Sparks erupt at Ontario School Board meeting

Lybee Bell, an Ontario High School alum, was one of eight people who gave public testimony at the July 22 school board meeting. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

ONTARIO – Ontario residents showed up in force Monday night at the Ontario School Board’s regular meeting.

A standing-room only crowd listened to eight area people testify to the board about a range of issues regarding the district. Occasional outbursts from the crowd during public comments punctuated the meeting.

Residents expressed most of the same concerns outlined at a previous school board meeting about the need for a survey to determine why the school building bond failed, lack of communication between the district and its patrons, teacher resignations and a residency requirement for district educators.

Residents Megan and Brad Cook, high school teacher Ryan Roulston along with elementary school teacher Cindi Cox-Turner, Dirk DeBoer, Jennie Woodruff, Lybee Bell and Denise Woodruff Bauer addressed the board in an unusually well-attended board meeting.

However, some didn’t get a chance to deliver all of their remarks. That’s because board member Mike Blackaby, who was elected chair at the session, stipulated testimony could not include personal attacks on district employees. Blackaby stopped Jenny Woodruff when she asserted the school district administration was not “listening to the community.”

His action drew cries from the crowd of “why are you stopping her?”

Board member Eric Evans then asked that Woodruff sit down which drew an outburst of “shame on you!” from the crowd.

As Lybee Bell, a recent Ontario High School graduate, spoke before was also stopped by Blackaby.

“Are you kidding me?” a member of the audience shouted.

Blackaby also cut short Denise Bauer’s testimony as she began to talk about a shift in perception in the district four years ago.

“There has been a drastic change,” Bauer said and then Blackaby stopped her testimony.

 “I do want to listen to the public. But the testimony and comments must be received by our policy,” Blackaby told the crowd.

Blackaby said he was in favor of a survey, but it needed to be part of a broader blueprint.

“Then make a plan,” Megan Cook said from the audience.

“I am asking the public to be respectful and not yell out,” Blackaby replied.

Earlier Cook testified that a survey was crucial.

“There is still that issue: Why can’t we pass a bond? What would it hurt to look into this?” said Brown.

Roulston told the board that a survey “would be in the best interest of Ontario.”

Cox-Turner urged everyone to “be respectful” in her testimony.

Cox-Turner also touched on the residency requirement.

“I don’t think it is anyone’s business where I live,” said Cox-Turner.

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