Dayton school board secretary Cherisse Kidd (second from right) explains a confusing issue with the Feb. 21, 2017 agenda to school board member Joe Lacey (right). Superintendent Rhonda Corr and board president Robert Walker look on. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Dayton school board struggles with division, confusion

Board just gave administrator $200K to leave, dealt with chanting crowds fighting layoffs and confusion over votes.

Dayton’s school board has had many heated and confusing meetings in the past year — with chanting crowds opposing layoffs, uncertainty over proper procedure, plus outbursts and arguments between audience members and the board.

Tuesday night’s meeting debate over administrator David Lawrence’s resignation illustrated the sideshow-like feel that some meetings of Dayton’s divided board have taken on.

RELATED: School board gives administrator $200K to walk away

The school board first argued Tuesday over whether they should even vote on the Lawrence settlement, which had been the subject of numerous executive sessions in recent months, resulting in an agreement that Lawrence had signed two days earlier.

Once they decided to proceed, the board didn’t realize where Lawrence’s resignation was on the agenda, coming seconds away from approving it unnoticed as part of a larger human resources agenda.

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After they caught the issue, they withdrew their original motion, and began a long, emotional disagreement on the Lawrence settlement.

That discussion violated the very first numbered item of the six-page Lawrence settlement, which says, “Employee’s letter of resignation shall be accepted by the Board, without public comment, at its next regular meeting …”

“This (division) has been a characteristic of this board for the last two years,” board President Robert Walker said Wednesday. “I think that’s one of the shortcomings we try to overcome. As much as we’re there to work as a collective (for the community), we’re still learning how to do that.”

RELATED: Chanting crowd gets impatient with school board

Lawrence was not at the meeting, but at one point while the board was bickering over his future, local activist David Esrati was on his cell phone with Lawrence, streaming video of the meeting to him, while urging Lawrence to be quiet so the board couldn’t hear him.

Esrati interrupted the board with multiple complaints from his seat in the audience, until DPS assistant security chief Richard Wright confronted him and asked him to remain under control.

Even before the Lawrence debate, there were problems at Tuesday’s meeting. Board President Robert Walker misunderstood the vote on a teacher resignation and had to rescind and reverse his vote — the second time that happened to a board member in the past month.

“We just need to become more familiar with our agenda before it comes to the board,” Walker said. “Part of it is we’re still trying to work out a rhythm to get info to board members, so we can be fully aware of what we’re going to be asked to act on, with advance notice.”

Immediately after Walker’s reversal, the board was confused about the vote on another teacher resignation. Board member Adil Baguirov explained that a “no” vote meant the board would not release the teacher’s license to the state or another district.

RELATED: DPS board meeting gets heated over police, racial issues

But the teacher in question had just explained to the board moments earlier that she didn’t have a license at all. Board member John McManus eventually asked district attorney Jyllian Bradshaw for clarification, and she explained that the license wasn’t at issue at all.

Shortly after that vote, Dayton teachers union president David Romick left the meeting shaking his head, saying he would watch the rest of the proceedings on TV.

“We have to strengthen our meeting process so we provide a more cogent message to the public,” Walker said.

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