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More issues raised as former Kingsland board member speaks out

Fri, Jan 31st, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

Al Williams lives in the Kingsland district, he was on the Wykoff school board during the consolidation with Kingsland and he has also been on the Kingsland school board. Williams coaches youth sports for Kingsland and has for many years. He served eight years on the Wykoff school board and four on the Kingsland board. He opted to not run for re-election and many district members believe that if he had, the current debate in the district between community members and school board members would not even be occurring.

Mr. Williams sat down and addressed many questions posed by the Kingsland school district community members. He offered his insight and opinions as a former school board member in hopes to help the district understand how and why the current decisions are being made.

Question: What do you feel is important for community members of the Kingsland school district to understand about the decision process to move to one site?

Al Williams: The way I understand it, most of the public does not understand how the board makes these decisions based on committees. The committees are made up of two board members and then, in my opinion, others handpicked by the superintendent to come out with a recommendation that he would want to send to the board of education. There are no rules or guidelines that he needs to follow for committee members. He can choose whoever he wants, whether they are tax payers or not. In my opinion and based on my experience from being on the Kingsland school board, he picks employees who don’t feel comfortable saying anything because they want to keep their job. There is a conflict of interest; the reason, I feel, board members vote yes when a lot of times they don’t really know what’s going on is because there are two board members who are part of that committee and you think that their thought was the way it should be. At the beginning of the year, board members volunteer for committees (like the finance committee, athletic committee) but the committee for this issue here [going to one site and closing the middle school], board members were probably asked if they wanted to be on it because it isn’t a standard committee that you have every year. I was told that when this particular committee met, they were told by Mr. McDonald [Kingsland’s superintendent] they were not there to decide on the closure of the Wykoff middle school site and that had already been decided by the board; they were instructed to decide which program (referendum options that included one site) they wanted to recommend. The few I have talked to claimed they never voted and they were on the committee to speak up about it but they were not allowed. And that’s the way it is, you’re not allowed to speak up. This is part of the reason why I opted to not run again for a school board seat, I feel that is not the way things should be done and I don’t feel it is fair or right for district member’s opinions to be represented that way.

Question: How do your experiences with the Kingsland board of education relate to what is happening now?

Al Williams: I was on the board when we hired Mr. McDonald. I felt we made a good choice at that time; there was good communication right away between him and staff. Now there is not, communication is a problem. Teachers and staff are no longer asked their opinions, they are told they will do what he asks or they will be gone; coincidentally that is who Mr. McDonald appointed to the committee that made recommendations to the board about this issue. I was also part of the educational process when I was on the board and Kingsland has done good things. We passed an educational costs referendum to better the educational opportunities for our students based on Mr. McDonald’s recommendations. I was also part of the one hundred people who came together to discuss the goals of the district. What Mr. McDonald did not mention in his interview is that the district hired someone to come in and manage the focus group. Every table I sat at had a recurring theme among community members. Communication. Yet, that’s not even in the goals for the district. Someone was hired to come in and tell us what the goals were, not for us to tell them. The goals were made as Mr. McDonald wanted them, not necessarily what the community members present asked for. The superintendent wants to claim educational advancement for the closure of the middle school. It’s not; it’s structural. We passed a referendum for money to be used for education. If that money has run out before it was supposed to, then we need to look at how administration has mismanaged it and start cutting administration costs because they aren’t doing their job.

Question: As a recent board member, a coach in the district and a community member living in the district can you share some insight on how Kingsland should proceed in education and/or sites?

Al Williams: I believe we will lose students if we close the middle school site in Wykoff; that will cost us up to $5000 or so per student per year for the lifetime of that student’s education in Kingsland. Plus, St. John’s will lose educational opportunities with Kingsland. And remember, those students are a part of Kingsland’s future; St. John’s students become Kingsland students. Currently they have 37 students, if the Wykoff location is gone I believe they will look for other partnering opportunities with other schools. On top of that, Kingsland school district is still responsible for bussing students with a Spring Valley address to St. John’s. I was also on the Kingsland school board when we passed the last building referendum where we said, “if you build it, they will come.” But very few came, even with all the publicity we got in newspapers. I was also a part of voting for better learning opportunities for our students. I don’t believe that things like the removal of library books to make more room was a very a good decision to help achieve the best 21st century learning opportunity for Kingsland students. There is plenty of space available at the middle school for new students that could or will come here. Simply moving 7th and 8th grade back to where they should be, in the middle school, would solve almost every problem the superintendent says we have. In the past few years we have spent hard earned tax dollars to update the lower locker rooms at the high school and now Mr. McDonald talks about transforming them to make a space there for education; these locker rooms were just updated and now it seems he just wants to throw that money away. There is no reason in God’s green earth we need a sports arena or field house. We don’t have enough athletes to fill the programs we have; we already share with Grand Meadow and LeRoy-Ostrander for some sports to have a full team. We have practice at 6am now for some athletes, what will happen when we close two gyms in the middle school? Let’s pay off the present referendums we have and manage our space the right way.

Question: Why do you feel Kingsland would lose students if things progress to a one site location and the middle school in Wykoff closes?

Al Williams: I have the opportunity to see a Fillmore Central and a Chatfield bus come here every day to pick up students. If Mr. McDonald gets his way with this, I believe a lot more students will be getting on those busses. The community of Fillmore is in the Kingsland district, most of those kids already open enroll to neighboring districts and I think that number will grow. There are so many things these committees didn’t think about or the board didn’t think about, or maybe they did but weren’t allowed to say it. For instance, when are these kids going to eat? Look at the scheduling for breakfast and lunch at the Spring Valley site right now. On the schedule is says breakfast is 8am-10am and lunch is from 11am-1pm, but many people tell me kids start eating lunch as early as 10:30am and the times overlap. If your student is in after school activities, are you comfortable knowing the last time they ate is 10:30am until they get home at 5:30pm or 6 o’clock? We already have an issue, this will just add to it. Sports practices are at 6am or 6pm or later right now, what will happen when we lose two gyms? Shouldn’t the families of this district be taken into consideration when making these decisions? They are the ones who have to schedule their family time around it; they are the ones that have to pay the taxes; not the superintendent or most of the committee members. Socially and from an educational aspect, kids do better when they are in their own social and educational age groups. It seems, in my opinion, the board didn’t even consider any of these ramifications. I could go on and on about these things; there are so many things wrong with this scenario. If students and frustrated families feel they have a better opportunity and won’t have to deal with these things elsewhere, they will go. Some already go now. This is not something that a committee or a board or a superintendent should decide without input from the district. This decision will affect the district forever. Mr. McDonald said he had never worked with a board that has ever made a ‘lifetime’ decision but that is exactly what he is trying to do now. And there is cost associated with closing a site and selling it too. I was on the board when we went to sell the elementary school in Spring Valley. It cost the district tax payers $100,000 to remove the asbestos in that building after it was closed and the elementary school was moved. If, and I don’t even know if it is true, Mr. McDonald is correct about the Wykoff new gym floor, either way the district tax payers have to pay for it. Whether it is closed or remains open. At least if it’s open, I believe you can put a floor on top of it and raise the hoops. If you close the location, you have no choice, you have to remove it.

Question: In your opinion, then, do you feel Kingsland should close the middle school in Wykoff and move to one site in Spring Valley?

Al Williams: What tax payers need to realize is they recently funded repairs to the Wykoff school, not a lot because it didn’t need a lot but it’s still their money that made those repairs and now this could decision would be wasting all that money. In my opinion, Kingsland should move the 7th and 8th grade back down to the middle school. There is room for it, it’s better for the kids and they would actually cut costs because they wouldn’t be bussing kids back and forth for activities after school. The 7th and 8th grade still use the middle school for their activities. No matter if it is a classroom is in Spring Valley or in Wykoff, you still need to update it. It doesn’t matter where it is, there is always going to be a cost associated with it. It has nothing to do with education, the closure; it has nothing to do with it at all. Kingsland is improving educationally now and has been and they do it with two sites. So many of the problems they have right now would be solved if they managed the space they have the right way. We have the space. We don’t need to tear out locker rooms at the high school that we just updated with tax payer money and make more room, we have room and like I said one site or two; classrooms are going to need updates. We don’t need to take books out of our library space to make more room; this is not going to help any child educationally. I also feel the district community should know that we have problems in the new addition, the elementary school. We have sagging floors, heaving floors, some walls separating; many problems. This engineering company they brought in is the same guy that worked on that addition and now we want to look at what they can do again? Why are we already wasting thousands of dollars with them to make decisions that shouldn’t be made and don’t have to be made. Those things will have to be fixed eventually and then we will have to look at more tax payer money, if tax payers knew that would they think it was ok to spend all this money right now? The board needs to tell the community the whole story and they haven’t.

Question: As a former board member, how could you advise district members to proceed?

Al Williams: They need to reach out to the board members. Whether they agree with their decision or they do not agree with their decision, they need to reach out and let their board members know. Call them up, email them and have the discussion and share their opinions with them. If enough people are against this decision, which is my understanding, it can be overturned by a vote from the board. Anything can be undone with a motion. Remember Mr. McDonald said a decision is not a lifetime, right? And it’s not; it can be thrown out or overturned. But if they wait and they don’t act now, they won’t have a choice. The site will close. Although I opted to not be on the Kingsland school board anymore, I do understand how it works and I do know what steps district members can take. Any one of them is welcomed to call me any time if they have questions and I will do my best to help them with the experience and knowledge I have.


Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.


2:04:31, Feb 1st 2014

valleygirl says:
This commentary makes me furious that it has been published.

I am going to say that I have known Al Williams as a coach and found him to be a fair man- but I just lost a lot of respect for him, the reporter who wrote yet another article about one side of an issue going on in the Kingsland district, and mostly for the Journal itself. At least the last article had some facts and figures that were beneficial. This is just trash. It is a lot of heresay (one person passing along their version of something they were told by another, yet didn't witness personally - specifically the response to the first question) and biased opinion on behalf of both Mr, Williams and the reporter. They both want the school to remain open in Wykoff. Guess what - so do I, but trashing the super intendent and board decisions with out knowing AND reporting the whole story is NOT the way to go about it.
I will also point out that neither Mr. Williams or the reporter were at the last board meeting or the recent study and discussion session. If they had been many of the questions could have different answers. For example "We have practice at 6am now for some athletes, what will happen when we close two gyms in the middle school?" Well... if you had been at the last study and discussion session you would know the field house actually houses three practice gyms or 1competition gym..... current gyms wykoff and SV 3 (4 with cafe). Gyms if referendum passes 4 (5 with cafe) as the current SV gym would still remain a gym.
The only thing I can agree on is that you should get involved. Talk to your board ( I would suggest going to an informational meeting and listening first, but... whatever.) I don't care which way you vote - I see some benefits to each side. I graduated from Kingsland and some of my very good friends were from Wykoff. I don't think the communities of Spring Valley or Wykoff really want to loose our partnership, but these articles have to stop. All they are doing is making people more angry and divided..... Not to mention much of the information is WRONG. If you read the last article about the withholding of documents I think you begin to see this seems more like a personal vandetta. One I am done with. Either the Journal starts printing both sides - Not even sides, but all the information or I am going to start telling businesses where I spend my money I am pulling my business if they keep advertising in the Journal. Hate to do it, but I'm not afraid to take a stand either!


9:38:40, Feb 2nd 2014

MNKelly says:
Thank you Al for giving your perspective based on your personal experience as a school board member. You have a lot of respect in our communities. I'm sure more will appreciate your answers than will try to discredit you.


2:54:19, Feb 2nd 2014

journalreader says:
valley, you look a little silly flipping out. This is a commentary which is an opinion article. Commentaries are public opinion so what you are saying is kinds of silly. It is supposed to be what someone thinks or their opinion. Plus the reporter wrote an article interview about the other side of this kingsland thing so again you sound kind of silly. Its the journals job to do both and they have they did one aricle about a concerned person who didn't like the idea and one about someone from the school who wanted it. This is jsut a commentary interview with someone you can't fault somone asking questions and someone answering that's just silly but its ok if you don't agree with the answers. thats why it is in the commentary section. al williams was also at the last board meeting so you aren't honest about that. committee meeting I don't know. As for the reporter she is reporting that doesn't mean she is against or for anything. I never got that it never said she personally was for it or not in any articles. why are you being so mean and defensive? and why do you think the information was wrong? because the kingsland super tried to say so? He couldn't prove it wrong if you would have read the whole thing in commentary last week he just wanted it worded different. If you look at the tribune comments the owner of that paper even had to state a correction because his own paper reported the same information and he was trying to side with the super and say it was wrong but it wasnt lol Kingsland is a good place and the last thing any small communities need is someone threatening their businesses because they don't agree with someone's opinion in a commentary. Grow up.


3:35:42, Feb 4th 2014

valleygirl says:
@journalreader- A couple of things. 1st, I have to apologize. I was wrong about Al being at the last board meeting on the 22nd. Although I didn’t personally see him there, somewhere in my memory I do remember someone addressing him at the meeting. I am pretty sure he was there. It is not my intention to misinform anyone.
2nd- While you may think I sound silly commenting on this “opinion” piece, I would much rather sound silly than stand by while someone’s “opinion” publicly degrades someone else. Even if this is only opinion, there are people out there who will take this “opinion” as the gospel truth. Mr. McDonald was basically portrayed as a bully, and I would hate to think one person’s “opinion” might affect his job. That would indeed be silly.
Lastly, I was definitely too harsh in my opinion about the reporter. I do not know how she feels about the issue, but I do see a pattern. I think you might be forgetting about an Article from December 20th in which this same reporter interviewed Lynn Kidd. That article was once again about why the Wykoff school should stay open. That is two article/opinions (I’m not going to mince words with you) written by this reporter about why the Wykoff school should not be closed & one article/opinion written by the editor of the paper about a violation of open meeting law. All of which equal a lot of negativity towards any proposed referendum, the school board, and especially Mr. McDonald. In comparison to the one article/opinion written by the same reporter about why a single site school would be beneficial; an article that still makes a single site school sound negative… IN MY OPINION. The worst part is that after stirring up all of this drama the Journal didn’t even attend the committee meeting held last week. A meeting that if they had attended, would have given so much more information to the community. That is the reason they are not reporting fairly. That is the reason I am instituting my personal Journal boycott…. Which guess what? I also have the right to do!


7:38:32, Feb 5th 2014

OverIt says:
What is really pathetic is that you fail to realize that the Journal is a FILLMORE COUNTY paper. Yes they go to school board meetings but could you imagine if they did go to every single little committee meeting that each school/organization has outside of their FORMAL meetings? That is just ridiculous to expect. If that information is so awesome then maybe they should consider putting it our there for the public to read in a paper/open forum. We are lucky they cover what they do. It's disgusting to see people act this way. If there are so many people that think that the school in Wykoff (part of KINGSLAND) should be shut down or whatever then why don't they write a commentary or letter to the editor? Funny how you don't see anyone writing in the paper about it but rather blowing up online comments where a lot of people aren't even going to see your opinions.


8:35:23, Feb 5th 2014

FYI says:
I agree with Overit... valleygirl your outnumbering uncontrollable childish fits are ludicrous. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as you are, but you're one of those people who can't control or filter what they post. You won't quit flapping your gums until everyone conforms to your views. I went through and calculated the entire ratio of comments and roughly 1/5 of the overall comments have come from you. 18% to be exact. And there's well over 5 people commenting. Beat a dead horse much?!


10:20:27, Feb 5th 2014

@vallleygirl reading all the comments you have under several articles I have to agree with the person who said you act like people have to conform to your views. Let me tell yous something. I read all the articles too. One - you don't know if the journal is done covering this issue so there is still opportunity to hear more about it. Two - If you took all 3 articles by one reporter as in favor of keeping two sites open, that is your opinion. Personally, I took them as question and answer interviews and a reporter cannot control what people say. If you think the McDonald article looked that way then be mad at McDonald for not being open enough with information and the reporter doing the right thing by saying 'this is what he said in this interview but this is not what was said by him at a school board meeting.' Reporting is a JOB, an assigned job and a reporter can only do so much to get direct answers from someone. Read the other paper from the start of this (October) until now and you will see that there is conflicting information at board and committee meetings. I am glad the reporter pointed that out because not everyone is informed, obviously. Three - I do not personally know this reporter but know who she is. Know how? I see her working concessions at games, I see her cheering Kingsland athletes on, I have seen other mutual friends share her posts on facebook about positive things in Kingsland, I was told by the lunch lady that she makes a point to have lunch with one of her kids once a month and sits with all the kids and spends time with them, I was just recently told that she chairs an advisory group for parents at the school which is a group I didn't know about before but they are responsible for bringing the watch dogs program (dads at school) to Kingsland, I read on the Kingsland website that she teaches a community ed class. You really think this person is anti-Kingsland?? What do YOU do valleygirl?!? This reporter wrote articles and put her name on it! You can't even comment online with your real name. At least Mrs. Horsman has a vested interest in the success of Kingsland which is apparent by her involvement in the schools and it is apparent she strives to make Kingsland a better place. You are nothing more than a mouthpiece.

I will decline to say whether I am for or against a one site school or any referendum options. But let me tell you something @valleygirl, you are a terrible person for attacking someone you probably don't even know and IF you know them, that makes you even worse because it is evident that Mrs. Horsman is an informed Kingsland parent and volunteer that does what she can to make our schools a better place. I can't wait to see her at an upcoming sporting event so I can finally introduce myself to her and shake her hand and say THANK YOU for caring about the future of our children and our schools! At this point I hope to see her name on a ballot for school board. Yes, her NAME because she isn't hiding like you @valleygirl! You are just terrible.


8:43:49, Feb 8th 2014

kingskid says:
McDonalds a good guy. Because of him and a lot of others im earning college credit at school. Another thing ive learned at school is that this is bullying. You all read the previous comment and felt you needed to say more mean things. Thats bullying. It was after this person tried to apologize too so that really isnt very Christian of you either. All this person really did was tried to stick up for our super and said she didnt like an article and thought there was some bias. For that you count her comments and call her a terrible person? oh and you say she is hiding but where is youre name? Just so you know saying mean stuff about someone doesnt make you any better, it just makes you look bad.


9:46:09, Feb 8th 2014

K12paret says:
I'm sorry, kingskid but I don't believe you are a child in school at all. I feel you are an adult hiding and trying to shame other adults. But to set the record straight, college in the schools is not a new concept and many many schools do it already. McDonald is not solely responsible for it. The entire admin, staff and community is. The credit is not his alone. I agree McDonald is a decent enough guy but I will admit he is very political and if you truly are a child, I don't expect you to understand or see that. But he does position himself for advantages, all supers do it and then they move on to better jobs with more pay. That is just the system. Your parents and your community are going to be looking out for you more than any super ever will because they come and go and just add to their resume. Not saying he hasn't had good ideas because he has but he has also tried to pull a lot of stuff too. They all do.


4:09:17, Feb 10th 2014

KingslandGrad95 says:
Maybe valleygirl and kingskid are one in the same.

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