Views vary on Lyle’s leadership

Published 10:39 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

There were more than 80 people at the Lyle Public School board meeting Tuesday night, each with his or her own opinion on how the board and superintendent Jim Dusso has handled the district in recent months. Some appeared to show support for a petition declaring no confidence in Dusso’s leadership, as more than 15 people wearing shirts labeled “No Voice … No Confidence!” were present. Petitioners hope the board won’t renew Dusso’s contract when it comes up in January.

“There’s no public comment involved,” said Ron Whalen, who has eight grandchildren, including one he has stewardship over, in the district. “(The board is) very controlling of what they discuss and won’t discuss. It needs to be changed.”

Though Whalen wasn’t wearing a petition T-shirt, his grandson, Charles Branchaud, was. Branchaud graduated from Lyle last year and said the board was going too far in not listening to people about their concerns about Dusso.

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“People can’t be given free speech to say what they want,” Branchaud said.

“It’s unfair,” added Sheila Nipp. “We just want our voice heard and no one will listen.”

Some audience members thought critics’ concerns were overblown and people needed to work out their differences.

“Things are being blown out of proportion,” said Barb Hunter, who gave public comment to the board in October. “There are rules for our board meetings. Everyone has them.”

Some audience members voiced their support when Mower County Sheriff’s deputies removed Connie Branchaud, Tammy Whalen and Sandra King from the meeting.

Some sided with the board and Lyle’s administration, saying they were doing well under the circumstances and trying to do the right thing.

“I’m impressed with how professional (the board) is being,” said Amy Thuesen, high school English teacher. “There are people in the audience who aren’t being respectful. (The board is) dealing with these outbursts well.”

Though petitioners say they gathered between 130 to 150 signatures in about a week, some residents weren’t happy with their efforts.

“This is wrong,” one woman told organizers. “Will you stop at nothing?”

Yet many residents are still concerned over Dusso’s leadership and the board’s decisions, as organizers say they’ll be circulating another petition declaring no confidence in the board.

“The board chair decide(d) to start having citizens arrested and carried out,” said Gary Harrison, Lyle City Council member and former district bus driver.

Several school staff members declined to comment, saying they feared they could lose their jobs.