. Attorney Mick Waldspurger will review his recommendations at the Board meeting this evening. Members of the public will have an opportunity to respond before the Board takes any action. Any further comment would be premature until the Board considers the policy revisions at the meeting.

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bblair October 11, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Accountability ? This School Board is about as unaccountable as they come. They frivolously spend money with no regard for the people who worked to give it to them. Can you seriously say that the Board acted in an accountable way in regards to the SCM debacle. They should have never spent a dime until they were sure that it would fly. Instead they commissioned plans, opinions, and consultants to render paid for results that were no ware near unbiased. Who’s accountable for that?
Carbon Bigfuut October 11, 2012 at 06:01 PM
bblair, I agree with your comments, except for one thing: I don't GIVE my money to the school district, they TAKE it from me via taxes. I never see that money.
Micheal Foley October 11, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I just want to remind everyone to keep personal attacks out of the comments.
Bob Simmons October 11, 2012 at 07:29 PM
It was inevitable that major changes would be coming to the School Board and Superintendent. The public no longer supports the stifling dictatorship which has been jammed down the public's and teacher's throats. To work in constant fear if somebody hears you talking to someone else that will lead to punishment and termination along with blatant attempts to publically humiliate individuals cannot be sustained. The time is rapidly approaching to put a School Board in place that embraces the public rather than hiding from it and allows teachers the opportunity to freely communicate amongst themselves, parents and the district administration. Working together is the only way out of the mess we currently find ourselves. Stay tuned changes are coming!
Voice of Reason October 11, 2012 at 07:32 PM
The school district approached the city officials before it went to referendum on the dog track and requested that the property be rezoned. The city officials refused and said they wanted to wait to see the outcome of the referendum, proabably assuming it would never pass anyway. Once the referendum passed, the city found itself between a rock and hard place because now the school would be asking them to rezone the property. The city officials were the ones that requested all the studies from the school district.
Bob Simmons October 11, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Sorry, that excuse will not fly. The School Board has already tried to blame the City and we all know better. This entire process was mismanaged from the beginning and doomed from day one. Despite public feedback the process went forward wasting tax payer’s money on a long list of hired guns to do the bidding for Mary and the Board. Nope, the blame rests just where it is with Administration and School Board (exception Sandy).
Voice of Reason October 11, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Bob, then how do you explain why the referendum passed in every municipality? I would say that was clearly public feedback. Don't tell me the citizens were uninformed because that is simply an insult to everyone who voted yes. I'm sorry, but I think you have a biased opinion when it comes to the school district.
country boy October 12, 2012 at 01:02 AM
VOR, Stick to the subject on this thread. The dead horse has been kicked enough. You vote yes folks lost...move along. Discussion here is about a dictatorship under construction to stifle any input that they perceive is not in THEIR interest. These are elected folks that are not representing all peoples. We need a new board to oversee MBE. I for one am not sorry for my biased opinion of the Admin/board and do not care if you like it or not. What has been done to this community is shameful acts perpetrated by the current regime. When MBEs' contract is up....send her packing.
Hudsoner October 12, 2012 at 01:52 AM
country boy, exactly the way I said earlier. But to make that happen, we need to get new school board members that are not lackeys to the MBE!
Voice of Reason October 12, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Ok country boy, since you have all the answers, maybe you should run for a position on the school board.
country boy October 12, 2012 at 02:51 AM
VOR, How about steppin' up to the plate yourself? In previous threads you have laid out all the answers according to you and the yes group. I have no desire to serve on the school board as long as MBE and you yes kool aiders continue to worship at the alter of the administration that can do no wrong. The fact remains that the space problem was known back in 2001 and this class act admin/ board layed on their bins for 10 years. Have at it.
Voice of Reason October 12, 2012 at 03:32 AM
CB, so I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You are right in that it is time to move forward to find a solution to the space needs. After all, it should be about what's best for the students in this community. They are, after all, our future.
Truman October 12, 2012 at 04:04 AM
This school board and superintendent just put the people of their district through the wringer by wasting a year on a pipe dream to take city property and turn it into a high school. They misjudged, mismanaged, misunderstood, miscommunicated and were kicked out of City Hall. This mess caps off an entire decade of their wholesale failure to deal with the secondary space issues. So, at their first meeting following this latest debacle what do they talk about for FIVE HOURS?? Answer: School board politics! Unbelievable. They should be talking for five hours about how they are going to extricate themselves from the gigantic hole they have created for themselves regarding secondary space. But no. It's more important to clamp down on a school board member. You can't make it up. Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraatan must go. Now. Resign or be fired.
Bob Simmons October 12, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Michael, you of all people should know better than to hide behind a fake name when telling others you will not publish their information until they go back to their real name as you have in this post. Actually, the school board voted to go to referendum in October of 2011 without ever speaking with the city. It was after they voted to have the referendum that they then approached the city. I’ll side with the facts. I'll assume you have an agenda you are not willing to face up to unfortunately. More than a bit hypocritical, I am disappointed. Bob
Micheal Foley October 12, 2012 at 05:35 AM
Bob: I didn't leave that comment. I only post under my real name. Why would you think that I would do such a thing?
Micheal Foley October 12, 2012 at 06:25 AM
I have just added video of the entire meeting shot by The River Channel. It's 4 hours and 21 minutes long, but random access is now much easier because the videos are now on YouTube. The topics for action portion of the meeting begins at the 2:45:20 mark.
bblair October 12, 2012 at 11:14 AM
And yours works, the River Channel's has some technical difficulties. In other words it's ...CRAP !!
Phil McGraw October 12, 2012 at 12:21 PM
If you watch the portion of the video where citizens speak, it is obvious they (minus Gehrke) do not want to hear from anyone who disagrees with their attorney. In fact, why do they allow their attorney to run the show at that point in the meeting? He is not a sitting board member. Let the public speak to the entire board so that they may have an outside perspective of these gagging policies. What is the attorney afraid of?
bblair October 13, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Phil, like all suspect individuals the “truth”
Jim Schrock October 13, 2012 at 01:18 AM
I watched the video of 10/09 from 2:44 onwards; some thoughts. "The attacks are unfounded..." If an 'attack' is questioning and challenging, then the questionable use of that word is noted. All of these 'attacks' are indeed people's response to the SCM ramrodding and the board not listening. Unfounded? I think not! "…consensus review…" It would be interesting to review the July 10 tapes and see if there indeed was a consensus that these policy changes/reviews were asked for. Regarding the 'out of order' for Ms. Kunz and Mr. Weese: OUTRAGEOUS! They were attempting to address the board regarding concepts specifically related to the point at hand, and especially what had led things to this point. And since when does the attorney have a voice to speak back and help silence opposition? Mr. Weese was using sarcasm, satire, and humor to make his point; I thought it well done, and will perhaps look for a box of chocolates as well. Ms. Kunz looked as though she had a prepared statement; through the harsh rebuttal, she retained her composure--my hat is off to you for responding with dignity. This was a chance for the board to start to mend fences; instead, they topped the existing fence off with barbed wire. The most sensible portion of the evening was the vote to table the policy proposals; it was refreshing to see a majority of the board vote for this motion. Perhaps a glimmer can be ascertained in this.
Dolly Qualls October 13, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Can we connect off site,please? Would like to share some ideas. My number 715-386-2745.
GD Freethinker October 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Would love to recall Gherke.
Bob Simmons October 14, 2012 at 04:49 AM
I stand corrected and offer my apology to Mike Foley as he has confirmed with me he is not the Voice Of Reason. I should not have called him out. Folks if you have something worthy of reading please put your real name next to what you say. You should have enough self-respect to do at least that much. Bob Simmons
Micheal Foley October 14, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Thanks, Bob. I agree.
Truman October 15, 2012 at 07:33 PM
My wife and I watched the tape of the meeting and, although we may not totally agree with everything said by Ms. Kunz and Mr. Weese, we were shocked and outraged at the way they were treated by the attorney and President Holland. We believe that both speeches were on point with the topic and the speakers should have been allowed to speak without constant interruption. The lawyer interjecting "Point of order!" three times during Ms. Kunz' speech was insulting and humiliating. Who does this lawyer think he is? How can this board allow citizens to be treated this way? This isn't a courtroom. Pres. Holland's constant interruption of Mr. Weese's speech was also out-of-line. Mr. Weese was not straying from the topic at all, but Mr. Holland said, so condescendingly: "I'll determine when you're out of order." I saw no straying, but Mr. Holland imagined some. Where is the leeway that is provided to taxpaying citizens who are doing their best to participate in the public process? I'm sure that, if a "Friend of the District" came forward he would be given plenty of leeway to talk. Clearly, Pres. Holland just enjoys cutting off Mr. Weese. What has happened to this school board? Why do they continuously build walls between themselves and the public? I can only surmise that it's because they are following the leadership style of the superintendent -- who revels in dictatorial stealth. It's time to call for the resignation of the superintendent.
Bingo October 15, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Correction...the school district did NOT ask for rezoning prior to the election. They asked for contingent rezoning based on the referendum results. The practice of rezoning is not subject to referenda results and it is my understanding that the city does not do 'contingent rezoning'. I am guessing if they would have approached the council for generic rezoning the answer would have been an unequivocal NO.
Bingo October 15, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Please share with us VOR where and how the school district presented the issue of rezoning while shoving their referendum down our throats and when did they talk about the potential financial loss to the city. Please do tell.
Truthometer October 19, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Here's An Idea! A Group of Parents in Prairie Du Chien WI has publicly asked the School Board to remove the Superintendent. They felt the "super" was responsible for divisiveness in the school district. Here's the link. Check it out. panderson@lacrossetribune.com
Truthometer October 19, 2012 at 07:30 PM
There are small lies, big lies, belly-whopper lies, twisted logic lies, half-truth lies, and then there's shading-the-truth-lies. Here's one for you. At the October School Board meeting a board member expressed concern about the policy changes that the board's Hired Gun Attorney Waldspurger was recommending, citing Waldspurger's employment experiences in Farmington and SWashington County. Waldspurger stated that he was not "fired" from the Farmington School District, but rather he "fired" them. Now it's hard to figure which of the lie categories Waldspurger's statement falls into. This is what happened. Waldspurger so disrupted the Farmington district with his divisive advice about how to remove a board member, that 3 board members were thrown off the board in the next election and Waldspurger was told his services were no longer needed. How that equates to Waldspurger "fired" them is open to interpretation. He also stated he wasn't at fault when the State of MN ruled SWashington County violated Open Meetings laws. What? He represents SWashington County. He's the lawyer responsible for keeping them out of trouble. Google these. Find out the truth. Then you decide which lie category his statements belong in.
Jim Schrock October 19, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Truthometer: I could not access the article with the link, so I found it another way: http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/parents-ask-school-board-to-fire-prairie-du-chien-superintendent/article_0acf671e-14e9-11e2-9259-0019bb2963f4.html Very interesting! Thank You.

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