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Board talks investigator: Negotiations discussed

Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday handled a variety of business, and a large chunk of time was spent discussing several questions that Board Member Glen Thompson asked Superintendent Bob Boyle.

Thompson addressed Boyle and said it has been several meetings now where community members have spoken at School Board meetings regarding what the district has done about the Doug Edwards case. Edwards was the former culinary teacher at Ketchikan High School who was arrested in June and admitted to sexually abusing a 14-year-old child.

The district has spent a lot of time discussing the issue, and most recently discussion has surrounded hiring a private investigator to fully investigate the district’s handling of the Edwards’ case to find out whether any school administrators knew about complaints against the former teacher, among other issues.

“I would like to know what concrete steps have you taken to address legitimate concerns of teachers, parents and students at Kayhi subsequent to the arrest of Doug Edwards for sexual assault,” Thompson asked Boyle.

The superintendent said he conducted a number of interviews of personnel, including high school administration and others who  have been associated with the incident. Boyle explained the district received search warrants from Ketchikan Police Department to turn over files, to which the district complied.

Thompson asked Boyle whether the district was going to do any training with staff, students and teachers in regards to dealing with the Edwards’ case and moving forward. Thompson added that community members are concerned with this, and if nothing changes before school begins, then “nothing changes.”

Boyle said he has offered Kayhi Principal Bob Marshall and new Vice Principal Cole Maxwell resources to utilize, such as extra personnel that can work with staff, students and the community.

“I think it’s extremely important that we let the public know what we’re doing as these things go forward,” Thompson said, to which Boyle replied some things are still developing.

In regards to the private investigator contract, School Board President Trevor Shaw reported that several board members have brought forward names of potential investigators. He said the district’s curriculum director and compliance officer Beth Lougee is contacting the five investigators that board members, such as Diane Gubatayo and Alma Parker, have submitted to gauge their interest, availability and more in fulfilling the role.

Shaw said the intent of this is to have a recommendation of an investigator for the board to consider at a special meeting next week. Several board members, including Matt Eisenhower, reiterated the timeliness of the issue, and said time is running out as school is starting in a few weeks and the issue should not be delayed any longer. The board will likely hold a special meeting next week.

“This is weeks behind schedule,” said Board Member Kim Hodne. “We are up against the law and it’s inexcusable that we are where we are — but we are where we are. We have to move forward with it.”

During final board comments at the end of the meeting, Shaw acknowledged that his family has been close friends with the Edwards family and then handed oversight of the investigation to the board’s vice president, Hodne.

“I want there to be no question whatsoever of the investigation that this body will be conducting,” Shaw said. “… I will turn over any role of oversight into the investigation of the district’s handling of Mr. Edwards’ conduct to Mr. Hodne … and will only participate as a standard board member and not in any leadership role.

“Because perception is important,” he continued, “and obviously it is something that does upset me. … There’s a lot of healing that needs to come out of this, including for me personally.

“So I want everyone to be able to trust the process. … Practice what you preach. I preach transparency all of the time, and it is so important because that in government is all we really have … and I … will ensure that Mr. Hodne has everything he needs to oversee that process,” Shaw added. “… I don’t want people to question my intent in this, either, which is to do what’s right. So the best way for me to do that is to take a step back.”

Thompson’s next question was in regards to an email that board members received from the Ketchikan Education Association recently which stated that KEA reached out to the district to meet to reinstate negotiations but did not hear back from the district. KEA and the district agreed to enter into arbitration in June.

Thompson wanted an explanation for why the district has not responded to KEA and why it isn’t meeting with the union. The sooner this happens, the sooner a contract could be had, he said. Ketchikan teachers are entering their second year without a contract.

Boyle said KEA’s response was that KEA’s negotiator was only available from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Boyle said the district hasn’t responded to that yet because he has been unable to put together the negotiation team’s availability. KEA Vice President Sarah Campbell wrote to the Daily News following the meeting that KEA’s negotiator has that two-hour timeframe because he works from 5:45 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. every single day in the summer.

On that note, the School Board approved a motion to postpone until the first meeting in September the contract for John Sedor for advisory arbitration and related negotiation services. The motion was nearly unanimously passed, however Board Member Lana Boler opposed it.

In other business, after a lengthy discussion regarding a motion to approve budget transfers in the amount of $400,000, the board unanimously approved the motion. The funds will be used to pay off the school district’s health insurance reserve deficit, which was in the red almost $112,000. The funds also will be available to cover anticipated claims through mid-September.

Also Wednesday, the Ketchikan School Board:

• Approved a full time contract for a speech language pathologist, Lindsay Tucker Rosendin. According to the board, she is a former student and is also qualified as a pediatric speech pathologist. Eisenhower said this was “stellar news.” The motion was unanimously approved.

• Heard comments from several community members about KEA negotiations, including Norma Thompson, Valerie Brooks and Sarah Campbell. Community member Liz Jones spoke about the Edwards case.

• Heard a report from student board member Chris Brown, who said school is beginning soon and athletes are ready for the upcoming sports season.

• Heard a report from Superintendent Boyle who said that the sidewalks and parking areas around Kayhi are being worked on.