School board member Richard Meyer resigned over the weekend, one-and-a-half years into a four-year term, for “family reasons,” after he accomplished his top goal: firing the former high school administration.
In an exit interview this week, Meyer also said the board has more power than members realize, despite “propaganda” convincing them otherwise. And, he hopes to see the community at-large learn about the six pillars of character, like fairness and respect, espoused by the district so that students can continue to learn after school hours.
Meyer didn’t run specifically to fire former Payson High School Principal Roy Sandoval, he said, although Sandoval was a “poor leader.” Meyer taught at the high school from 2001 to 2007, and at one point worked on a leadership committee until Sandoval removed him.
Sandoval said that Meyer talked so much he impeded progress.
“I think this whole thing does bring to light the fact that there was this conspiracy, if you will, and it was political,” said Sandoval.
Meyer said he had no ax to grind. “I can’t have a vendetta. I wasn’t hurt.” He said the vision and leadership abilities of Sandoval’s administration “didn’t meet my standards.”
“The students were not receiving the education they needed as a result of the decisions that were being made by the administration,” said Meyer.
After denouncing Sandoval, Meyer asked the Roundup to refrain from printing his comment. “It doesn’t do the Roundup any good to create disharmony in the community,” said Meyer.
Newspaper reporters traditionally allow a source to say something off the record if the source prefaces the comment by saying, ‘This is off the record.’ However, Meyer knew a reporter was asking him a question for the purpose of publication.
Sandoval, reached Thursday in Whiteriver where he now works as a principal, said, “I feel bad for all the people that voted for him thinking he wanted to improve the schools.”
Former Assistant Principal Tim Fruth, who also works in Whiteriver, said Meyer’s resignation proves the layoffs were politically motivated.
“It think it’s pathetic,” said Fruth. “It shows a true lack of quality leadership in the school system.” The board chose not to renew Fruth’s contract, and then changed the name of his position to fill it with someone else.
During Monday night’s board meeting, the remaining members could agree on a person to recommend to the county schools office for Meyer’s replacement.
County Superintendent of Schools Linda O’Dell said that she would likely wait until after November’s election to advertise the vacancy. Typically after the advertisement, people have a few weeks to submit a resume and letter of interest to the county schools office.
O’Dell will then form a committee of community members and people from her office to pick a replacement.
In November, three people will run for two open seats on the school board. Member Rory Huff is running again, but member Viki Holmes is not. O’Dell said she will not automatically appoint the losing candidate to the board.
Looking back, Meyer said his biggest accomplishment was playing devil’s advocate — “making people think. I’ll play both sides of an issue just to make sure everybody’s thought things through.”
On a relatively quiet board, Meyer spoke frequently and sometimes passionately, especially about topics like banning sweets in the school and holding teachers to high levels of accountability. He asked many questions, and sometimes exasperated fellow board members.
Meyer said he enjoyed his time working with the board. “In fact, they probably didn’t even need me on the board as it turns out. I think the board that was in place was going to take the proper action whether I was there or not.”
Meyer added that, “as an individual, you don’t accomplish anything on the school board,” because five people vote to make the decisions.
Reflecting on his time as a member, Meyer said the board doesn’t exercise all the power it has. “I think some of it is propaganda,” he said. The Arizona School Board Association advises the board on what types of decisions members can make.
However, Meyer said the association’s charter aims to keep boards out of legal trouble instead of helping members enact good policy. The school board could make more decisions regarding curriculum, for example.
“I think we can create a bigger learning environment,” said Meyer, referencing the community-at-large.
“Kids only spend a few hours in the classroom compared to what they spend in the rest of the community.”
The community should learn to respect the environment, and to avoid lying and circumventing the rules.
Controlling the community is impossible, Meyer acknowledged. “But you can educate it.” He proposed devoting an entire section of the newspaper, just as athletics has its own section, for teaching people good citizenship.
“That’s how the students are going to be better students,” said Meyer.
“When everybody in the community is trying to help the student be a better student.”