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School Board promises more transparency

Susan Prasse

(11/18) At the November 17 Fairfield Area School Districtís meeting, the newly formed Policy Committee laid out formal plans for the future appointments of new board members in an attempt to be more transparent to district residents. In recent weeks, the board has come under intense scrutiny following what some have called the arbitrary appointment of Richard Mathews.

Mathews was appointed a board member following the resignation of former board president Mark Greathouse. Half a dozen names were submitted to fill the seat. While the Board chose Mathews using a point system, the lack of public comments raised concern among some residents about the transparency of the selection process. The unexpected resignation of Brad Rigler, who assumed the Boardís leadership after Greathouseís resignation on November 3, offered the Board the opportunity to address the issue of member replacement in a more systemic process.

"Weíre not perfect," said Chuck Hatter, who is acting board president until a replacement is found for Rigler. "We really didnít know how to attack this, how to handle this. We went by the same procedure that was used previously," Hatter said. To date, the position for board president remains open. The board has 30 days to appoint a replacement to fill the seat vacated by Rigler. The next school board meeting is set for December 1.

With the inception of the newly formed policy committee, the board is hoping to avoid a repeat of what has been seen as arbitrary appointments. The members of the newly formed committee are Lonny Whitcomb (Chair), Pam Mikesell, Bruce LeFeber, and Richard Mathews. "The board realizes that this has been a subject of discontent. They want to do a better job of explaining that process so everyone is familiar with it," said Bill Chain.

The new policy for any vacant board seat will require residents to submit their application packages, which includes a letter of interest, resume, and board application to the to the Board Secretary. Candidates will have the opportunity to address the board and answer two predetermined questions.

More then eighteen residents signed up to speak at the November 17 meeting. The majority addressed their comments in support of School Board Superintendent Bill Chain, whose contract is coming up for renewal. A petition in support of Chainís renewal is currently being circulated.

Sally Thomas said, "Mr. Chain always displays professional behavior with the board and members of the school. There is always a harmonious atmosphere of collaboration. Mr. Chain shines here, folks, he really shines." Retired Fairfield Principal Jack Inskip spoke of the tremendous unity in the community, helped in part by Mr. Chain. Jeanie Hanks said, "When I went to school, I didnít even know who our superintendent was. Itís not like that here. Every kid who goes to school here knows Bill Chain. He makes a point to know every student. They flock around him when they see him. You donít find that at many schools."

In other business, the Fairfield Area Alumni Association presented Chain with a check for $2,500 for the upgrading of the schoolsí sound systems. "We want to give special thanks to Mr. Chain for all of his support," said Robyn Brown of the Alumni Association. The next FASD meeting will be held on December 1 at 7pm.

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