The Inyo Register re-lit the fire in its May 16 front page article, continuing its allegations that County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry McAteer misused County funds and equipment. As a result, the press outnumbered the public two-to-one at Tuesday’s Inyo County Office of Education (ICOE) Board meeting at Cerro Coso Community College, which is to say there were six reporters and three members of the public present.
During Public Comments, local Bishop Resident Greg Colbert, accompanied by his wife Becky, addressed the Board with a prepared statement. Colbert said that signed letters have been sent to the Board since March 19th asking for a meeting in “which the Board would answer questions which have been raised regarding budgetary and discretionary spending and any misuse of ICOE funds.”
Colbert went on to posit that, because some of the Board members have spoken to members of the public who signed these letters, “Perhaps those inquiries were meant to intimidate and harass, since no meeting has materialized.”
The accusation drew no response from the Board members and there have been no claims publicly from those letter signers contacted by Board members that they were intimidated.
Cobert went on to say, “We as taxpayers and community members are entitled to answers to those questions and many more questions that we have. It is not satisfactory for the ICOE or the School Board to simply state that you do not trust the Register and therefore you won’t answer questions which have been posed or that the documents were provided in August 2014.”
Claiming that it is the news agency’s job to “be the watchdog of our community,” Colbert asserted that the Board has a responsibility to respond to The Inyo Register’s questions. He asked that the Board set up a public meeting “at a time and place which gives the public the ability to attend and with the Board having present any personnel of the District necessary to answer questions which the Board or Dr. McAteer are unable to answer.”
When asked about the next meeting, Board President Chris Langley replied it would be held on June 16. When Colbert asked whether the item could be agendized, Langley replied “Okay.” That “okay” proved to not be a “yes.” As Langley later explained, “The questions being asked regarding budget issues will largely be answered at the next month’s Board meeting on the budget. We have asked Dr. McAteer to provide greater detail on the budget items.”
The only other member of the public on hand was Darrel Erickson of Chalfant Valley. He told the Board, “I have been a resident of the County for 40 years. My son has gone to Bishop High School and was an honor student.” He explained that he was at the meeting because, “I just want to find out what is going on.”
The ICOE Board went on to conduct a public hearing on the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which McAteer explained only deals with Jill Kinmont Boothe School, a County community school which provides a specialized education program to students who are referred to an alternative educational setting.
ICOE more than meets the State’s requirement on LCAP, McAteer told the Board, noting that “We put more than required, almost double what we get from the State, to be able to provide counseling for them and academic services. We have seven students now. Starting next year with only three. We dedicate almost twice the amount of funds that is provided to us by the State.”
McAteer also showed the Board members samples of “water kits” being provided to 1,300 K-4 students to promote water conservation by being “water detectives.” A facilitator is being sent to each school as the water kits are handed out to help students understand the importance of water in their lives and how to use it wisely.
Under Kerry Lozito, packets and software are also being provided to grades 5-12. The cost of the program is $9,000 and ICOE staff put all of the kits and packets together themselves.
After a closed session to discuss a personnel issue, the Board members headed over to the ICOE Community Star Award Ceremony and reception being hosted at Cerro Coso Community College. The awards honored nine individuals and groups that are committed to improving education. A $400 donation will be made in their name to Cerro Coso Community College to fund the tuition and books for a local Inyo County Cerro Coso Community student for an entire year.