Frustrated Barnesville residents still seeking answers
BARNESVILLE, Minn. -- The gymnasium stands were packed.
Tensions were high, and the crowd was ready for a fight.
But the 125 people who gathered Monday at the high school weren't there for a sporting event.
They came for answers over embattled Superintendent Todd Cameron.
For an hour, frustrated parents peppered School Board members with questions and pleaded for answers.
They wouldn't get any.
Chairwoman Loretta Szweduik told the crowd the Citizens' Forum wasn't meant to be a "question-answer session."
"We all have home telephone numbers," she said, when asked when the appropriate time for receiving answers was. That response drew jeers from the crowd.
Parents want to know why the Barnesville School Board voted 4-3 last month to notify Cameron his contract may not be renewed.
School Board members Tim Thompson, Randy McEvers and Heather Jerald say they don't know why that decision was made.
Szweduik, Jeff Brown and Kevin and Ellen Smith have kept silent about the reasons that prompted the vote and Minnesota's Data Practices Act prohibits them from listing the reasons, they say.
But that answer wasn't satisfactory to Monday's crowd.
"If the School Board doesn't answer our questions now when do they answer them," asked Barnesville resident Christy Van Wechel. She said people may be jumping to inaccurate conclusiuons because they have not recived any answers. "It hurts this town and saddens me. You're all to blame."
Barnesville resident Phil Trowbridge said the board took more than three months to hire a school photographer.
"Yet you fired Cameron without discussion," he said. "That's inexcusable."
Diane Haugen asked the crowd to be sure it makes informed decisions before jumping to judgment. She was concerned with what she thought was misinformation circulating throughout the community.
She said she supported the board's decision, saying it has been "very careful in dealing with facts."
"I think it's time to move on from this horrendous waste of time," the Barnesville resident said.
That elicited a terse reply from Jim Braton Jr.
The Barnesville resident said he has lived in the community all his life and will soon have put four kids through the school system.
"I will not be told to shut up and go away and let the board do his job," he said, to a roar of applause.
After the board meeting, the superintendent and the board held a meet-and-confer session Monday night to discuss why his contract may not be renewed.
Cameron was planning to answer questions from the public afterward.
The meeting was still in progress at press time.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Baird at (701) 241-5535