With one swift vote, the last remaining staff member of the former high school administration was gone Monday night.
Payson High School athletic department secretary Stephanie Shields was the last to go in a string of terminations stretching back to April when former principal Roy Sandoval along with assistant principals Tim Fruth and Jason Lobik lost their jobs.
However, unlike when Fruth and Sandoval were let go, with a slew of family, friends and community supporters flooding the Payson Unified School District meeting, chiding the board for their decisions, only a few people spoke out against Shields’ termination.
Shields herself was not present and afterward PHS Principal Kathe Ketchem said she stood behind the decision and was happy with the direction the school is going.
Gary Morris was one of the few people who stood and addressed the board before it voted.
“I am a bit concerned about the latest terminations,” he said. “It seems crazy that the whole administration team has now gone to the wayside.”
Morris added he was concerned to see that Cheryl Woodall, the wife of new PHS wrestling coach Casey Woodall, would take over Shields’ position.
“It seems like favoritism,” he said, a poor way to run an organization.
Overall, the PUSD laid off 18 people at the end of the last school year to help ease a $1.2 million deficit.
Most of the terminations were given without notice or cause, a right of the school district. Shields said she was given no prior notice and was blindsided by the termination.
On her Facebook page, Shields said she loved her job, but had been discouraged by the recent layoffs.
“The things that I have seen in the past four months are against all that I believe in, and it has been a struggle to stay afloat amidst the ugliness and negativity. They let my previous bosses Roy and Tim go after 26 years and 29 years of service in the same district!
“These men raised their families here and were loyal, dedicated servants for most of their lives, and they didn’t bat an eyelash at letting them go. We all signed contracts that said “at will,” I guess it means they can let you go without reason, at any time, and that is how they are operating.”
After the meeting Monday night, the Roundup asked Ketchem if she was concerned with the negative comments expressed.
“No, because there were not a lot,” she said. “I am getting a lot of positive feedback from the staff and community.
Ketchem added changes are always met with some opposition.
Since taking over the high school this year, Ketchem and new Vice Principal Anna Van Zile have instituted a series of changes aimed at improving campus security, student discipline and staff relations, they said.
New safety policies include:
• An electronic pass system monitors and tracks students, allowing staff to know where students are at all times.
• All campus gates are locked at 8:30 a.m. with the exception of the west entrance at the administration office.
• Sophomores through seniors may leave campus for lunch, but must show their student ID card to leave and re-enter campus.
• Students can only park in the west or north parking lots and staff must park in the dome lot.
• Volunteers are helping with parking lot safety checks.
“Knowing who is on the campus at all times and creating a safe environment required some changes as there are many entrances and exits to the campus,” Ketchem said.
In addition, Van Zile and Ketchem are supervising Saturday school, a new discipline consequence.
“This, of course, requires parent communication and support which has been very effective,” she said.
“Dress code standards have not changed, but collaborative consistent accountability is in place. As a staff, in staff meetings and individual teams, review of acceptable standards continues to be addressed. We know consistency and support is critical to helping students understand the expectations.”
Ketchem said she is also meeting regularly with all staff members.
“We are a professional team always looking to improve, even though change can be an uncomfortable process for some,” she said.