With the end of the school year drawing near, it would normally be a time for an area school district to reflect on student accomplishments.
For Laurens-Marathon, however, controversy lingers and threatens to tear school and community apart.
Over 100 concerned people attended the school board meeting Monday, only to be told that no personnel issues would be discussed. A petition has been presented with over 100 names calling for the resignation or firing of Superintendent Iner Joelson.
The district has been in turmoil since a recent decision not to renew the contract of popular principal Rose Davis, which resulted in a student sit-in strike.
There are issues that the parents and community members say they want to see brought to the surface that some claim the school board and Joelson are keeping covered up.
School officials say they can't comment on personnel-related issues.
Disgruntled community members have been circulating a petition via online website hoping to oust Superintendent Joelson, who is in his first year with the district. The petition was given to the board with over 100 names, it was shared, but there is talk that another petition will be circulated for those that did not have the chance to sign their names on the first round. The board has made no official comment on the petition or given any indication that it will act on it.
At Monday's school board meeting, it was made clear to the some 100 visitors present that no personnel issues would be talked about. Persons were allowed, however to address the board on concerns.
One concerned resident produced a check list, complied by the Iowa Association of School Boards, on how boards should be communicating with the public.
It was suggested that better ways of communicating are necessary and are not being met at this time.
It was also brought to the board's attention by one resident that calls to the superintendent have gone unanswered; she wondered how this can be considered accountability.
Another said she had been at several of the past board meetings, where many have gone looking for answers for the situation the district is now in and she has only heard one side of the story. She said the superintendent has told the community that he "has a plan to lead us into the future. Just what is that plan?" she said.
Another resident said he was very concerned about the direction that the school district is taking.
Still another said she has lost "trust" in the superintendent. "We all make mistakes and bad decisions. Admit when you are wrong and move forward," she said.
The school board will be completing their superintendent evaluation soon - a process that is done annually. Persons with issues dealing with personnel will have the opportunity to talk with the board during closed session. Law requires that all personnel issues be discussed during a closed session rather than out in the open unless the superintendent were to request otherwise.
The board concluded by saying they would find answers to the many questions that were posed during the evening.
Following the meeting, some of those present claimed that six teachers have recently turned in their resignations - totalling 124 years of teaching experience. The reason for the resignations, however, was not stated. Some students are reportedly talking of open-enrolling out.
"It's a scary thing," a concerned parent said. "Everything is negative. We are 360 from where we were last year. We need to get back on track and get things back to the way things used to be."
While everyone has an opinion, some said, many seemed to be scared to voice them for fear of repercussions; especially those who are teachers and business owners.
"It is sad. This is a good district. There's too much going on (with the students' success) to let this all go down the drain," one person attending the meeting said. "Hopefully the school board will figure out something."