Chester Area School Board Offers Superintendent Contract at a Contentious Meeting

The Chester Area School board voted Monday to offer a one year contract to Superintendent Heath Larson. 

Chester School board president Darin Seeley had told staff members on December 1st about the possibility of Larson’s contract not being renewed. 

Monday’s meeting began with Seeley cautioning some 200 community members in attendance to restrict their public comments, so as not to comment on personnel matters.   

Once public comments began, Torrie Ewaldt spoke first. She said that she has lived in the district for 20 years, and has had 3 children go through the district. She limited her remarks to the overall positive situation the Chester Area School District currently is in. 

Ewaldt then cautioned that those making decisions on the school board, do not have the same expertise of the educators they are governing. 

Renee Prorok, who has also had 3 children go through  the district, praised the Chester administration for their work. 

After Prorok’s public comment, Rory King, a lawyer brought to the meeting by the school board, warned the community members not to praise any individual or even group of district employees. 

The board then entered an executive session, where 19 individuals, many of them representing large groups, spoke to the board one at a time. After more than three hours in executive session, Brett Bauman made a motion to offer a one-year contract to Larson. The motion was seconded by Ann Frankenhoff. Rather than conduct a roll call vote, the board conducted a voice vote, with what appeared to be five yes and two no votes. When asked by KJAM, Seeley indicated that he voted no. Bauman said he voted yes, while others declined to say how they voted, with one board member telling KJAM that “we were plenty loud.”

After the vote, many members of the community who had been in attendance for nearly 4 hours, asked Seeley why the board did not conduct a roll call vote, which would put each board member’s vote on the record. That led to this exchange between Seeley and members of the community. 

After the vote, the board conducted the rest of scheduled meeting. 

This is the full public comment session of the board meeting.

This is the full audio of the vote, following the executive session.