MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- FINN ROCK: A scuffle in the dark at a basketball game a week ago rebounded into an evening of hot talk for the McKenzie School Board Wednesday night. At issue was a decision from an executive session the night before clearing Superintendent Dr. Sally Storm of charges that she had shoved a student after the altercation.

At the standing room only session, a number of angry parents piled on other charges, ranging from violating state limits on the amount of time elementary students are kept in their seats to charges of child endangerment. Countering those comments were other speakers who had praise for the district and its management.



Time and again, speakers questioned not only what had happened but also what had been said, along with who had said what. More than once the word “liar” was used by people speaking on both sides of the issues.

Sylvia Dion handed out copies of guidelines from the Oregon Teachers Standards and Practices Commission, telling board members they weren’t adhering to them. She went on to question the manner in which the executive session accepted testimony.

That last point came up a number of times, from people who said they’d heard what had occurred. There were also claims the mother of the student the hearing centered on had been told she couldn’t invite the boys involved in the scuffle to attend the executive session. Although she told the board that was true, Nancy Asman, the district secretary denied it.

One witness who did testify was Melanie Stanley. “If Sally had done anything improper that I witnessed you’d damn well better believe I would say so,” Stanley told the meeting. “I understand where others are coming from. Understand where I’m coming from. I’ve actually been called a liar by parents based on hearsay.” She said she was the one who first saw the commotion outside the gymnasium and went out with the  superintendent to see what was going on. Because it was so dark, not much could be seen in the dark. “By the time it was all over and done with I felt it was going to be an issue,” she added.

Voicing support for Storm was Jesse Callaway, the district’s high school English teacher for six years. “McKenzie is the best job I’ve ever had and Dr. Storm is the best boss I’ve ever had,” he said, calling her, “Overwhelmingly positive, honest, supportive and professional in dealings with me.”

Saying the “inconsistencies” he was hearing bothered him was Brent Cauley. “I don’t know what happened at the ball game,” Cauley said. “If my kid comes and says something about a teacher, I’m going to back the teacher. Then the next day I’ll call them up.” He felt teachers should be given the benefit of the doubt because they’ve been trained, adding that, “They don’t take the job for the money.” For people concerned about the budget, Cauley advised that, “Firing Sally Storm isn’t going to buy new textbooks.”

In response to a question about whether there would be another session scheduled for further discussion, board chairman Kent Roberts said that was a possibility. Storm added that it might come about in the form of a workshop.

People also questioned how the public was made aware of when a special meeting was being held and why - since Wednesday night's meetings was being videotaped - that wasn’t standard practice.

Notice of meetings, according to Storm, is done by putting up a printout in a public place, like the Post Office.

Roberts felt that videotaping might not be a bad idea, but that, “Sad to say, most meetings have no audience and are pretty dry.”