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Wrap-up, preview: Campbell school board meets tonight

Here's a preview of tonight's meeting and a post-view of the latest meeting.

Campbell County School District Treasurer Dr. Joseph Lawrence addresses Trustee Dr. Tim Hallinan in the Aug. 22 dinner meeting regarding trust between board members and administration. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — The Campbell County School District’s board’s next meeting is this evening.

The board’s dinner meeting, at 5 p.m., will take place in the Rocky Point Room at the Educational Services Center, 1000 W. 8th St., Gillette. Discussions, which are open to the public, tend to begin at 5:30 p.m. The board will discuss student expulsions at that meeting.

The board’s last dinner meeting, held Aug. 22, included discussion of board members’ communication procedures. Superintendent Alex Ayers reviewed the Wyoming School Boards Association’s June 13 training on teamwork, communication and chain of command.

The discussion followed a Facebook post that board trustee Dr. Tim Hallinan made earlier that day.


Trustee Rollo Williams said that board members have to be more guarded in their speech compared with members of the public.

“After you become a board member, then you have to be very, very careful about what you hear out in the community from teachers, staff, anybody, how you handle that information,” he said. “We’re in this position for our children, for all the kids in Campbell County. And we need to remember that if it doesn’t benefit our kids, then I think we have to question whether or not it’s something that’s of any value.”

Board Treasurer Dr. Joseph Lawrence said that the board needs to be a team.

“So when we talk about things, if we’re doing it here, we’re doing it out there, if you have an opinion — and the rest of the board will wait to hear your opinion — and if you can convince four other members of the board to go with your opinion, then we vote on it, then we should all support that,” he said, “but until that time, we need to support each other; we should not go out on social media and attack each other. That is a big, big grievous error that I think we should not do. Do not attack people on social media.”

Campbell County School District board members and administrators discuss board communications. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Lawrence said the board trusts district administrators and that the board voted to hire Ayers because they trust him.

Ayers has been superintendent since 2018. Hallinan was elected to the board in 2022 and began his term this year.

Williams, who was elected at the same time as Hallinan, said he believes the administrators listen to the board.

Vice-chair Lisa Durgin, who’s been on the board since 2013, said Campbell County is lucky to have these administrators. Other districts in the country are less transparent.

The Campbell County school board’s protocols include asking board members to contact the board chairman, Anne Ochs, by 10 a.m. the Monday before the meeting with any questions or concerns regarding agenda items. Board members are also asked to submit any requests from district staff through the board chairman, who contacts Ayers to coordinate gathering the information.

Superintendent Alex Ayers discusses the board’s training and role. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Ayers said that he would like board members to make any significant communication requests through him because some requests could take several hours to address. If a board member asks a significant question that yields more information that other board members could be interested in, he would send the whole board an email.

Hallinan said that he had asked Associate Superintendent for Instructional Support David Bartlett for two phone numbers regarding a contract for sewer work at Campbell County High School.

The lining of the sewer main for 700 feet, a project that was awarded to Clearwater Contracting for about $245,763, was an urgent fix to buy time before the state pays for a remodel that would take a few years and cost $6.5 million, according to staff and board members.

While the WSBA recommends the protocols, the voters, not the association, decide who they want to represent them, Hallinan said. He wanted the number for the contractor on a plumbing project.

“This is the democratic way that the board should operate, in my opinion. We employ the superintendent but we don’t employ anyone else here. How do we evaluate him if we don’t examine his work product on major issues? I think that’s a very important issue. The board members do not bother the staff by asking them questions,” he said.

Ochs said that Bartlett’s email regarding the project, which was finished before the first day of school, was comprehensive.

Hallinan said he did not believe Bartlett provided enough information and he had more questions.

Ochs said that board members, per the training, are not to do their own investigations.

“I’m sorry that you didn’t speak up then to discuss those concerns when we were all here for that afternoon,” she said.

She said that the board has provided Hallinan with information every time he asked for it and it’s not her job to help him with an investigation that the board decides members should not pursue. District administrators are supposed to provide the board with information and hire good people and not micromanage them by nitpicking every decision. The board’s role is to listen to the administrators and make decisions. The board evaluates the work product and thereby the people behind the work product.

“If [the administrators] don’t come through on something, it’s our job to work with them to do it better next time,” she said.

Hallinan said he asked Ayers when Campbell County High School’s problem with plumbing began.

Ayers said at the meeting that he did not have an exact answer and that it was a significant problem in the last year, as the school had partial bathroom shutdowns at least 15 times. Ayers had understood that if Hallinan had questions beyond what Bartlett’s email would provide, Hallinan would reach out to Ochs and that district staff would be happy to do their role of getting more information from Clearwater.

Hallinan said he anticipates other district issues will come up that he will want more information about.

Lawrence said that if board members are each conducting investigations of contractors, contractors will not want to work for the district. Board members may not trust other board members.

Lawrence asked Hallinan if administrators should supply every board member with the phone numbers of every contractor, at which point Hallinan told Lawrence to shut up and let him speak and stated that he did not ask for administrators to provide each subcontractor’s number.

The board agreed that the policy committee, which Hallinan and board member Meldene Goehring are part of, could help create potential policies for the board. The rest of the board will provide input and ultimately vote on the policy.

The policy committee board was scheduled to have a meeting Sept. 11. County 17 will follow up.

At the regular meeting, Bartlett asked the board to use Wyoming’s Chapter 3, Section 8, to push for funding to address plumbing issues at Campbell County High School and major maintenance at the Transportation Department, as the conditions prevent the school and the department from functioning as necessary, preliminary board minutes said. The board, apart from Hallinan, approved the motion unanimously. Hallinan did not vote.

The board will have a self-evaluation in spring 2024.

Regular board meeting

The regular meeting in the board room begins at 6 p.m.

Campbell County School District staff will ask the board to approve these hires, terminations and transfers.