Two on board blast agenda item allowing members to speak on outgoing superintendent’s departure
By Brandi Makuski
Just moments after the Stevens Point School Board’s July 13 meeting began, two board members attempted to remove an item from the meeting agenda formally recognizing outgoing Superintendent Attila Weninger.
As the board was about to approve its agenda for the night, Board Member Lisa Totten made a motion to remove a piece of the agenda allowing time for board members to recognize Superintendent Attila Weninger’s time in the district. Monday was Weninger’s last day of employment.
The agenda item was, Totten argued, against a new board policy which restricted board member comments during meetings. That decision was made last month in an effort to further shorten often-lengthy board meetings.
“The board unanimously decided to remove all board member comments, and board president comments,” Totten said, reasoning board members have previously not always been able to formally recognize retiring staff members during the public meetings.
Board President Meg Erler said the agenda item wasn’t designed for “comment”, but “recognition” by whichever board members chose to opine. Erler said “a number of board members” requested Weninger be recognized during his last meeting.
“It’s ‘board members’, not ‘board member’,” Erler added, noting the recognition was specifically worded so it did not violate policy.
But as Erler attempted to explain further, board member Kim Shirek interrupted her by providing a second to Totten’s motion, triggering a required vote for the board.
Totten and Shirek stood in a minority, with the remaining board members- Sam Levin, Chris Scott, Angel Faxon, Meg Erler, Jeff Ebel, Trish Baker and Judy Rannow voting to keep the recognition on the agenda.
Levin, who has a history of heated exchanges with Weninger, wished the superintendent luck in his future endeavors.
“I’d like to take the opportunity to wish Dr. Weninger well in his future endeavors, be it retirement or moving to a new district,” Levin said. “I hope he’s learned something from us in the time he’s been here, too.”
Additional board member remarks:
Angel Faxon: “Dr. Weninger and I have done high-highs and low-lows in the five years he’s been here. But these are the things I can tell you for sure: he’s extremely passionate about education and children, far more than anyone I’ve ever met. He is capable of making mistakes and correcting them. He is very gracious and kind when someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, and I personally am very grateful for the assistance you gave me, and the more than second chances you gave for us to work well.”
Chris Scott: Having been a part of hiring four superintendents, I have to say I don’t think anyone in this community has any idea of the hundreds of things our district and students now have because of Dr. Weninger. Act 10 played a big part in the drama we saw on the board, but moving forward, no matter what, this superintendent put students first every day. I think he will be truly missed.
Jeff Ebel: He’s dedicated, high-energy and passionate. I’ve never met anyone more dedicated to students. He will be leaving behind accomplishments that will be here long after I’m gone. It’s been a pleasure working with you.
Trish Baker: “I want to thank you personally for the Life Skills Center, because I don’t think that would have happened without your leadership. And that’s a brick and mortar accomplishment.”
Judy Rannow: “I’ve been here the least amount of time, but thank you for all that you’ve done.”
Kim Shirek: “I didn’t know if this was just for certain board members who prepared their mind through it, because I’m not prepared for anything…I’m just going to say ‘no comment’ after that.”
Lisa Totten: “I have nothing to say.”
Meg Erler: “I’ve been on the board since August and I can say I’ve learned a lot more from you than you’ve learned from me. You’ve helped me to be a better board member and have an better understanding of our district and the issues we face. I hope the best for you.”
Weninger’s last day with the district was July 14.
Check back for an exclusive City Times interview with Weninger as he talks about the past five years in the district.