A Statement from the Board of Education
Dear Members of the Mequon-Thiensville School District Community:
Over the last month, some community members have brought forth several concerns and accusations against the Mequon-Thiensville School Board as a whole, individual members, and district administration. The Board takes these concerns and allegations very seriously.
The Board has always grounded its decision-making process in law and policy. We have conducted an extensive and thorough review of our decisions and decision-making processes leading into the school year. In our ongoing commitment to transparency, accountability, and in keeping with our high standards, the Board requested that the District’s legal counsel conduct an independent investigation into the claims made.
The Board has received and discussed the District’s legal counsel’s findings and upon thorough review has accepted them.
We share the following information from our legal counsel regarding recent allegations.
An allegation that an individual board member’s participation in a vote regarding the Decision-Making Framework created a conflict of interest based on the member’s private business. The board member in question owns a tutoring business:
After conducting an independent investigation and analysis, legal counsel determined that the board member’s participation on the Board, and specifically in the decision to adopt the Decision-Making Framework, does not present a conflict of interest based on the factual circumstances. This includes, but is not limited to, the fact that the board member's tutoring business contracts directly with parents and/or guardians of a student. In addition, there is no contractual agreement between the business and the District, nor is there evidence one is being considered, and thus no negotiating, bidding, or exercise of discretion exists on the part of the board member.
Moreover, the Board’s action was not to reopen schools virtually, but rather to approve a framework to inform transitioning between instructional scenarios based on changes in community data surrounding COVID-19.
An allegation that the Superintendent and other members of the Board had a conflict of interest when they supported the Decision-Making Framework because they were aware of a board member’s private business:
For their part, the action of the Superintendent in recommending the Decision-Making Framework and the action by the other board members in approving the Decision-Making Framework did not create a conflict of interest for them based on the fact that they were aware of the board member's private business. There is no evidence that either the Superintendent or the other board members acted in any way to provide a financial benefit to the board member.
The Board allegedly violated Board policy 5345 because it allegedly did not consider the social and emotional well-being of students when adopting the Decision-Making Framework that resulted in the schools initially opening virtually.
While the Board and District’s administration took into account the social and emotional well-being of students, the Decision-Making Framework takes into account not only their social and emotional well-being but also their physical well-being.
The Board's decisions reflect the utmost concern for our students and staff members. We will continue to implement measures that provide a safe, equitable, and engaging climate that values the physical, social, and emotional well-being of students, which includes staffing and programming to provide guidance, counseling and school social work support, no matter whether that support is in-person or virtual. Additionally, the Decision-Making Framework allows District Administration to swiftly transition between learning scenarios, as was done as recently as September 8, 2020. Moreover, we will continue to receive feedback from our students, staff members, and families and implement the appropriate measures to the benefit of our students and staff members, where necessary.
The decisions made in preparation for the 2020-2021 school year were extremely difficult. We will continue to ground our decision-making in law and policy while ensuring transparency, accountability and an unwavering commitment to high standards. The Board welcomes continued dialog with our constituents as we work through the many issues we all face in navigating the challenges posed by COVID-19.
MTSD Board of Education
Shelley Burns, Board President
John Daniels, Board Treasurer
Wendy Francour, Board Vice-President
Erik Hollander, Board Member
Akram Khan, Board Member
Chris Schultz, Board Member
Paula Taebel, Board Clerk