Fellow board member assails Tisue, Leany
Three trips made to Front Range schools last month by District 51 School Board members and district staff were the last straw for Board Vice President Leslie Kiesler.
Kiesler, who is nearing the end of a 10-year tenure on the board this fall, held back tears as she questioned the motivation and cost of the trips at Tuesday’s board meeting following a presentation about the visits by board member Ann Tisue. The trips included a Sept. 11 trip to visit Douglas County School District administrators, a Sept. 19-20 trip to Harrison School District 2 in Colorado Springs, and a tour of four schools in the Denver area hosted Sept. 23-24 by the Legacy Foundation. Each school or district has implemented some kind of variation in curriculum, hours and scheduling, teacher evaluation systems and/or pay scale tied to those evaluations.
“I’ve never been so embarrassed as I have by the two of you,” Kiesler said, referring to Tisue and fellow board member Jeff Leany. “Call it what you want but I am tired of having spent all this time on the board and the last two years we have spent more time on stuff that didn’t relate to students and their education than I have in the last eight years prior to you coming on the board. This board is for students and their education. It is not about personal agendas. It is not about personal wants.”
Tisue responded that she was invited on the trips and that she took them because she wants to make sure students have access to various opportunities and school choices. She added about half of District 51 students are proficient in writing and math, which is something she would like to see change.
“Is that a personal agenda? I don’t know,” she said.
Leany said the trips were “done as cheap as possible.” The Denver trip was funded by the Legacy Foundation. The Douglas County trip involved renting a car for Leany, Tisue, Superintendent Steve Schultz, and District 51 Executive Director of Student Services Tanya Skalecki, and a $25 per diem-funded dinner. The tab for the trip to Harrison involved a night’s hotel stay for four staff members, Tisue and school board member John Williams, all in separate rooms, plus two rental cars and $40 of per diem for all six, according to Schultz’s secretary, Terri Wells.
“I think all of us are here for the kids,” Leany said. “Just because my perspective is different from yours doesn’t mean I’m an enemy to your kids. We are in this game to improve, to make it better.”
Board President Greg Mikolai said there has been some stress for the board over the last four years with budget cuts. Whatever changes are made, he said what worked for other schools may not directly translate here.
Schultz said Wednesday the networking and research that came out of the trips may help District 51 get ideas for adapting some concepts locally, particularly with curriculum and implementation of new educator evaluations. He added the close-together timing of the trips was coincidental, unusual and based on when districts could accommodate them.