Board chair responds to recent letter
May 01, 2014 | 2831 views | 19 19 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
To the Editor,

As a current Readsboro School board chair (and parent of children attending the school), I would like to thank Larry Hopkins for his service over the years. Larry has a keen intellect when it comes to budgetary issues, and the school has been better for it because of his dedication. I wish Larry the best and look forward to his positive contributions even though he is no longer on the board. Larry’s recent inflammatory letter deserves a response, however.

First, as recently elected school board chair, I am encouraging the board to work with the school community as a partner, rather than an adversary.

I will not, therefore, use hand-picked quotes from emails Mr. Hopkins has sent to me over the last year to support my arguments in the following sentences.

Second, last year the Readsboro School Board’s chair, Larry Hopkins, following the recommendations of Principal Heller, strongly endorsed the introduction of window tint. The tint was proposed and accepted for “safety” reasons and on the premise that it was temporary until permanent and more energy efficient windows could be installed. I raised my objections to the tint, as did other parents and teachers, based on scientific evidence that suggests that the denial of natural light in classrooms is harmful to the physical and mental well-being of children and adults.

The school board recently voted by a 2-1 margin to remove the tint. The decision was based on our experience as educators and our consultations with many principals and superintendents (including several who provide advice to schools regarding “safety” issues).

Curtains, in our opinion, provide a reasonable alternative to tinted windows in that they can be closed for safety purposes while not denying children and staff the natural light they need to thrive.

Third, our newest school board member, according to people who have communicated with me, was voted onto the school board because of her ideas, vision, and tone, not because of her politics. Mr. Hopkin’s suggestion that “politics” and pressure are what led him to receive fewer votes in the last election speaks for itself.

Finally, I am not sure how Mr. Hopkins came to make direct links to tint and higher NECAP scores-seems like a stretch to someone who studies test scores for a living. His argument about taxpayer savings from the tint, as well, seems lacking based on the research we have done.

Many positive things are happening at the Readsboro School and I do hope we can move on to more pressing issues.

Dana Rapp

Readsboro
Comments
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Forthechildren
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May 13, 2014
Many questions and allegations here, but no answers. I forsee the artsy, musicy, flowery, smiley approach to the whole problem. Whats next? They gonna replace the Star Spangled Banner with TipToe Through The Tupils?
HittheNailRightontheHead
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May 09, 2014
I am not aware of the pros and cons of ex-principal Heller's educational abilities and how that played out at Readsboro School. The alleged stealing etc boosted by Advocate may or not be true and several reasons could have brought that activity to the surface. I am sure if the activity was caused by some syndrome readily claimed by a leftest reading my comment it would accepted reasoning should it be one of their cronies.

But I am aware of the previous principal at Readsboro and the complaints by parents about her ability to perform her duties.

I am aware of a lower grade educator who was terminated due to complaints by parents.

If Advocate, readsboro parent or any current School board member want to continue to question Hopkins then maybe they should have been involved in the series of events that led to this mess.

Answers to your questions should be directed to those on the hiring committee and not necessarily Hopkins. he may have been part of the puzzle but most definately not the whole target of your needless attacks.

Removing the tint is not going to measurably smarten your child but leaving the tint on the entrance windows will for sure hinder some unwelcome intrude.
Hop
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May 05, 2014
Just few comments on the Heller hiring.

There was a screening committee I recall of seven (7) people led by Jack Rizzo. The makeup of that committee escapes me tonight, but I do know it had some parents represented, teachers volunteered, two school board members ( not I )and Jack. All sectors were involved and when they made a recommendation to the board it was put out as " he is head and shoulders above the rest, do what you have to do to get him"...I was told this was unanimous and a very, very strong candidate we do not want to lose ( Jack to me ). Jacks presentation, on behalf of the committee, was so strong I didn't actually believe it was that strong so I personally went to each member of that committee and got their opinion face to face. Jack was truthful as each and every one had that same opinion and the board recognized that in their own interview . What eventually happened, no one could have seen that coming. Whether is he liked now or not, he received high-5's and the board received many comments concerning his appointment after just a few months. There were residual growing pains and transitional type concerns, but overall the problem parents who were very instrumental in the job even being open in the first place, were elated with his changes and progress he had made in a relatively short period of time.

---

Now as a side note....some of those people who had great things to say about him as an example..1) I was going to pull my kids out and enroll them in Rowe but changed my mind because of Mr Heller being hired. ( Do you remember that Mrs ??) 2) Another parent whom I know you all know only enrolled his kids in RCS because of his hiring and was going to home school.( remember that Mr ??)..both now forget their statements back then and most likely would deny them now, and are active presently.

---

The last issue I would like to address and I will be careful as it was Executive Session, but I am no longer bound to that is.....last Spring when Mr Heller was completing his first year of his two year contract and was being reviewed for a merit raise which the board obligated to consider at signing, each member definitely agreed he had turned the school around and did numerous positive things and all felt he had to be retained and entitled to a merit raise. Each director had his / her own ideas of what that merit raise should be and I will just say one was $2500, another $3000 and the other $4,000. Two of the three members involved are still on the board today and as the Town report shows, we agreed upon the $2500 which was just under 4% for anyone left scratching their head. I will let you guess as to who thought he was entitled to the $4,000?

For others who believed the board did not react to situations brought forth my the parents that were justified...there is a reason why the Principal's position was open in the first place and how did it happen there was a 1st / 2nd grade opening this past year? The problem is the ones casting stones back then are the ones back at it now. Some people can not ever be happy unless they are bitching.
HittheNailRightontheHead
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May 05, 2014
My questions for readsboro-parent:

1) Was it not Jack Rizo former superintendent recommend Heller for the principal position?

2) Did Readsboro have an interview committee that recommended Heller?

3) If moral was as bad as you claim why have we not seen a large turnover at the Readsboro School and seen those positions posted on the web?

4) If every parent were contact about every building change in the school do you think matters would move in a swift manner?

5) What advice to you recommend about a design change concerning 2 sets of parents equally determined to have opposite effects on their children?

6) Is your claim the children on the north side of any school building are getting short changed or is the teacher not performing their job as well?

7) Should a staff member now be accused of stealing would it be the newly elected school directors fault as you claim with Hopkins about Heller?
ReadsboroTruth
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May 06, 2014
"Readsboro Advocate" is a perfect example of what Cam is talking about! I do not condone what took place with the funds in question. However, we do not know the whole story. I will say that I met the former Principal and there was nothing intimidating about him. There are always going to be staff members who do not like having free reign and we all know who those clowns were. I bet one of them is the actual "advocate."

Like Cam I feel so sorry for the town of Readsboro as these are the individuals who are giving small towns a bad name. And we wonder why our population is diminishing! Let's get people like Readsboro Advocate and parent and deport them! Maybe then people will want to move back to Readsboro and we will not be such a transient town.

Isn't it ironic that "Advocate" made a comment about someone else's intelligence yet refused to do a grammar check or spelling check? Way to make your point!!
Hop
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May 04, 2014
After reading this reply and several comments submitted by people who have no idea of the history behind the tint, I will enlighten you.

After the Conn incident in 2012, the VSBIT offered a free safety assessment of our school. They are our insurance carrier and the board agreed to their visit as it would seem to be the right avenue to follow to find out from professionals what we could do better. They conducted the audit on 2/13/2013. In the report which followed, they mention the administration was looking into a tint made by 3M and listed its benefits. It was NOT a mandate or even a recommendation, but listed as a positive.

Principal Heller had verbal contact from them prior and communicated to the board the major points of their findings and the board took a proactive approach and scheduled a Security Assessment discussion on the agenda of 1/14/2013 but no parents or staff elected to attend. After recieving the hard copy of the report, the board listed the VSBIT Safety Report on the 2-25-2013 agenda for discussion and possible action. Again, no aprents or staff chose to attend, just the same general taxpayers who usually attended meetings. The board discussed the report, its options and finances and at this meeting the motion was made by Charlotte Clark and seconded by Karen Boisvert to buy the tint, some re-keying and camera equipment in an effort to comply with the findings. The cost for all three was $1781.

At the 3/18/2013 meeting the board listed Safety Audit updates and results as an item for review.For the third month in a row, no parents or staff. All left to remedy was the Library entrance issue brought forth in the audit. At the 4-18-2013 meeting there was an update given and the Principal announced he found an avenue via a grant process through Energy Efficiency Vt that could be the long term answer for windows. He was authorized to persue.

The 5-20-2013 meeting listed updates to the Safety Audit and the Energy Efficiency Grant and again, no parents or staff present, but numerous Library reps were there to discuss the door issue. At the 6-10-2013 meeting one parent and Library reps showed up and the Principal offered a Grant Update only. No other discussion concerning tint or other safety items.

No meeting in July, but at the 8-19-2013 meeting,the full Library board attended and one parent mentioned the tint and wanted board input which was provided although the parent did not seem happy with the answer. At the 9-16-2013 meeting one parent showed, no staff and there was a grant application update. At the Oct 21,2013 meeting the Library discussed a portable building and the Principal reported the site visit for the window grant was put on hold because of the government shutdown. At the Nov 18,2013 meeting, ( I can not find the minutes online, ), the Principal was not able to attend, but left a report on the status of the window grant as it had been rescheduled, and the board finally received confirmation from the ADA that the Library did not need to be in compliance if they had their own access. At the 12-16-2013 meeting, one parent attended and the Principal announced he was being sent a Phase 2 of the grant application process and expected to receive it in time to have filled out for the Jan 2014 meeting. The 1-27-2014 meeting was heavily attended by townspeople but the focus was entirely on the Principal's situation and his resignation. No tint discussed.The 2-24-2014 meeting had no visitors whatsoever but a handful showed for the second part which was the Budget Info meeting that followed. The 3/2014 meeting had a request to remove the tint which was tabled until the 4/2014 meeting where it was discussed and removed by a 2-1 margin.

The points to take from this are many....1) Every meeting was clearly posted with the items listed on the agenda, 2)Very few parents attended, except the regulars and only one spoke in 14 months on the tint issue, 3) Not one staff member ever attended to voice an opinion on the tint, but attended for other reasons from time to time.

In retrospect, the item the board toiled with the most was the allegation of staff not being happy with it. Mr Heller reported he had Staff Meetings, it was discussed and no one had concerns. Dana reported something quite the opposite and Karen and I each attempted to casually get opinions through informal discussions and all got different results so we had nothing to go by. I recommended we schedule a meeting with them specifically to get their opinions and for some reasons that was not a preferred option.

If anyone cares to take the time to read these in more detail, or contest what has been written, go to the school's website, bottom right for minutes and when the WSSU opens up click on the Readsboro section and there they are.

I forgot, and it was either in Nov 2013 or Jan 2014 the board received a letter signed by two parents about tint and attached were several 25 yr old reports out of Canada on natural lighting. All three ( Dana, Karen and I ) agreed not to recognize the letter as the authors were not present to be asked questions. This does not show in minutes but was presented under Communications.

The explanations concerning test scores and fuel oil savings should be very clear and not worthy of further discussions.

What is the status of the USDA Window Grant now? My best guess it was received and buried in a pile of paperwork and dismissed. Its also highly unlikely Readsboro would be awarded anything in light of pending changes that could most likely face us in the near future.
readsboro-parent
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May 03, 2014
It was clear from his 'sore-loser' letter, Larry Hopkins watches too much FOX News. There is no 'left wing' conspiracy here, just a lot of concerned staff and parents from across the political spectrum who voted Larry out of office because of the terrible decisions he made on behalf of our children.

Larry Hopkins along with former Principal Michael Heller, (who was hired on Larry's watch and resigned under allegations of embezzling thousands of dollars in school money) did everything they could to make our school look and feel like a prison. The fact that thousands of dollars went missing because of Heller was curiously omitted from Larry's budget report at town meeting. His lack of oversight as board chair (despite proclaiming himself 'the numbers guy') allowed Heller to deposit grant money into a personal account which he apparently used for hotels and dunkin' donuts.

Furthermore, staff moral suffered greatly under Heller's and Hopkin's short reign.

You can't fault the people of our town for demanding change, and we applaud the new school board for following through.

Don't listen to these bullies, Dana. We're behind you.

CamBrady5413
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May 05, 2014
Dear Charlene and Molly...sorry I meant "readsboro parent":

I feel sorry for you as you act so much more intelligent than you really are. You need to research these stringent guidelines from the AOE on school safety rather than rely upon what you "think you know."

I love the comment about staff morale as that is what everyone pissed and moaned about before Heller got there. Yeah he screwed up but he also provided teachers and the school with more technology, a new website, better wireless, new books just to name a few.

All of sudden accusations start flowing and a number of you jump on the guy before we even have the whole story! You should be ashamed of yourselves. For example, the lunch money which come to find out is completely inaccurate. Pat Kidney told two different stories and come to find out it was based on an envelope SHE said she found on his desk. In return Helyn runs around like she works for TMZ spewing her venom. These are the people working with our children?? No wonder Shumlin wants to shut us down! Our town has not always been this way. We are better than that! I feel horrible about what we did to Heller and even more so to this town. Shame on us!

Signed,

Sad and ashamed long time resident
readsboroadvocate
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May 05, 2014
I would also like to applaud the new school board for supporting measures that will positively impact upon our students physical and mental health. They are also making decisions that will positively impact upon community and school interaction. As for CamBrady's support of Mr. Heller and all the wonderful things he did for the school. These include, lying, stealing, plagiarizing and intimidation. Perhaps we should have more staff with his positive attributes educating our children. Shame on you for your derogatory comments and obvious lack of knowledge regarding issues impacting upon the school. Perhaps the sum of 5413 equals your intellectual capacity.
Hop
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May 05, 2014
Don't watch FOX, I'm a CNN guy.

It did bother me for a couple weeks, but over it quickly. Found out its more fun and less work watching from afar. In fact it only took Dana less than a month to tell me something like.." this is BS, working for 25 c an hour "..or something like that. My reply to that was if you do a complete job the pay will be even less than that...lol

As far as reporting at Town Meeting, all that could have been said would have been the same as when you asked in January..its an open case, under litigation and can not be discussed.

The money account, even if done properly, would not show in the RCS accounting as it is not our local taxpayers dollars but would have shown in the WSSU accounts in the grant reporting section.

I will admit, the board directed him to open the account in conjunction with the WSSU oversight and could have and should have followed up more closely, and I as Chair should have known better, but no one remembered to verify its being set up correctly and assumed it was.

Staff morale, not moral, was never presented to the board as a concern. We were made aware of the usual transition type conflicts that arose because some of the employees felt a sense of entitlement and did not adapt to the change in leadership style which we will admit, was like night and day. If I recall, some are not even there today for possibly that reason?

There will be changes, some good, some bad....but what you fail to notice, along with the board, is the fact there are items that should be addressed at this time of the year and they are not even aware of them. It wont hurt until its realized they weren't considered or done and that will be at a later date. This is not the time to be prioritizing most of what was on last months agenda and what should have been there most likely isn't even on the radar.

Time will tell.....
clarence2
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May 03, 2014
I read Larry letter last week and found it almost unbelievable and waited until a rebuttal was printed, that surely had to come. It did.

This letter was well written, just as expected from an educator, but also written as a politician, as there are many words and mean little.

There is no doubt he knows the states financial system extremely well. maybe you should have learned something from your brief time there instead of ducking town meeting because you had no clue what to talk about?

I notice there was no denial or explanation of the "squirrel in up a tree " answer as that was ridiculaous, but obviously stated.

If you have supported the installation of a more energy efficient window as stated, why have you not followed up on that since you were the only board member unhappy with windows as they were?

I can not confirm the attendance records as claimed, but did opt to visit the Vt AOE website and saw a steady improvement in the NECAP scores and if you study them for a living as you say, did I read them correctly? I do not consider it a stetch as you do because you just stated its harmful to the mental well being thus I would expect scores to decline , wouldn't you?

Politics are politics and not part of my claim here. But what bothered me was Larrys claim you always seem to want to use the "move on " out when you do not want to engage in discussions that do not agree to you. I find that evident here in your closing statement also..."move on to more pressing issues".

Can you identify what you feel are more pressing issues and how and when will you be addressing them?

I sure hope its more than a Community Garden?
CamBrady5413
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May 05, 2014
Time to "move on" Clarence! Hey did you see that squirrel running up that tree??
readsboro-parent
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May 02, 2014
We applaud the new school board, and the strong leadership of Dana Rapp, for doing the right thing in reversing Larry Hopkins' terrible idea of covering our school in a dark film. We also commend him for standing up to the bullying tactics of the commenters below.

Many parents, teachers and staff complained about the film when it was installed (who where never consulted by Larry's board before the film was installed). Even the superintendent agreed that it was 'very dark' and needed to be removed.

The majority of the classrooms at Readsboro school are on the north side of the building where direct sunlight never reaches. The film made bright sunny days look gray and cloudy, and as we Vermonters know, winter days are short enough already.

Reflective films, in fact, reduce the free heat available from sunlight and would need to be installed in reverse to keep heat in. Larry's calculations in his recent letter employ some very fuzzy math indeed. This from a man who calls himself the 'numbers guy'. He should know better.

All other schools in our district have curtains or blinds that serve them well. Volunteers from the Readsboro community are sewing curtains for the school for a total cost of $450 in materials. This should have been the solution from the beginning, but as former chair Larry Hopkins installed $700 of useless film over the summer without consulting teachers or parents.

Looking forward, with a new school board, new principal, and new superintendent, we're hopeful that Readsboro School will continue to move in a positive direction.
clarence2
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May 03, 2014
Im sure you must be aware, or should be, that no one person can unilaterally make decisions on a board. The Phatman could no more authorize the tint to go up any more than Dana could solely direct it to be removed. Minutes should reflect board motions and votes.

I am not sure why parents, teacher sand staff had to be consulted as I recall the issue being on agendas for many consecutive months and no one offered opinions? Is this true?

I was also told the classrooms were intentionally requested their present location because of the direct sunlight and heat generated.

As far as Phatmans numbers on the oil savings, it sure makes sense to me and if you have a different opinion, lets have it but my moneys on him. It may only be fuzzy because you cant understand how it was calculated.

Larry installed film without consulting.....I believe I cleared that up earlier.

I surely hope the whole system moves in a positive direction as the students in Readsboro deserve that, but where will they be attending in 2020? Whatever is done is only short term anyway.Enjoy it while you can. Its this type of activity that supports the state taking over your school.
Hop
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May 04, 2014
readsboro-parent

I hope you take the time to read my extended entry and acknowledge the errors in your letter.

1) Who did parents , staff and parents complain to? Did not see any evidence of that in Dana's minutes.

2) Classrooms were strategically relocated years back because of the direct sunlight on the opposite side. It was a teacher request at the time.

How does your foot taste ?

Your welcome.
CamBrady5413
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May 05, 2014
You're right Charlene and Molly I mean "readsboro-parent" until the new found leadership does something you do not agree with and then you will be on him like vultures. However, it will not matter because thanks to people like you our school will not be around much longer! Anybody notice how dirty the school has been getting lately?
RCSParent79
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May 05, 2014
Readsboro Parent,

You are forgetting, Mr. Hopkins CANNOT act alone. He was part of a three person Board that unanimously voted to install the window tint. Were you present at that meeting to speak out against it? Doesn't look like it. Doesn't look like you were at any of them until maybe afterwards. Not to mention, the Board does not have to consult the teachers and parents when making decisions. Maybe had you been there you could have voiced your opinion and it might have been taken into consideration. So, are your child/children going to be the sacrificial lamb(s) to pull the curtains in the event of a problem? Or have you stuck your head in the sand too thinking it's never going to happen here? I hope it never does, but all it takes is one disgruntled estranged parent.... The violence gets closer every day.

One last point, this school was never like a prison. I know its hard for some parents to comprehend, but its called rules and discipline. The children and staff had to follow them for the first time since the days of Mr. Switz. If you didn't there were consequences. Millions of kids went through school with a thing called DISCIPLINE, some even got DETENTION (GASP!) when they misbehaved or stepped out of line (we had it in my school, even received it a time or two) and turned out JUST FINE. It won't harm any of these children to have to tow the line and be a whole lot better behaved than they currently are. I sincerely hope that our new principal has the same strong personality as the last and turns this school right back around, because once again, there are too many Chiefs and not enough Indians and the little natives are running wild.

HittheNailRightontheHead
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May 02, 2014
Sometimes in a letter it is not what is in print but rather what is not stated. My questions for Mr. Rapp are as follows:

1)Are the more energy efficient windows installed? If not then why is the tint removed?

2)Was every parent you reference conversing to raise objections at an open meeting of the school board or a sidebar conversation?

3) Are the other principals and superintendents you speak of from Vermont?

4) You state "our" consultations....... indicates the new school director as well spoke to these other principals and superintendents. When and how did the newly elected school board member speak to these individuals at an open meeting?

5) Was there any voted directives in the school board minutes authorizing you or any one of the other school directors to ask for third party opinions?

6) You stated you currently have two children in Readsboro School but why haven't these children been in attendance since kindergarten?

7)I am told you have a third child why is it that child not currently or in the past, been in

Readsboro School?

8) If you study test scores for a living just where has your expertise been all these years and why are the children coming out of school unprepared for what faces them?

9) Define adversary and inflammatory?

10) Are the children at the North Pole smarter than those at the South Pole? For six months does that "study" reverse itself due to a change of sunlight?

11) Are the children in the rooms on the south side of a school building any more advanced than those on the North side rooms?

Nice to know that my Vermont education tax dollars are being spent in such fine fashion. This is what happens when professional educators are in control of their ilk.
RCSParent79
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May 02, 2014
As a fellow parent with children in RCS I find it appalling that the window tint was voted to be removed. As Mr. Hopkins stated, who is going to be the sacrificial lamb to pull said curtains in the event of an issue? Is that going to be your children Mr. Rapp? It certainly isn't going to be mine. Did you take into account the children that are having fewer migraines because of the lack of glare from the sunlight off of the white boards or because they don't have to squint all day because it's so bright? Nope, the Board is just worried about seeing the squirrels running in the trees. Well guess what you can see the squirrels in the trees just fine, and the children should be focused on their school work not on the wildlife outside. I would love to know how you as school board chair can justify wasting tax pay dollars removing window tint that was PURCHASED and put in place and then PURCHASING curtains to put up. Who is installing these curtains? Are we taxpayers going to now have to pay more man hours for the installation too? Are the curtains fire retardant? Looks to me like the ones in the Library are nothing more than white cotton (those will stay clean real long!), so did you just create a huge fire hazard?

Why is it that if the complaint is that the children in the CLASSROOMS' aren't getting enough sunlight that the FIRST and ONLY room to my knowledge to have the window tint taken off is the Library? Didn't even let the dust settle on the motion before it was being ripped of the windows in there, but lets not worry about the classrooms where it actually effects the children, makes total sense.

Are you really taking money from a fund balance to spend it on curtains instead of something educational for our children? Couldn't that money have been better spent on books or computers, something educational at least?



As for your comments regarding your newest member, I feel you are way off base. She was elected for three reasons:

1) Because Mr. Hopkins made some tough decisions that some people didn't like or agree with and refused to back down from.

2) To get the window tint removed

3) To get the Library re-opened to the public during school hours.

There were enough people out there that knew the only way that was going to happen way to get Mr. Hopkins off the Board. So, from where i'm sitting, 2/3 of the school board have no interest in protecting our children. You only want to do what is popular and makes your friends happy. Just remember if something should ever go wrong, and here's hoping it never does, it's on your shoulders for LESSENING the security measures that were in place just so the kids could watch a squirrel run up a tree.