BAILEY – More than 100 residents attended the monthly meeting of the Park County RE-2 school board Thursday to comment on the district-wide teachers’ strike that began Oct. 14.
Board President Kim Bundgaard opened the meeting by announcing her resignation from the board effective Nov. 21. She said she would be out of the country and would not be available to continue in her capacity as president in the coming months.
Following Bungaard’s announcement, 19 people spoke about the strike.
The first speaker, South Park High School senior and Student Council President John Quesedo said, “The students here feel unsupported, and we feel like we have been abandoned.
“It is heartbreaking, and both the school board, the teachers and a good portion of the community are all to blame for this. I just want to ask that the school board and teachers work together and work together for us. Prove to us that you care about us. Prove to us that you truly support us. It would be a great change for the students at this school if you could do that.”
Every student and teacher who spoke said they wanted to resume their regular schedules and get back to school as soon as possible. Some said that if the board members did not want to negotiate, they should step aside and vacate their positions for board members who would.
A fifth-grader name Kylie said, “I love my teachers. I have amazing teachers. I have dyslexia, and I have been trying really hard this semester and felt really good about my work. Not going to classes this week has been devastating to me. So please, I just want to get back to school.”
A U.S. Forest Service employee said, “As part of my job, I recently had to evict two teachers from public lands where they were sleeping every night because they could not afford a place to live.
“This strike needs to end, and I am disappointed with our leadership, which needs to be present and engaged. The board is always waiting to see what their attorney says. I didn’t elect an attorney. I elected you guys.”
Some speakers criticized Superintendent Joe Torrez.
“We have serial resignations among board members,” a teacher said to Torrez. “Teachers are striking, and this school is failing.
“Just out of curiosity, I recently looked up ‘superintendent.’ It said: ‘A school superintendent oversees the daily operations and the long-range planning of a school district. Serving as the point person for all district matters, the role of a superintendent is to supervise school principals and district staff, work with school board members and to manage fiscal operations.’”
Fairplay Mayor Frank Just said he came to the meeting not as the mayor but as a citizen and friend to all parties involved.
“I see things happening in our community, and I wonder what the kids are thinking,” Just said. “The place for kids is not between fighting adults. Both sides leave a lot to be desired in relationship to the advancement of our children. I am not preaching, but I hope we all stop and think about what their input will be, and how they are working toward the resolution of this problem.”
The Flume in Bailey is published by Arkansas Valley Publishing Co., the parent company of The Mountain Mail.