POLACCA, Ariz.— The Hopi Tribal Council voted unanimously May 9 to remove the Hopi Jr/Sr High School Governing Board and appoint the Hopi Board of Education to serve as the interim governing board.
This left teachers and staff at Hopi Jr/Sr High School (HJSHS) with many unresolved questions such as whether those who signed contracts will have those contracts honored. The outgoing HJSHS Governing Board recently did not renew the contracts of four administrators, four regular education teachers and three special education teachers. Another question is whether the interim board will overturn those decisions and give those jobs back.
Ivan Sidney, outgoing president of the Hopi Jr/Sr High School Governing Board, said he supports the honoring of contracts that were already issued and he believes the tribe will honor those contracts.
“This is about what’s doing best for the students,” he said.
Tribal officials could not confirm they would honor those contracts.
Those questions may be answered when the new interim board holds its first meeting May 14 at 6:30 p.m. One of the main items on the agenda is to revisit employment contract renewals/non renewals for possible action. Two other items on the agenda are swearing in of the interim school board and election of officers for the interim board.
There are several other items on the agenda including policies regarding bullying and technology. Another item on the agenda is delegated authority for hiring.
Other agenda items include roles and responsibilities of board members, plans to hold an election for a Moenkopi board member and reports from each of the school administrators.
An executive session will be held regarding staffing and budget items. The agenda also states that during the course of the meeting the board may go into executive session.
Although Sidney served as president of the Hopi Jr/Sr High School Governing Board, he sent the Hopi Tribal Council a letter April 20 asking the council to remove the board because of “questionable governance practices.”
Sidney, a former tribal chairman, served on the board several years ago. After several years off the board, he was elected again and took office in January 2016. He said the agenda and minutes of the HJSHS Governing Board for the past several years documents the need to resolve critical issues including declining enrollment, need for an experienced superintendent, attainment of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a corrective performance plan for low Arizona Merit testing scores and a budget to face the declining ISEP funding. ISEP funding is based on the student count.
Sidney said in the letter to the Hopi Tribal Council that the board was in the process of taking actions to address these critical issues until the hiring of the current superintendent.
Sidney said in the letter that the meeting where the contracts were decided violated several sections of the board’s Governance and Operations Policy. He said the policy requires that four board members be present to have a quorum, and only three board members were present for that meeting. Sidney was absent from that meeting.
According to the policy, there are supposed to be six board members, but the seat from Moenkopi has gone unfilled for years.
In the letter, Sidney gave five recommendations to the Hopi Tribal Council.
First, order and initiate a complete investigation of the administrative and governing operations at HJSHS dating back to 2015.
Second, pending the findings of the investigation that all members of the HJSHS Governing Board be placed on suspension.
Third, the superintendent and school attorney be immediately relieved of their duties “to allow for the unbiased investigation.”
Fourth, insure the continued operations of HJSHS “to provide for the daily educational services to our students.”
Fifth, immediate protection of school records, including master computer files and governing documents be protected to allow for a complete investigation.
Dr. Steven Berbeco, superintendent of HJSHS, the school always welcomes constructive feedback from our school community.
"We hope that these recent events will not overshadow the tremendous progress that we have made this year in academics, discipline, community outreach, and other areas,” Berbeco said.