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Editor’s Note: The Antelope County News left messages for David Wright on his cellular phone on both Friday and Saturday since Wright serves as not only president of but also the official spokesperson for the board. Wright has not responded to the ACN's requests for comment. Several stakeholders contacted the ACN about letters given to all board members and concern regarding the agenda item and acknowledgement.
Stakeholders are expressing their frustration over lack of communication from the Neligh-Oakdale Board of Education.
Despite hundreds of letters from the public and requests from three board members, the board did not publicly discuss Superintendent Kimberly Lingenfelter’s contract this week before hiring a search firm to find her replacement.
No reason has been provided to the public as to why discussion did not take place.
Nearly 100 residents of the district sent letters to each of the six board members asking them to put discussion of and possible action on Lingenfelter's contract on Tuesday’s special meeting agenda. However, the item was not included on the agenda, and many district stakeholders want to know why.
“To me, our board is not listening to number one - other board members and number two - our citizens,” said Diann Arehart of Neligh. “You need to listen to the citizens and to other board members. Three of them (board members) wanted to discuss the contract further, but the president said no."
Lingenfelter resigned as superintendent in December at the same meeting she received a positive evaluation of her performance. The resignation was approved on a 3-2 vote, with regret.
At the Jan. 19 board meeting, vice president Brad Higgins and board members Krista Schindler and Chris Ford stated they wanted the board to publicly discuss offering Lingenfelter a contract. But board president David Wright said he would not put it on the agenda.
At that meeting Higgins asked Wright, "So you're saying you won't put it on the agenda?"
Wright replied, "I am saying I will not. I think I made myself clear.”
According to Neligh-Oakdale board policies 203.02 and 204.10, it is the responsibility of the superintendent and president to develop the agenda for each board meeting. An agenda may be updated up to 24 hours prior to the advertised meeting.
The Antelope County News has attempted to contact Wright multiple times for comment about the letters and his subsequent refusal to put the discussion on the agenda. However, Wright has not responded to the requests for comment.
The Antelope County News has learned that last Saturday - four days after the meeting where the board members requested a future discussion - around 80 letters were delivered to each board member. More letters were given to each member prior to Tuesday’s special meeting, which had one action item - discussion of and action to approve the hiring of a superintendent search firm.
Board members were seen looking at the letters prior to the start of the special meeting; however, no discussion took place nor was public comment allowed at that meeting.
Neligh resident Mary Burgess said both she and her husband signed letters requesting the item be placed on the agenda for discussion.
“I signed the letter because I wanted it discussed,” Burgess said. “I didn’t want to spend $6,000 (on a search firm) when I personally feel we will not find a more qualified superintendent than the one we have right now.”
Both Burgess and Arehart said they were disappointed in the board for not only their failure to discuss the item publicly but for not fully responding to the letters. The letters asked for each board member to acknowledge receipt via phone, email or text. Burgess said she heard from only board members Higgins and Ford while Arehart said she heard from only Schindler and Ford.
“It makes it difficult to believe that they are willing to listen to the citizens when they don't even respond to our letters," Arehart said.
Arehart attended Tuesday’s special meeting, but Burgess did not. Burgess said she thought it would be a long meeting and didn’t want to miss that afternoon’s basketball games in Atkinson. However, the meeting lasted only 10 minutes.
The board voted 6-0 to hire the Nebraska Association of School Boards to perform the superintendent search. Five of the six board members referenced the NASB’s understanding of Neligh-Oakdale’s “situation” and “issues.” Wright referenced the NASB’s recommendation of hiring an interim superintendent and pushing the search back to October 2015.
Higgins said, "We need to decide the company before we decide the other route.”