School board discusses disapproval of their own


TORRINGTON – On Thursday, April 18, at 7 p.m. the Goshen County School District held a special board meeting and work session in the board room at the central administration building. In attendance, were Michael Sussex, chairman, Sarah Chaires, vice chair, Chris Alexander, clerk, and board members Lena Moeller, Matthew Cushman, Dylan Hager, and Wade Phipps. Board treasurer Carol Saucedo appeared via Zoom. Justin Hurley was absent.

Board chairman, Michael Sussex, called the meeting to order promptly at 7 p.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance. 

The board quickly moved to item c, approval of the agenda, which passed. 

Next, the board heard from local citizen Tom Massey gave a history lesson on gag orders.

“I am going to start with a little bit of a history lesson,” Massey began. “It seems appropriate for an educational forum.” 

Massey went on to explain the gag order which was issued to abolish slavery and the works of former president John Quincy Adams.

“The point is, they gagged him,” Massey explained. “There are people who may not be in the mainstream as far as this organization goes. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. You know who I am speaking of,” Massey continued thanking the board.

Dave Cronk of Goshen Diesel spoke to the board on the school bus route near his business. 

“Lincoln Elementary is my neighbor to the north of my business, Goshen Diesel Service,” Cronk said. “I am concerned about the bus route. If you go east of main street, there is one dirt street that goes north and south. That’s on the west side of the truck stop and that has been the bus route.” 

Cronk went on to express there were three alternate routes, which were paved streets, and the buses could be rerouted to use instead. 

After the public forum was complete, the board made a motion to enter an executive session to discuss performance issues pertaining to an employee, public officer, or professional person, item e on the agenda. The board entered executive session at 7:04 p.m. which concluded around 8:15 p.m. 

After a short break, the board moved on to item f of the special agenda, censure of a board member at 8:19 p.m.

Sussex asked for a brief definition of the word “censure,” which was provided by board member Moeller.

“Mr. Sussex, the definition for the public’s awareness is, to express severe disapproval of someone or something, especially in a formal statement,” Moeller explained.

Following the definition, Sussex asked for a motion to be made on the item which was made by Moeller.

“Mr. chair I move to censure Mr. Alexander for violations of the board governance specifically provisions 1.5 and the subparts 1.1, 1.4, just to name a few,” Moeller said. 

The motion was seconded by Chaires and Sussex asked if any board members had items pertaining to the motion to discuss. 

“Mr. chair, if I may,” Moeller began. “I made this motion not in an effort to silence Mr. Alexander. That is not the purpose by any means and that’s not the definition by which this motion is made. We can all sit up here and disagree on subjects. That’s the point of being on the board. My vote has to do more with the manner in which information was used. It is a direct violation of our board governance to encourage poor speak and talk about the district, of our superintendent. The only real victim, in my personal opinion of what has occurred, is Mr. Kramer. It was unfair to release a one-sided story which is what it ended up being. It is so incredibly important that we, as board members hold each other accountable and unfortunately under our board governance this is one of the very few recourses that we have available,” Moeller continued. “So, it is with a heavy heart that I made this motion, that I truly believe that it is important for this community, for our school, our staff, our teachers, our students, that we hold each other accountable and that this behavior not be encouraged and that interactions will only encourage mutual respect and trust. I am hopeful we can improve that moving forward.”

“Yeah, I just like to kind of second what Lena said. It is hard serving on this board, and we are very limited on how we can have conversations with the public and amongst ourselves. This is just one way we do have to hold each other accountable just like we have to hold the superintendent accountable, that is our only job,” Hager said. “I wish that there was an easier way but there’s not. That’s what my vote, again, is based on is for breach of our board of trustees’ governance policy that we all agreed to when we agreed to serve as a board of trustee." 

“I really struggled with this issue and I just want to make it clear, I am not voting to silence anyone, to gag anyone, now nor would I ever,” Chaires said. “However, according to our board governance, there were issues that came up. There were things that were broken, and I think that was disrespectful to our district and our board and I have to go along with that.”

“I guess I just want to say that I’m going vote not to censure Chris. I believe that that’s not a can of worms I really want to open right away. Not a way I want to go, I don’t want to start doing that to board members. I just feel like this is just basically another form of a public shaming and he already pretty well got that last meeting I just think what’s done is done. It’s over. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing, but I think that this is just a slope I don’t care to take,” Cushmand said.

At the conclusion of the discussion, Sussex then called for a roll-call vote. 

After hearing the motion read again, Saucedo, Moeller, Hager and Chaires voted in favor of the motion to censure Alexander. Phipps, Sussex, Cushman and Alexander voted against the censure. 

Chairman Sussex announced the motion to censure Alexander had failed on a 4:4 tie.

“Mr. chairman, I believe there is a direct conflict of interest in having Mr. Alexander vote on his own censuring, is that not correct?” Moeller asked Sussex. 

Sussex and the trustees took a five-minute recess to review the governing policies. 

“Based on new information, I will let trustee Alexander speak as to his vote,” Sussex said. 

“After speaking with the attorney, I will abstain from the vote,” Alexander said.

“So based on our voting, the motion still fails,” Sussex said. “We do not have the majority in support of it so motion fails.”

The board then considered the approval of offering a teaching contract for the 2024-2025 school year where the board considered offering Jade Reinhardt a contract as a half-time social studies teacher at Southeast Jr. Sr. High School, pending Wyoming certification. The motion passed. 

During the work session, the preliminary 2024-2025 fiscal year budget was reviewed and after a brief discussion, the special meeting was adjourned a little after 9 p.m.