Family address BIC Board

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Pat Qualls addressed the Buffalo Island School Board Monday, July 13, on behalf of her brother, John Seele.

The family of Monette resident John Steele were given five minutes each to speak during the public input portion of the Buffalo Island School Board's regular meeting Monday, July 13.

Steele, who has been questioning the BIC district's millage increase and who has made several Freedom of Information Act requests to the district, received a letter on July 8 from the school's attorney Donn Mixon. The letter stated that Steel has engaged in threatening and harassing behavior that would not be tolerated by the BIC district. As a result of this alleged behavior Steele has been banned from all BIC campuses as well as from contacting employees of the district. The letter also stated that Steele's alleged behavior has been reported to law enforcement.

Steele's sisters, Pat Qualls and Ruth Cullum, along with his brother-in-law Jerry Taylor spoke on his behalf at the meeting. Qualls spoke first saying she appreciated the opportunity to address the board and enjoyed her time as the first full time music teacher at Monette High School from 1963-1978.

"I'm here tonight to speak on behalf of and for my brother, John Steele, who has been banned from the BIC campus," Qualls said. "Some very serious allegations have been levied against my brother. (Qualls then read the letter from the school's attorney and Mr. Steele's response.) I am leaving a packet of information for each of you, included is copies of both letters along with other pertinent information. As a school board you have been entrusted with a mammoth responsibility in carrying out your duties. You are at a crossroads in making some important, critical decisions. I urge you to seek the truth as John has been seeking the truth."

Qualls told board members every citizen has the right to seek the truth through the Freedom of Information Act and her brother has made 12 of those requests from 2014 to now. She also spoke about the number of BIC events, board meetings and public meetings her brother has attended in the last year.

"John's goal in this has been to gather factual information so the BIC patrons can make an educated decision based on fact," Qualls said. "I pray God will grant you the wisdom and the courage to make the right decision."

Ruth Cullum said the letter from the district's attorneys was a total surprise to her brother.

"He feels his character and reputation as a person of honesty and integrity have been blemished," Cullum said. "These serious accusations and the ban from BIC campus should come with an explanation from BIC and Mr. Taylor (superintendent). We ask that you do so and do so in a timely manner. We wish to see the problem solved quickly and expeditiously as possible. None of us, I believe, want to see this matter played out with attorneys and in a court of law."

She also urged board members to question what they hear and read and do as her brother and seek the truth. Jerry Taylor asked about the district's progress in addressing safety issues such as the fire alarm system update. It is his understanding that expenditures of $20,000 or more must be approved by the Department of Education, bids must be taken and approved and a state approved contractor must be used. BIC superintendent Gaylon Taylor addressed this question later in the meeting saying the BIC district is working with the state police fire marshal to fix those issues, which cost under $20,000.

In other business Marshal Hughes, from First Security Beardsley Financial, told board members a new truck and bus financed for 10 years at a cost of $97,824.80 would cost the district $6,183 in semi monthly payments. Taylor said the district was interested in five years not 10 and that the total price was $101,052. Hughes will present the new financing option at the board's next regular meeting.

Both Bear Bank and Centennial Bank, which have branches in Monette, presented bids for the district's banking business. The board heard both presentations and then voted unanimously to form a committee of two board members and the administrative office staff to consider both bids and come back to the board in a special meeting with a recommendation of which bank is preferred. In a special meeting held July 15 the board voted unanimously to go with Bear Bank for the district's banking services for the 2015-2016 school year.

Board members approved continuing with Dwight Jones for student insurance, adopted personnel policies, and approved raising school breakfast prices to $1.25. The board also approved adding $500 to the base pay for certified employees. It would raise the base pay to $32,850 and would add $60,000 to the district's budget for the year.

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