BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR & CHRIS FAULKNOR, PUBLISHER
Several resignations have been tendered in the weeks following the May 21 Boyne Falls Public School Board of Education meeting wherein a student’s disciplinary action for alleged alcohol consumption at an event unrelated to school was overturned.
At a special meeting convened Wednesday May 30, two board of ed members and the school’s administrator resigned in response to the disciplinary action reversal, though officials now say Boyne Falls Public School Superintendent and K-12 Administrator Cynthia Pineda is reconsidering her decision to leave the school system.
The undated feature photo shows the Boyne Falls School Board of Education at work.
“We talked to the ISD, and they recommended we wait until things cool down,” Boyne Falls Public School Board of Education President Bill Cousineau told the Boyne City Gazette on Sunday June 3. “We’re going to be having a meeting—actually, it’s a workshop—and then we’ll be going into closed session for personnel matters.”
Cousineau said the meeting will likely occur on June 18.
At the May 30 special meeting, a number of school officials and members of the public shared their opinions on the matter.
In his May 21 resignation letter, read by Pineda, Boyne Falls Public School Board of Education Vice-President Bill Bielas said, “I do not feel I can continue to be an effective board member and I believe it is time for someone else to step in.”
In Boyne Falls Public School Board of Education Trustee Kurt Wilson’s May 29 resignation letter, also read by Pineda, he said Boyne Falls Public School has played an important part in his life. And that he and his children attended and graduated from the school system.
“Over the past 18 years, we have dealt with some tough decision-making,” Wilson stated in his letter. “Each of those decisions were thought out by research, knowledge, and communication between the administration and the board.”
He said the board meeting held on May 21, wherein Pineda’s disciplinary action of a student was overturned, prompted Wilson to resign.
“I feel a sense of responsibility over this decision because I was not in attendance,” Wilson stated in his letter. “We, as a board, hired the superintendent and principal to make disciplinary action for each student, for each situation, per board policy. The board of education should not interfere with disciplinary actions set forth by the superintendent and the principal but can review and interpret actions of the superintendent and principal.”
He added, “We are not educators, we are community representation.”
Pineda then read from her own resignation letter.
“The superintendent vows to do his or her best for the students and staff. In return, the school board agrees to support the superintendent in his or her work,” she said…. “In this district, we have board policies to handle policy and senior trip guidelines that outline a superintendent’s right to deny a student a trip for a variety of reasons. In addition, there are hundreds of case laws upholding and supporting a school official’s discretion in determining whether students are allowed to participate in class trips.”
Pineda went on to say, “My decision was well within my scope of powers. I believe that I am a hundred percent correct in my disciplinary actions. Unfortunately, the board’s decision to overturn the consequences I deemed appropriate has rendered me an ineffective administrator in this district.”
She added, “In addition, a message was sent to our young people and this community and that is what has led to my resignation. I personally believe that a trip is no more important than our moral and ethical obligations. This is the time when our young people should learn that it is necessary to make right, legal, and ethically correct decisions at all times.”
A public comment period was then allowed for those in attendance.
Beth Meier, a Boyne Falls Public School third-grade teacher read a letter from school staff to the board of education. A portion of which reads:
“We the staff at Boyne Falls Public School have worked closely with Cindy Pineda for four years. In those years, she has proven herself to be a strong leader and a substantial supporter of the Boyne Falls school community. During her short time with our school, she has had nothing but the best intentions for our students, staff, and community. She has helped to boost test scores, improve curriculum, and strived to meet the best interests of her number one priority—the students at Boyne Falls Public School. The preponderance of good that Cindy has brought to our school community is insurmountable.”
Meier said the staff is deeply disappointed by the school board’s decision to overturn Pineda’s decision.
A number of parents also spoke in favor of Pineda.
Petitions were circulated amongst the community requesting signatures to support a measure demanding the board members who voted to overturn Pineda’s decision step down from the board.
One person said they supported the board’s decision and the appeals process and added that it did not diminish Pineda’s authority.
Connie Smith, whose daughter is a senior at Boyne Falls Public School, also spoke at the meeting.
“My daughter is on this senior trip. And, when she heard the results of last week, I sat and held my daughter crying,” Smith said. “She wasn’t going to go because she had to share a room with this one person.”
Smith added, “She was just afraid of always being on alert, making the chaperones have to be on alert because of what happened. And, that was unfair pressure to put on this class going on this trip.”
One audience member asked if there was anything they could do to prevent Pineda from resigning.
“I greatly appreciate the support,” Pineda said…. “It is not my intention to turn Boyne Falls upside-down, throw it into turmoil, turn it into upheaval—that was never the intention.”
She added, “This is the fourth district I’ve worked for and I’ve always just hoped that I make a contribution in the district and, if it is time to move on, it is time to move on.”
The board then made motions to accept the resignations of board members Bielas and Wilson.
The motions were approved.
Boyne Falls Public School Board of Education Treasurer Laura Brunmeier said the board was rushed and did not have all the information when it overturned Pineda’s decision to discipline a student for allegedly consuming alcohol at a non-school function.
“I don’t feel comfortable crucifying her or us being crucified and I really really do personally … apologize for what happened to you, Cindy,” she said. “If there was a way I could reverse it, I would.”
After reading her resignation letter, Pineda said the meeting was too emotional for her to make a final decision regarding her employment.
Cousineau said he is doing everything he can to keep Pineda on as the school’s administrator.
He also asked if anyone in the audience wanted to become a board member to fill the two vacant seats.