From My Window… Schools begin — use caution; Meeker School District faces tough year

Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
Schools in Rangely and Meeker will be open for classes next week and drivers are cautioned to be more aware with young children walking the streets to and from school and with more bicycles on the roadways than normal.

Having witnessed several pedestrian/bicycle vs. vehicle accidents over the years, I can assure any driver out there that there’s nothing quite as devastating as an accident in which a young child is injured — or worse.

Speaking about a tough school situation that is benefitting no one is the situation within the Meeker School District in regard to the high school.
There are what appear to be three sides lurking out there — the school board and administration, Meeker High School Principal Kim Ibach and Dr. Bob Dorsett, who seems to have very strong backing from parents, students and the public.
There are strong feelings in huge numbers behind the support of Dr. Dorsett; there are rumors of all sorts about at least one of the school board members making the statement that they hired Ibach to “clean out” the high school faculty, which has indeed been done, with half of last year’s staff not returning this upcoming year; and there are photos circulating around town of voodoo dolls with pins stuck in them that were reportedly taken in Ibach’s office at MHS; there are comments from school board member Mindy Burke that several of the few remaining teachers at MHS do not like working with Dorsett.
Who is right? Who is wrong? I have my opinions, but I don’t pretend to know all the facts.
I do know, however, that the ones who are losing are the students at MHS.
It is tough to deny that Dr. Bob is one of the most well-liked and respected teachers at MHS. He wants a special contract or an “edited” contract, both of which he has had before, and he wants to be left alone to “do my job and teach.”
It is equally tough to deny that Ibach wouldn’t win a popularity contest among her staff members at MHS — or a lot of the students at MHS following the prom debacle last year.
Meanwhile, it has been difficult at times to understand the votes cast by some of the school board members.
The unrest between the three sides of this trinity is causing anger, unrest, hard feeling and general unhappiness within the three facets, and still the kids are the losers.
There has been a sign in the MSD administration’s school board meeting room asking “Is it good for the kids?”
They don’t seem to be a factor in the thought processes of the board members or administrators.
The biggest problem is that there appears to be no solution to the turmoil. And hope for a happy conclusion seems to have died Monday night when the board turned down Dorsett’s request for a special or edited contract. He physically offered the board copies of both.
Meanwhile, all members of the board present and on teleconference urged Dorsett to sign a regular contract and proceed from there.
One proposal would have been for Superintendent Meyer to play moderator between Dorsett and Ibach, which Dorsett turned down because, he said, there was no protection from Ibach written into the contract.
Regarding Dorsett’s claim that MHS presents a toxic, hostile work place, the board again urged Dorsett to sign a regular contact and then to immediately file a grievance against Ibach, then an investigation could be conducted.
Dorsett said he has filed grievances before but that nothing has come of them. Meyer said the grievances have been sent back to Dorsett to officially file and that Dorsett has not followed through.
All the while, the school board is looking to push another bond issue through the voters this November — a mere three months away — at a time when many in town are having a tremendous amount of trouble warming up to this board as a whole. Not to mention that nine months ago the voters within Meeker School District cast a clear “no” vote against the last tax increase request.
I believe the tax increase for the school district is very important and I would encourage all to back the measure because, plain and simple, the district needs the funds.
But I also believe I should be wearing a helmet as I say that because I can understand the negative feelings against the school district and the tax levy. I am afraid that the local voters are not going to not support the levy again because of a lack of respect for the top administration at MHS and because of the actions of the MSD board members.
And once again, the kids are the losers.

Volunteers are an important part of any community, and that was never so clear as during the Fourth of July’s Range Call Pageant, in which a huge increase in volunteers made the actual pageant, which is the re-creation of the Meeker Massacre, much more impressive than last year, the first time I saw the presentation.
So it is with the upcoming five-day Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championships, which will be held here from Sept. 3 through Sept. 7.
For five days, people come to Meeker by the hundreds as spectators of the sheepdog competition, and there are a hundred positions that new volunteers could help fill to ease the burden on the increasingly fewer folks who do this every year.
Out hotels, restaurants and businesses do great business each year as 125 dogs, their handlers and their families come into town from as far away as Canada, Europe and South America, drawing tourists and passers-through to stop, spend some time in Meeker and to spend some money here.
Last year, my first to watch the Classic, I happened to have a high school friend run through Meeker for the day to say hello. When he and his wife stopped in on Thursday, I took Rick and Pat down to the Classic site in Ute Park to eat lunch since I was hungry and looking forward to the lamb being grilled. After lunch, they were going to leave and drive on, but they ended up staying through most of the finals action on Sunday and we are looking for them again this year.
What I am trying to say is that whether you are local and have never seen the Classic before, or whether this year is your first visit to the Classic, or whether you haven’t seen the Classic in years, be assured that it is a classy organization.
It takes a lot of volunteers to make an event like this a success. Being a volunteer will make you feel good, it will show the community you care, it will help establish a new generation of those who have interest in continuing this program and it will show our visitors that we think it is a tremendous opportunity for Meeker that its citizens can stand behind.

Yes, it is an election year, and U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, who is from Yuma, is running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Mark Udall. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that Gardner was here on Monday to meet with the Rio Blanco County commissioners and the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts.
But, it was a real compliment that he did make time to visit Rio Blanco County, something the incumbent has not seen fit to do in the roughly 18 months I have been in this county.
Within the past year, our U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton was here in a non-election year to meet with the same group and he was here a couple of months ago on another mission. It isn’t very often we get the “big boys” to visit our smaller-vote rural areas, and it is to be noted when they do come.
Gardner listened to the conservation districts and commissioners outline what they would like to have happen regarding sage grouse, wild horses, water rights, the Endangered Species Act, oil and gas exploration, the seizing of property rights, etc.
He lent a listening ear and at least voiced his support for each of the issues as pertains to lower-populations centers of the state.
His visit made a good impression and it is nice to see one of the “big boys” recognize that Rio Blanco County exists.