District 51 board votes 5-0 most of the time
Any divide between District 51 School Board members is not obvious in their votes.
One hundred-twenty out of 131 votes at board business meetings between the Nov. 21, 2011, swearing in of board members Ann Tisue and Jeff Leany and the most recent board meeting of Sept. 17 have been unanimous.
Those votes covered consent agenda items and business decisions but excluded less contentious votes to open or adjourn a business meeting or executive session or to approve minutes from previous board meetings. Those votes were always unanimous. Votes are not taken during board work sessions.
The board also had two special meetings in the last year, with Tisue and Leany voting against other board members seconds after they were sworn in Nov. 21, 2011, in favor of making Tisue either board president or vice president. The board also split at a special meeting to attempt to fill the seat of late board member Harry Butler on July 30, 2013. After 2-2 votes on candidates Pat Kanda and Art Gardner, Board President Greg Mikolai appointed John Williams to the seat the following week, a duty assigned to him as board president by state statute in case of a tie on a vacancy replacement vote.
Of the 11 times board members did not agree with their votes at business meetings, four involved Tisue and Leany dissenting. The other times, Mikolai and Leany sided together against other board members in a December vote on redrawing school board member boundaries and Mikolai and Kiesler cast dissenting votes on a school calendar vote in January. Tisue cast the lone dissenting vote on two votes related to the district’s long-term plan committee, and Butler voted against other board members twice as well, once on a budget development committee charter adoption and once on a vote about moving Independence Academy.
At a Feb. 13, 2012, meeting, both Leany and Tisue asked for an amendment to the district’s proposed employee health clinic contract that would require insured employees and their families to pay a $25 co-pay and place a cap on clinic expenses at $500,000. The other three board members voted it down, as well as a second suggested amendment that dropped the co-pay but requested the $500,000 cap. The clinic contract was adopted without the amendments with a 4-1 board vote, with Leany casting the lone no vote.
Leany and Tisue also voted together May 21 against adoption of a three-year contract between the district and teacher representation group Mesa Valley Education Association (MVEA). At the same meeting, the two were denied by other members in a vote to amend the contract to a one-year deal.
Leany said he voted against the contract because provisions of Senate Bill 191, the act that changes teacher and principal evaluation systems, are coming into effect. Tisue did not respond to a call for comment for this article.
“It’s going to totally change how we compensate teachers,” Leany said. “Let’s not be locked into something for three years.”
Mikolai said the agreement leaves some guidelines in place but employee provisions like salaries are negotiated yearly, so he didn’t see a need for a switch. He added he and Butler were the only two members who were present for all of the four days of the agreement negotiation process.
“On the last day of negotiations, Jeff and Ann were not there. (Board Vice President) Leslie (Kiesler) was there most of the day, but she had to leave at 2 or 3 and Harry and I continued on until well past 5,” Mikolai said.
Leany said he fears if board dynamics remain the same, with Mikolai and Williams returning to the board after the Nov. 5 election and Kiesler being replaced with the District D candidate he has not endorsed, Tom Parrish, he worries “nothing will change.”
“Williams is yoked up with Greg Mikolai and they support the union, whatever they do,” he said, referring to MVEA.
Leany said he has endorsed candidates Pat Kanda, Mike Lowenstein and John Sluder for the board instead and said they are “on board” with his ideas about using new teacher and principal evaluations as a way to help introduce a “pay for performance” system.
Mikolai said the idea that the board splits often is overblown. If he is re-elected, he hopes everyone can try to get along.
“I would like the board to work together,” he said.
Kiesler said future votes will depend on elections, the economy and issues the board cannot anticipate at this time.
“There’s another board election in two years. The makeup could change every two years,” she said.