Friday, July 25, 2014

2013 TOP STORY NO. 3: West Franklin

By The Herald Staff | 12/30/2013

Things might have quieted down in the West Franklin School district, but it took a lot of turmoil to get the district where it is today.

Tensions started running high in February 2012 when a survey was sent to district patrons proposing three options related to a potential bond issue, according to Herald archives.

Things might have quieted down in the West Franklin School district, but it took a lot of turmoil to get the district where it is today.

Tensions started running high in February 2012 when a survey was sent to district patrons proposing three options related to a potential bond issue, according to Herald archives.

From there, conflict grew with new school board challengers vying for the seats of four incumbents, all of whom had voiced support for a $14.3-million bond issue, which was intended to help finance an estimated $16-million project to improve West Franklin’s middle and high schools and provide a centralized campus for all district schools.

The West Franklin school board election April 2 cleaned out the four incumbent seats, effectively replacing them with candidates opposed to the bond issue. Board president Thayne Bush was ousted by Matt Froggatte. Jackie Robbins thwarted fellow Pomona resident and board incumbent Stacia Spencer. Carol Scott Hamilton defeated incumbent Stacy Hower. Daniel Arnett defeated incumbent Sherry Harris.

School board meetings each month following the school board vote became hostile situations, ultimately requiring a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy to attend all regular meetings, special meetings and facility tours, after then-school board president Bush alleged a West Franklin patron had threatened his life.

Bush testified during a hearing in June before Judge Kevin Kimball at the Franklin County District Court, 301 S. Main St., Ottawa, that Henry Snodgrass confronted him after two public meetings March 27 and March 28 to discuss a contentious bond issue that would consolidate the West Franklin school district into a single campus in Pomona, according to Herald archives.

Bush alleged that Snodgrass threatened to kill him during one meeting and “poked” him in the chest and started criticizing how the school district was spending its money at another meeting.

A protection against stalking order filed by Bush against Snodgrass later was denied by Kimball, but because of the two alleged incidents, Dotson Bradbury, West Franklin superintendent, notified Snodgrass in an April 3 letter that Snodgrass was “prohibited from being at school, on school property and from attending any and all school sponsored events including USD 287 Board of Education meetings for one calendar year.”

In an effort to regain his ability to attend school board meetings, Snodgrass filed a suit in small claims court June 24 against Bradbury — seeking $4,000 and readmittance to school grounds. Magistrate Judge Taylor Wine dismissed Snodgrass’ small claims suit in the Franklin County District Court building, because the judge said he did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. The judge said the kind of damages Snodgrass was seeking against Bradbury — emotional distress, discrimination, slander and other grievances — could not be heard in small claims court under the statutes set forth in the Kansas Tort Claims Act.The bond issue ended up failing with patrons voting 1,318 to 555 to thwart the $14.3-million bond issue in a June 4 election.

A list of improvements to the different school buildings still needed to be taken care of without the passing of a bond issue. Board members made a list of priorities at a planning session in August where members agreed not to spend more than $2 million from the reserve fund to fix the items on the maintenance plan.

Electrical upgrades and the plumbing at West Franklin High School were among the top projects to be tackled first, though no action has been taken on either item.

The West Franklin school board now is looking for a new superintendent after Bradbury submitted his resignation at the November board meeting.

“I think it’s time,” Bradbury, 67, Pomona, said. “My mother used to say ‘You never want to overstay your welcome,’ and to always leave them wanting more. I’m blessed to have had the privilege to serve the past seven years. We have great kids, it’s a great district, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

The board voted at the November meeting to hire the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) to find a superintendent to succeed Bradbury, and if all goes as planned, a new superintendent would be announced hopefully by January, Brian Jordan, a KASB representative, said.

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