Controversy about actions of the new superintendent and plunging enrollment as a result will dominate this week’s meeting of the Tonto Basin School Board.
The board will head straight into executive session Tuesday night to discuss the superintendent before going into its regularly scheduled meeting.
Superintendent and principal Mary Lou Weatherly has come under fire recently from a group of concerned parents and residents about decisions she has made since joining the small, rural school several years ago.
Parent Brandy Cline said she is so upset with the school administration that she pulled her four children from the school recently, enrolling them in Payson Unified School District. A number of other parents followed suit.
Weatherly did not return a request for comment from the Roundup as of press time. It is unknown if the school board is discussing Weatherly as a response to parent concerns since the content of executive sessions are confidential, but her contract is coming up for renewal.
The school board meeting, held in the Tonto Basin School cafeteria, starts at 3 p.m., but the board is not expected to adjourn from executive session until 4:30 p.m., according to the agenda.
Parents Cline, Katy Taylor and Shayla Rose told the Roundup that pulling their children from the school was an extremely difficult decision, since many of them attended the school themselves. While they have long supported the school, they no longer feel the school is a safe, productive learning environment for their children.
The women said hostility permeates the school.
“It is an uncomfortable, awkward feeling, when you walk into that school and you can just look around and see the faces of an unhappy staff and unhappy kids,” Taylor wrote in a letter to the three-member school board. “Everyone is on pins and needles every moment that she is around they are afraid of their jobs and if they are going to have a job the next day.”
Cline agreed, saying although she was optimistic when Weatherly joined the school district, and was even impressed with the way she handled a bullying situation involving her son, things have since gone down hill.
“Since that time, she has proven that she is not a good fit for our school,” she wrote to the school board. “I have witnessed firsthand how the staff has completely divided and how many are intimidated by her. I have also witnessed very inconsistent punishment for teachers who have had to be disciplined.”
Taylor said she thinks Weatherly’s approach to improving academics has created tension and stress.
“The environment at the school is not an environment of learning,” Cline wrote. “My children never come home and tell me what they learned or even if they had a great day, especially my two older children. They complain about not being able to do anything on the playground, the attitude of some teachers, the fact that they no longer have any of the rewards that they used to receive before Mrs. Weatherly.”