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Frazee board member's statement of opinion

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Board members, administration and fellow people of the Frazee school district,

On April 9, Board chair Dana Laine personally brought four accusations against me. I believe that if I don't speak publicly about these accusations that the rest of the board will not see past them. This action would result in compromising my effectiveness as a board member.

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I have prepared a written statement that I would like to read expressing these four accusations. I have also provided correspondence emails to you as a background to where I believe these accusations derived from.

My purpose in this is to remain transparent as a board member and promote open communication among all who have a vested interest in the Frazee school district.

Ms. Laine brought these accusations against me after a presentation that we both attended in the school library.

I will note as a disclaimer that these accusations are based upon my memory of the conversation. That none of the comments should be taken as direct quotes from Ms. Laine but as a summary based again on my memory and perception of the conversation.

Accusation summary No. 1: Rogue actions as board member

I was shown an advisory email that I sent to all the board members. It was an outlined summary of my actions on how I handled a complaint that I received from Barbie Porter. Ms. Laine advised me that after Mr. Stender read my summary he was concerned about my actions. I was then advised that Mr. Stender contacted the MSBA. Ms. Laine then read an opinion from the MSBA that Mr. Stender had received via email. I was the made aware that Mr. Stender and Ms. Laine were concerned that my acting alone put the board as a whole at risk.

In my defense I informed Ms. Laine of the following. I admitted I did act alone. It was my perception that Barbie's complaint came from actions that happened within two or three days prior to me receiving it. Barbie's chief concern was that Mr. Stender changed the information he received before giving it to Barbie. I knew that Mr. Stender was away from the district during this time and could not have played a role in this. If I would have believed any disciplinary actions would have arose from checking into this complaint, I would have first informed the board. I believe my action was benign to all involved and that in the end it would ease the already strained communication process between the school and the paper.

Immediately following my email report, I received positive feedback from Richard Zeigler and an email from Nancy Dashner who stated "way to go Mr. Jepson." "I sincerely hope you don't have to do much of the 'he-said-she-said type of leg work as time passes." "Good work glad you are on Board."

Ms. Laine raised no concern that Mr. Stender acted alone in contacting the MSBA concerning my actions. Nor did Ms. Laine find any concern that she and Mr. Stender acted alone in deciding to confront me without first contacting the board as a while on how to proceed with Mr. Stender's complaint.

Accusation summary No. 2: Biased role as a board member

I was informed by Mr. Laine that she believed that when I sit at the board table, she feels as if a member of the FEA is present. Ms. Laine stated she is concerned that I cannot separate my role as a board member with that of a teacher. Ms. Laine advised me that she feels my interest with the board is only in support of the teachers.

I admit that this did not settle well with me and I questioned whether she could separate her role as board member to that of an administrator. I then questioned Ms. Laine to give an example of when she felt I acted on behalf of the teachers beyond what my role as board member allows. Ms. Laine could not provide me with an example.

Accusation Summary No. 3: A micro manager, who always looks negatively on Mr. Stender

Ms. Laine also made mention of an email that I sent out to all board members in response to an email Mr. Stender sent first. Mr. Stender's email consisted of a forward of an email from Mr. Hammer and which Mr. Stender provided his own personal comment about Mr. Hammer's email.

My original email's intent was to inform Mr. Stender that he shouldn't worry about little details that in the end, he has ultimate control of. My email response prompted several exchanges between Mr. Stender and I. In which I specifically requested Mr. Stender to respond as to his actual intent. Mr. Stender would not. Ms. Laine questioned why I felt it necessary to email my responses to the entire board. I questioned Ms. Laine whether she understood my email on the concept of consensus of the board.

Ms. Laine advised me that she was aware that I went to phase 3 of the MSBA training. She advised me that she had been to that training three years prior. I questioned why she hasn't implemented any of the concepts from the training. Ms. Laine stated something to the effect, she had not found the right time.

I stated to Ms. Laine I believe that if these concepts were used we would have a powerful legislative school board. Ms Laine's response was to that of, are you looking for a legislating school board or a way to micro manage?

I then asked her if I had ever gone into Mr. Stender's office in an attempt to micro manage. Ms. Laine's response was to the effect; no, you won't even grace his door.

Ms. Laine made mention that I always look for a way to come down on Mr. Stender. Ms. Laine eluded to another email that I had sent to Mr. Stender.

I believe the email she referenced was an email from a meet and confer meeting. My email once again was in response to Mr. Stender sending out an email to all the board members first.

I perceive myself as a defender of the truth. That I will report or comment on matters in an unbiased manner always having the best interest of the school in mind. Case in point, my recent investigation regarding Barbie Porter's complaint in which I found Mr. Stender clear of any wrong doing.

Accusation Summary No. 4: Board position compromised with having wife as teacher

Ms. Laine then finally made comment to the effect that my position as a board member is compromised by my wife being a teacher.

I advised Ms. Laine that during the election I responded in the paper on what qualifies me to be a board member. I stated then that I was a graduate of Frazee, I have one child in the high school and one in the elementary, my wife was a graduate from Frazee and that she also had taught at Frazee and still is a current teacher. I stated then that I felt these involvements qualify me to have a vested interest in the school.

I then reminded her of the results from the last election. I stated obviously the members of the school district did not view this as a compromise.

I admit that Ms. Laine's comments provoked me to anger. I also raised my voice as so did Ms. Laine in heated discussion. I believed that my character was under attack and I responded accordingly.

I want the board and the people of this school district to know that my goal was and still is to create a healthy legislating school board, that respects and accepts the view points of the whole board. In my opinion this would allow every decision to be a direct reflection of the current board philosophy. In return the school administration would have clear direction from the board. The administration would be able to act more effectively as the executive branch of the school district putting the direction of the board into action.

I would like to make it known that I had after the fact support concerning my actions from two members of the board; one being a long time veteran of the board. It is my belief that when Mr. Stender contacted the MSBA, he did so in an attempt to isolate me from the board. I believe when Ms. Laine acted on Mr. Stender's prompting to admonish my actions they in affect divided the board.

It is my opinion when the check and balance of a healthy legislative and executive form of any government is removed, it becomes that of a dictatorship. That is why I carefully weighed any compromising effect providing these emails could create against exposing what I feel is currently happening. It is my belief that if these divisive actions continue it will tear apart the communal fabric that holds this school district together.

Thank you, Board Member Steve Jepson

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