WHEATLAND – The Wheatland High School(WHS) auditorium was filled Monday night with teachers, parents and community members interested in a few topics to be voted on by the school board. Most notably, the proposed four-day school week and the possible non-renewal of the contracts for Wheatland Middle School principal Cory Dziowgo, WHS Activities Director Cedric Philo and Transportation Director Jerry Bowman.
Superintendent Dr. Steve Miller read a prepared statement where he spoke about his being hired last year to make the hard decisions based on what is best for the students and the district.
“My primary goal is specifically to be student-focused, as should be the case for every educator,” Miller explained. “It is presumably for this purpose that any of us have entered the field of education: to make a difference in the lives of all students, equipping them with the necessary tools to thrive and succeed, taking a vested interest in their education and having the confidence to dream big.”
Miller went on to explain his disappointment with the amount of blame-shifting and back-biting behavior of the community and educators he has witnessed in various meetings and heated phone calls over the past few weeks. He does not believe the community is being properly represented as a whole in these communications, he is just hearing the ones with the loudest voices. He recommended that the four-day school week idea be suspended until there is a plan in place for every student for the fifth day. Whether it be an enrichment program through the school or an outreach program with the community. Miller also suggested an earlier release on Fridays of the coming school year to give teachers the requested extra time for professional development and planning purposes.
The Board of Trustees approved the early release plan. Next school year, the students will be released at 1 p.m. on Fridays. As for the four-day school week, a committee is being formed to more deeply study the details and aspects of the possibility. The committee will be composed of school board members, educators, parents and community members from all the different towns that make up the district.
During the public comment period, WHS social studies teacher Susan Schomburg stood up to say a few words of support for Associate Principal/Activities Director Cedric Philo. She had a letter signed by several teachers and coaches that stated their dismay at his possible removal.
“Cedric is an integral part of the administrative team at the Wheatland High School. He and Josh Sandlian (principal) have created a positive work and learning environment,” Schomburg said. “We believe that the decision to remove him is based on a few isolated incidents involving disgruntled parents of student athletes.”
She went on to explain that if there were concerns, he should have been notified so he and Sandlian could have had the opportunity to resolve the issues.
WHS teacher Matt Hazen spoke in support for Cory Dziowgo.
“Cory has done an amazing job in this district,” Hazen relayed. “He helps out with numerous activities, announces at the games in the evenings and puts a lot of effort into supporting the staff.”
Parents Brooke Mickelsen and Jill Graves also voiced their support of the Middle School principal. Stating that he goes the extra mile to connect with the students, learns their names and they also talked about the various programs he has instituted to contribute towards student success and relationships.
After a lengthy executive session, the board returned to unanimously vote to retain Philo and Dziowgo in their current positions as well as all the other administrative positions of the district.
Transportation Director Jerry Bowman’s contract was not renewed for the upcoming school year. Bus driver Leanne Shepard stood up and spoke, advocating for Bowman saying 90 percent of the transportation staff supported him and that most of the complaints against him were from the spouse of a sitting school board member. “He has done nothing to deserve being let go.”
The next school board meeting will be held March 9 at 6 p.m. at the District office.