22 people – teachers, staff, and parents – showed up last night (Jan. 18) to the Big Pine Unified School’s Board of Trustees meeting to challenge the surprise resignation of the school principal and district superintendent Ed Dardenne-Ankringa. The superintendent surprised all when he unexpectedly resigned at the previous board meeting. Dardenne-Ankringa will finish out the school year. Referred to often as “Mr. D.A.” he has served the school for seven years.
Both unions, representing the Teachers and School employees, read a statement that shared their disappointment and concerns of letting the superintendent resigned. His accolades were praised by the unions and several individuals.
“We have the best-qualified candidate here now,” read Alison Amberg, President of the Big Pine Educators Association, referring to Mr. D.A. “We were all alarmed when Mr. D.A. resigned. It did not shock me one bit that the staff would show up en masse to support his retention,” said Amberg after the meeting.
The audience requested numerous times, for the board to work with the principal/superintendent to try to bring him back; to have him returned to his position. Most speakers pointed out his service to the school and students, families, and staff, beyond his assigned duties. Knowing every child’s name, keeping up with parents and teachers as to needs, looking for solutions to the declining enrollment, and the Mammoth resident being involved in the Bog Pine community were mentioned numerous times.
5th Grade teacher Christy Jennings stated to the board, ‘You won’t find anyone to replace him.” Others pointed out the lack of qualified applicants in many industries including education. “We have seven unfilled positions right now,” added Board President Paul Huette.
“This is the first time I can remember the teachers and staff have been in agreement about anything,” stated one long-time employee. Another parent shared of her trouble-with-school son now doing very well in Big Pine schools because of the superintendent’s personal involvement.
After the public comment period, Board President Paul Huette spoke at length, positively, about Mr. D.A., and what may have led up to his resignation and thus, the need for the special meeting. He suggested he meet personally with the superintendent to see if he is open to returning and possible contract renegotiation. “I’ll see if I can change his mind,” said Huette.
Board Member Marilyn Mann said that while she would support Huette’s attempts to retain the superintendent, the board needs to also not wait in looking to the future in a recruiting process. She offered numerous suggestions of possible agencies and means of recruiting a new superintendent. In her last term as an 18-year member of the school board, she has been down this recruiting road numerous times before.
Board member Carol Hambleton assured the audience that no one on the board asked for the superintendent’s resignation. Board member Sandy Lund stated the superintendent was looking to buy a home in Big Pine to be closer to the school and the community.
Board member Shelly Snoderly stated that while she supports the idea of a meeting between Huette and the superintendent if the superintendent were to return, “there are issues that need to be addressed,” she said. She reported she’s heard from several parents sharing perhaps a different perspective of him. “There will need to be some changes,” she said.
Two attendees I talked with stated certain members of the Board created a hostile work environment for the superintendent. While requesting anonymity, they also didn’t want to name the one or two board members in question.
“The discord arrived when certain members started pushing their personal agendas and did not show support for our superintendent/principal and his leadership, said Amberg, after the meeting. She added, “If they are in fact ready to push their feelings aside and do what is best for all students at Big Pine, we are ready to work with them [the board members in question.].”
The motion to authorize Board President Huette to meet with the superintendent passed anonymously 5 – 0. The issue of beginning the recruiting process will be discussed at a future meeting.