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School officials hoping for a calmer future

July 23, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The tensions that have risen between three new Jefferson County Board of Education members and the two incumbent members will probably decrease over time, three board members and the new superintendent of schools said Monday.

Tensions were obvious when the three new board of education members - Lori Stilley, Delores Milstead and Cheryl Huff - sat down for the first time with incumbent board members Doris Cline and Paul Manzuk on July 1.

Stilley, who was elected board president at the first meeting, ran through a long list of ideas she wants the board to pursue, such as setting up a committee to determine impact fees for the school system and establishing a science and technology advisory committee to enhance the school system's technology curriculum.

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Stilley wanted to televise board meetings, make it easier to e-mail central office staff, have three new nonvoting members of the board of education, create a grant writer's position and have the second board meeting of the month rotate among different schools.

Cline and Manzuk complained they were not informed about the list of new ideas the three new members had for the school system.

The tensions continued during a board meeting the following night and again during a meeting last Tuesday.

Cline said Monday the current atmosphere on the board is strikingly different than the way the board operated before.

"We have had differences of opinion, but we have never had situations where people feel left out," Cline said.

"It was obvious it was their intent to take over and make changes as they saw fit," said Cline, who added she felt she was "broadsided" at times.

Manzuk declined to comment Monday, saying he fears anything he says will be taken out of context.

"I don't want to worsen the situation. I just hope the situation improves in time," Manzuk said.

Stilley said Monday she would not do anything different if she could repeat the meetings.

As she said in the initial meetings, Stilley said she believes the reason board members have their meetings is to discuss the issues they believe are important to the school system.

Besides, Stilley said the changes she wanted were issues that the public brought up during her campaign.

"Everything I'm bringing up isn't from Lori Stilley alone," she said.

Despite the recent developments, there is belief that the ill feelings will subside.

Board members said the decision to set a deadline for board members to have all their issues included on the agenda will help the situation.

Under the change, board members have to submit items for their regularly scheduled Tuesday meetings by the previous Wednesday. That way, board members will have a packet of information they can review as early as Friday before a regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting to study what issues will be coming up, Cline said.

Stilley agreed the new agenda setup will help.

Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said there was no ulterior motive for the agenda setup. He said it is "just good management."

"I feel confident things will smooth themselves out," Nichols said.

Milstead said one reason there were many new issues at the first meeting is because the new board members were told they were private citizens until they took their oath of office July 1.

Because of that, new board members were told they could not put anything on the first meeting's agenda, Milstead said.

Now that everyone is getting information at the same time, tensions among board members should ease, Milstead said.

"We're just different," said Milstead, adding it will take some time for everyone to learn to work together.

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