A meeting that took only six minutes on March 13 will have a lasting impact on the Elizabeth School District for the next month to a year. As expected, three board members resigned, effective March 14.
With the resignations, only two members remain on the board in what is being called an “unprecedented” set of circumstances.
The resigning board members were President Cary Karcher, Vice President Kim Frumveller and Secretary Craig Blackham. The three attended the regular meeting virtually.
Remaining on the board are Rhonda Olsen and Heather Booth — the two board members who attended the meeting in person.
On March 13, Karcher called the meeting to order at 6:01 p.m. The board approved the regular agenda items, including the consent agenda and final approval of the contract for the new superintendent.
Starting amid controversy, the district’s new superintendent, Dan Snowberger, officially took the helm on March 14.
“It is always disappointing when adult issues impact a school district and keep it from focusing on the most important work — ensuring our students receive the best education possible,” Snowberger said in a prepared statement. “After working with board members, I am confident that we will overcome this situation and refocus on our mission. I am excited to join the Elizabeth School District team.”
No public comment was allowed and the board held no discussion on any agenda items. Immediately after the board officially recognized the three resignations, Karcher adjourned the meeting at 6:07 p.m.
After Karcher, Frumveller and Blackham logged off, Olsen made an announcement to the nearly 50 persons in attendance that applications to fill the open seats would now be accepted.
Now, work has to be done to bring the board to a quorum.
Elizabeth School District Communications Manager Jason Hackett said the district is working to legally maneuver through “unprecedented” times.
To assist in what the board can do without a quorum, the district has sought legal guidance from the Boulder-based law firm of Caplan & Earnest, which has advised that the two remaining board members can declare an “extraordinary circumstance,” allowing the board to continue to operate.
The next steps will include reorganizing board leadership, declaring vacancies and filling the open seats over the next 30 days.
According to a news release from the district, “Any business that must be conducted during the period of time that a quorum may not exist will be brought back to formal authorization once at least three board members are in place of constituting a quorum.”
The remaining board members were to hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. on March 16 to ensure the officer roles of president and vice president are filled, then accept the resignations of board members who chose to formally resign.
To fill vacant seats, the district will begin accepting letters of interest over the next several weeks. The remaining board members will interview prospective candidates to fill declared vacancies. Upon appointment, the new board members will serve up to the next election, which is slated for November 2023.
To continue to serve, the appointed board members will have to file the necessary paperwork and run in the official election.
Ahead of the March 13 regular meeting, the resignation letters were made public.
Karcher said personal issues and “other board member agendas” are his two primary reasons for ending his service on the board.
“Board member personal agendas created an environment where the board spent more time discussing personnel issues and the presence or prevention of radical left-wing ideologies such as CRT (critical race theory), SEL (social emotional learning) and restorative justice, that do not exist in our district,” Karcher said in the letter dated March 7.
Karcher said board meetings have become “chaotic and have brought behavior unbecoming of the community.”
Frumveller said in the March 7 letter that when she was first elected in 2019, “I loved it.”
“Since the election of 2021, the dynamics of our board changed greatly, and not for the better,” she said. “For my first two years, we never had a complaint that pertained to personality issues. Nothing. And now it seems that my days are consumed with constant issues and lies, the lies never seem to stop.”
All three resigning members said they continue to support right-wing values and have fought against critical race theory and other programs in the schools. However, constant harassment and emails accuse them of “caving to pressure” of local Democratic activists.
Frumveller said there was never pressure from activists as was rumored and no intention of manipulating the selection process for a new superintendent.
“I recognize that there are members of our community concerned about some of the national issues playing out in classrooms across our country,” Snowberger said as the incoming superintendent. “This appears to have led to conflict among members of the current board. It is incumbent upon the district leadership to operate with great transparency and recognize that we serve our local community by upholding their values within our schools.”
In his March 7 letter, Blackham said he has given more than 30 years to trying to make the Elizabeth School District “the very best it can be.”
“We’ve endured mismanagement, economic downturns and a pandemic, but by far, the worst experience I have ever gone through occurred during the last nine months,” he said. “I have witnessed a total disregard for board policy, board core values, board ethics, confidentiality agreements and violations of Colorado Revised Statutes. I can’t be a part of a group that disrespects order so casually.”
Blackham goes on to describe an atmosphere of misconception and chaos, saying he receives constant emails and personal attacks starting at 6 a.m. and not ending until 9 p.m. at night.
In prepared statements before accepting the resignations, remaining board members Olsen and Booth said they are excited for the future.
“The conflict that existed among the previous board was unfortunate,” Booth said via the news release. “I look forward to working with new members of the board, once they are appointed, and strengthening our board leadership.”
Olsen said she is confident the new superintendent will help solidify the district’s mission and vision moving forward.