Board still mum on Schmidt's resignation

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Education > New president says the school board will issue a statement soon

By Tris DeRoma

One would think in the wake of the superintendent’s resignation Monday, there’d be some tension at Tuesday night’s Los Alamos School Board meeting.
However, except for a few grumbles about the media and a request from a resident to the board about the issue, interactions between the superintendent and the board were smooth, cordial and professional as they carried out the people’s business.
One of the first items on the agenda was picking a new slate of officers, which was completed in about 10 minutes. Judy Bjarke-McKenzie was elected president, Kevin Honnell vice president and Matt Williams was re-elected secretary.
At the meeting, Jim Hall, as his last act as president, handed a statement to the press regarding his personal opinion on media coverage, what went on during the executive sessions regarding Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt and plans to hire a new superintendent.
”It is important to emphasize two important points in light of recent news reports,” he said. “First, the LAPS Board does not vote nor does it take any action in executive session. All votes are in open session and on items on the agenda. There has not been any vote on Dr. Schmidt’s contract. Any reports on individual board member support or opposition on any LAPS subject are speculative unless, (1) an individual board member chooses to express an opinion about an issue or (2) there has been a vote on an issue in open session. Board members are prohibited from commenting on private personnel issue making it difficult to clarify or correct speculative reports in the media.”
Hall said, as far as he knows, the five-member board respects and recognizes Schmidt’s contributions.
“Second, it is my belief that all board members recognize the significant contributions made by Dr. Schmidt and wish him well.”
As for a search for a new superintendent, Hall said he expects the board to start a search soon.
“I anticipate that the board will begin a process in the near future to identify and hire a new superintendent, and the process will include broad public and employee input.”
During the public session of the meeting, resident Morrie Pongratz chastised the board for not issuing any public statement expressing their side of the resignation issue, urging them not to deny the public’s right to know.
“I must express my disappointment in reading about Dr. Schmidt’s resignation, “ Pongratz said, “A declaration written in 1775 mention that ‘when in the course of human events a separation is needed. It went on to say a decent respect for the opinions of mankind require that we give the reasons.
“I understand that, conceivably, some portions of your expectations of the superintendent might be personnel matters. But in enumeration of your expectations of a superintendent would not, in general be covered by the personnel exemption for actions taken in a closed meeting. I think the voters of Los Alamos deserve an explanation and a listing of the non-personnel related expectation you have for a superintendent.”
At the end of the meeting, Bjarke-McKenzie said the board will issue a statement in the near future.