EDITOR’S NOTE: The story below was written after the Aug. 5 meeting of the Meeker School Board but before the open executive session on Monday this week. At the Monday meeting, the board and Dorsett were unable to agree on terms.
Dorsett wanted to be contractually shielded from MHS Principal Kim Ibach’s supervision and from “a hostile work place,” as he described the situation at the high school. District Superintendent Mark Meyer and the board members did not want to negotiate contracts, saying that if they did it for Dorsett, that would open the door to all of the district’s other teachers to seek special contracts. Meyer, Ibach and the board members repeatedly requested that Dorsett sign the standard contract and that all parties would work to ease the differences between Dorsett and Ibach. The disagreement continued, and with a no motion to accept either of Dorsett’s proposed contracts, the issue died. For more information about Monday’s meeting, please read the “From My Window…” column on Page 4.
MEEKER I Roughly 55 parents, teachers and students were in attendance at the Meeker School Board meeting Aug. 5 to voice their support for science instructor Dr. Robert Dorsett, who announced a week earlier he could not come to terms with district Superintendent Mark Meyer on a contract to teach this coming year at Meeker High School and would not be returning.
Dorsett admittedly has had conflicts with MHS Principal Kim Ibach and has been openly critical of Ibach on several occasions. He said he would like to stay on at MHS but would need to negotiate a new contract that would allow him to “just do my job and just teach.”
He said he does not agree with the standard contract because it does not provide a means to address conflicts and because of a clause in the contract that forces teachers to perform extracurricular activities without consulting the affected teachers and that he and other teachers have edited individual contracts in the past, so negotiating a new contract now would not be setting a precedent.
Superintendent Mark Meyer said he does not agree with negotiating individual contracts with teachers because negotiating with one would open the door to having to negotiate individual contracts with all teachers.
Dorsett said later that he is requesting relief from Ibach’s arbitrary decisions.
Meyer’s predecessor, Susan Goettel, also was against individual contracts, and she put an end to many contracts that had been individualized.
Meyer explained that contracts were let out on May 20 and that the teachers had 30 days to decide whether to sign their contracts. He said the contracts were returned but that there was no contract from Dorsett.
Dorsett said he had informed Meyer that he wanted an alternative contract. Meyer had given Dorsett contract extensions until two weeks ago.
“I told him we wanted him to sign the regular district contract, the same as all others,” Meyer said.
Dorsett then addressed the board and audience, “I want to thank the board and the community for the opportunity to speak,” he said. “My dad always told me to have the courage to stand up for what you believe, and that is what I am doing.
“Employment conditions are horrible at the high school,” Dorsett said. “We are excluded from meetings that concern us … colleagues have been punished for supporting those who have spoken out … we are not allowed to express our ideas … Ibach has made it very clear to me that she wants me out … I will not continue to kowtow and all I want to do is just teach my classes.”
Dorsett also pointed out that in order to help the district with its fiscal crunch that he offered to forfeit a “substantial percentage” of his pay if he would be allowed to “just teach.”
Dorsett said he gave the unsigned contract back and that he had spoken in the meantime with Meyer about the contract. He said he felt comfortable that the board would talk with him about his own contract and that most board members would back him, but that Meyer said he had to clear it with Ibach. A week later he was informed by Meyer that there would be no special contract.
“One thing that really concerns me is that two of my classes were assigned to a replacement teacher while we were still negotiating my contract,” Dorsett said.
“I believe my colleagues and I have been trampled by Principal Ibach and that grievance procedures have been violated,” he said.
“Do you want your children to get a good education and learn?” he asked. “If Meeker School District was a plane, I’d say we have an unqualified pilot.”
Eleven persons in the audience spoke to the board after interim board president Mindy Burke asked for public comments, urging people not to repeat what previous speakers had already said.
“I spoke to a number of students from Meeker High School and observed a very poor education,” said Brian Brewbaker. “I asked questions such as who killed JFK? And not one student knew the answer … but when I asked them who the best teacher was at the high school, the answer was consistently Dr. Bob.”
Bruce Adams said, “(Dorsett) is the most educated, capable teacher and we are about to let him go — it’s sad. The direction the school is headed is obviously not being led by strong leaders. There is something wrong when all the kids are leaving to homeschooling or someone else. My daughter got a better education at Rifle. They gave more help to the failing kids … Doc Bob has got to stay.”
Teresa Anderson, a sixth-grade teacher, said, “Listening to the conversations, we all want to do what is best for the kids. There are two common threads and two sides to the story, and we all know negotiations are a part of business. We will ever know the entire story because the board is protected by privacy rules relating to personnel. We want the freedom to teach our way, but doing it inconsistently could be bad for all. I just hope this whole thing doesn’t turn the children toxic.”
Local employee Becky Dunham said, “People at the store are talking about poor morale at the high school, people doing homeschooling, (people) sending their kids to other schools. We need to solve these issues in a mature way.”
Michele Reese, a former MHS student, said that she was a bit of a rebel while a student at MHS and that she skipped several classes several times but that Dr. Dorsett had caught her on many occasions and that he kept saying, “I am watching you.”
“During my junior year, I starting studying interesting subjects thanks to Dr. Bob, and I went with his group to Costa Rica to study sea turtles and he turned my life around. I still remember many of his lessons. I think negotiations are a good idea.”
Carol Rowlee, a former district principal, spoke briefly, stating “Dr. Bob is the best there is. We need to keep him.”
David Smith said, “I support Dr. Bob. I have a kid who will be a senior this year who signed up for three of his classes. The public doesn’t know much because the board isn’t talking. We need to keep him. He means a lot to many. The kids used to enjoy school, but there’s a problem with that now.”
Sheila Stewart said, “I have to support Dr. Bob. I really hope something can be worked out.”
Current MHS employee Amy Chinn said, “Dr. Bob is a great teacher. I hope Bob, the board and all concerned can talk and work things out.”
MSD board trustee Todd Shults suggested meeting in executive session to discuss the situation.
“If we’re all for the kids, we can’t ignore what (Dorsett) has done for the kids,”
Board trustee Tom Allen said, “I am much in support of Dr. Dorsett, but I don’t want to set a precedence of special contracts. I hope something can be worked out.”
Again Dorsett pointed out that in the past he and former instructor Pat Robinson had special contracts.
“Regarding these standard contracts,” Dorsett said, “No contract lawyer would ever recommend signing them.”
At that point, an executive session was set for this past Monday at 5:30 p.m. for a meeting between the Meeker school board members, Meyer and Dorsett.