Angry Parents call for Kelly to resign from school board.
Alpine Sun (2008-11-20) Lori Bledsoe
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Angry parents call for Kelly
to resign from school board
By Lori Bledsoe
The Alpine Sun
EL CAJON — At the Grossmont Union High School District board meeting held last Thursday, Nov. 13, a heartfelt salute was given to President of the Grossmont Union School District board of trustees Larry Urdahl on his last day of duty as a member of the board. Also, members of the Helix High School community spoke angrily, about a letter that was recently distributed by member of the board, Jim Kelly, who was not present at the meeting. A presentation showed that dropout rates in the district are at an all time low thanks to a lot of work and diligence done by the district.
Board member Dick Hoy took the microphone to announce that Nov. 13 was Larry Urdahl’s last day as a member of the board. Gary Woods will be taking the vacant seat after receiving 26.7 percent of the vote.
“When I came to this board two years ago, he gave me a lot of good advice,” Hoy said. He commended Urdahl’s hard work for the district and added, “Larry got the bond back on track and he was instrumental in Proposition U passing.” Hoy ended his comments by saying, “Larry cares about kids, he puts kids, this community and this district first, that is his focus...We really appreciate the service he has given this district over the last four years.
Both Robert Shield and Priscilla Schreiber echoed Hoy’s sentiments. Schreiber adding that “it has been an honor serving in this district over the last four years with Larry... Thank you for your leadership.” Hoy then presented Urdahl with a plaque in appreciation of his service on the board.
Laura Gillahan, a parent of a Helix student, a member of the PTSA, and a member of the band association, stood up to present her concern over the actions of board member Jim Kelly. According to Gillahan, Kelly sent out an urgent warning, supported by Gary Woods, and Meg Jedynak, telling parents that their students were in grave danger.
In an open letter, Kelly warned that students were not safe walking the halls at Helix High School. The letter indicated that there was additional sexual misconduct at Helix High School that had been covered up. Gillahan said that this communication used the term “we” indicating that the GUHSD board was also in support of these allegations.
Gillahan told the board that this letter was an insult to herself as a parent, insinuating that she allowed her own child to proceed into a dangerous situation everyday, as well as Dr. Smith and the entire staff at Helix. She asked that if the board supported this letter, they make a public apology, indicating that additional false accusations undermined the education process of students. She said that if an apology was not forthcoming, she would call on her fellow parents to begin initiating a recall campaign to restore the integrity of this board.
In addition, she told the board that she was going to ask the city of La Mesa to file charges against Kelly, Woods and Jedynak for making false claims that a crime against children was committed.
Anitra Rooney, who lives in the Helix community, is an advocate for students and was appalled at the communication from Kelly. She said that there is a protocol in place to report sexual misconduct, and Kelly’s recent actions did not follow that protocol. She said that if he had information regarding any misconduct at Helix and did not report it, his own actions are illegal. She said that he should resign from the board.
Later in the meeting, Superintendent Collins presented a special report on the on-going investigations at Helix High School. Collins reminded everyone that these investigations were not completed yet, and that they are expecting a report in December. He said that Helix has been cooperating with the investigation. He said that no one should leap to conclusions or speculate about the outcome of these investigations.
“We can promise to the community and the students a fair analysis of facts of the situation,” Collins said.
Urdahl, Hoy and Schreiber commented on this. Urdahl wanted to advise the community that board member Kelly was speaking for himself when he publicly spoke about his issue. He reminded all that unless the board was assembled, one board member could only speak for himself, and not the whole board. Hoy also conveyed his concern over the recent comments that were made by Kelly.
Hoy said that Kelly assembled a press meeting, without inviting any other members of the board. He also said that the district’s own investigator was denied admittance to this meeting, disallowing the district from gathering insinuated evidence that was never presented. Hoy said that everyone should refrain from sensationalizing the situation, and scaring parents, as the safety of students is a priority. Schreiber said that Kelly did not represent the board when he took the actions that he did in late October. She concurred with her fellow board members, agreeing that this was a very serious situation.
On a lighter note, Lucia Washburn, Director of Alternative Education, presented the progress of the district in the recovery efforts of students who have dropped out of school. The California statistic of dropouts is 6.4 percent, San Diego County’s statistic is 6.2 percent, but GUHSD’s statistic is only 3.1 percent.
This year, the district is bringing seniors back who did not graduate, and is calling them fifth year seniors, though the students themselves are calling themselves ‘super-seniors’. Everyone in the district worked very hard to contact students who did not graduate; contacting truant students by actually calling the homes and knocking on doors, and opening up programs to fit the educational needs of the students, to keep them engaged in the educational process.