Dear Leola/Frederick Patrons,
Due to recent events and the dark shadow that has been cast upon the Frederick Area School Board, of which I am a member, I felt it was appropriate to write this address to bring some mostly unknown facts into the light. Please know that I am not writing this as a defense for the actions taken by the Frederick Area School Board. What’s done is done and we will be judged for it, if we haven’t been already. All I want known here are facts, but before doing so, I would like to reiterate for all readers a few things that I have expressed to those who took the time to reach out to me prior to the January board meeting. First, I can tell you for a fact that when the dissolution of the Leola/Frederick sports coop was discussed, it was believed by the board that this decision was one that could affect Frederick Area School District for the better and it had virtually nothing to do with sports, other than it was a dissolution of a sports coop. There was no hidden agenda, and we certainly were not in negotiations to coop with another district. Now that’s not to say that time wouldn’t have proven the dissolution of the coop to be a poor decision, but I can attest that it would have been a sincere decision none the less. Secondly, knowing now how things would eventually transpire, I personally feel regret on my part for not communicating better with the patrons of the Frederick Area School District on this topic. I believe the key mistake the board made was prioritizing the urgency of scheduling/hiring deadlines over the importance of allowing a generally accepted “due process” to take place. However, I would like to point out that letters were sent to certain stakeholders (including Leola District School Board) in order to show transparency and to allow for the participation in the January board meeting for those with concerns. If the board was trying to act in secrecy, there would have been no need for this. I understand that not all stakeholders were included in the letters, which is a topic for another debate, but enough were informed that we were confident it would become public knowledge very quickly, as it did. That is a partial summary of the discussion that took place at the Frederick Area School Board January 4th, 2023, meeting, for which the appropriate protocol of posting an agenda 24 hours prior to the meeting was followed. I phrase it that way to again reiterate that there was no attempt at secrecy being made on our part. In a world where virtually everybody has a smart device, I don’t think it is unreasonable to take a few seconds to bookmark your school district’s webpage and check it daily, if you are truly concerned with your child’s education. On a side note, please keep in mind that I am far from being an investigative journalist, and I did indeed have grammar in high school, but it’s been a few years, so bear with me! Now, onto the facts.
Fact Group 1
I recently reached out to Mr. Nick Weismantel, who is the current Superintendent at Eureka School District. The reason for doing so was to confirm his participation in a phone conversation that was initiated by Bev Myer, current Superintendent of Leola School District, and included Kayla Casey, the current business manager of the same district. Mr. Weismantel expressed to me that the reason for the Leola School Administrators’ call was to inquire about the possibility of a sports coop between Eureka and Leola schools. He said his response to the inquiry was to inform both Ms. Myer and Mrs. Casey that Eureka had recently entered a three-school sports coop with Edmunds Central and Bowdle, and they were hoping to not make any changes for the foreseeable future. This phone conversation appears seemingly harmless, except for the fact that it took place sometime in the Spring of 2021, while the Leola/Frederick coop was clearly still in place. Now, before jumping to conclusions, I thought that it was possible that Leola was seeking a wrestling coop, having recently dissolved their wrestling coop with Ipswich and Bowdle the prior Fall (you will read more about this in a bit) and knowing that Frederick doesn’t offer wrestling. However, upon asking Mr. Weismantel if this was a possibility, he stated to me that Eureka also did not have a wrestling program at that time. As a member of the Frederick Area School Board during the time in question, I don’t recall hearing of Leola’s wishes to add another school to our existing coop. I also cannot imagine that they were looking to coop in a different sport like cross country or golf, because wouldn’t it make more sense to do so with Frederick, having an already established sports coop? Furthermore, why was the Frederick board not made aware of this proposed sports coop? Is it fair to assume that perhaps the Leola board had the intention of replacing Frederick? I think so. It would appear to me that the Leola board had no plans to give us (Frederick) opportune time to weigh our options, but instead were trying to secure a new coop partner before dissolving our current one. Yes, I know those last few sentences were my opinion and not fact, but hey, it’s my address! I encourage you to fact check me with the Leola Administration members involved on the rest.
What is even more coincidental is that, during that same timeframe, there was an apparent dissatisfaction from the Leola School Board with a particular coach of a cooped sport. On the Thursday or Friday prior to a scheduled joint meeting between the Leola and Frederick school boards, which was set to take place Monday, March 22nd, 2021, Bev Myer was in the office of the Frederick Area School discussing the proposed agenda for said meeting with Frederick Area School Superintendent, Mr. Jeff Kosters. During that discussion, Ms. Myer made a comment to Mr. Kosters attempting to confirm that he was planning on “stepping down” as head coach of the varsity girls’ basketball team at Monday’s meeting. Having no idea what she was talking about, Mr. Kosters informed Ms. Myer that he had no plans of doing so and he questioned her as to where that would have come from. Based on Ms. Myer’s reaction to Mr. Kosters’ response, he sensed that something was going on, and it was at that point that Ms. Myer informed Mr. Kosters that the Leola Board was coming to the joint meeting that Monday night with the intention of removing him from coaching girls’ basketball. Here again we have another example of a lack of communication by Leola’s board. They had failed to mention any dissatisfaction with Mr. Kosters’ performance as a coach to any of us on the Frederick Area School Board. As some of you may know, I served then and still serve on the sports coop committee and have no recollection of this being an issue at any of our committee meetings prior to our joint board meeting on March 22nd, 2021. It seems to me that these two events are somehow connected, but I encourage you to reach out to the Leola School Board and ask them for an explanation (all current Leola board members were on the board during the time in question). My source for the latter event was Mr. Kosters, but don’t be afraid to vet it with Ms. Myer also.
Fact Group 2
I had a front row seat as it pertains to my second focal point, as I would like to discuss our former football coop, the North Border Titans. Some of you may remember much of this topic, but I believe there are some bits of information that may not be public knowledge. I also think that if you are of my generation and have young kids who have just in the past few years began attending school, or if you are just new to the Leola/Frederick coop, then you probably know little about these events. When this coop manifested in the Fall/Winter of 2016, it was initially Eureka who reached out to Leola/Frederick about the potential for a football coop (no harm done there). As a result of this inquiry, there was a joint coop school board meeting held on November 15th, 2016, in the Frederick gym to discuss the potential football coop. For those of you who were in attendance, you may remember that meeting also being one filled with concerned patrons voicing their opinions, as well as heated debate between stakeholders. It is at this point that I would like to clarify something, before I get to the main argument of this section. Unlike Frederick’s recent January 2023 board meeting, the purpose of this meeting was to serve as a “Q & A” for all stakeholders, where there was dialogue back and forth between patrons and board members throughout most of the meeting. On the contrary, the Frederick board meeting on Monday, January 9th, was a regularly scheduled monthly meeting where there was a “Public Comment” portion of the agenda, which is found on all our monthly meeting agendas. The standard for public comment is to allow those who wish to speak three minutes to address the board (the time limit differs from district to district, but three minutes is what Frederick allows), during which, the board does not engage with the speaker or speakers, but simply listens and considers what is said. Prior to our meeting on the 9th, the Frederick Board was considerate enough to amend the meeting agenda to allow the Leola Board to speak. Again, knowing this was not a “Q & A” meeting, instead of presenting comments of concern, it was taken as an opportunity to threaten and demand answers from the Frederick Board. Knowing that the Frederick Board wouldn’t respond and demanding the lack of comments be reflected in the minutes did nothing more than create higher tensions between the two entities, being used as a tactic to place the Frederick Board in a negative light.
Back to the previously mentioned November 15th, 2016, joint meeting, when the Leola school board was directly asked by Rich Achen (at the time a concerned patron and not a board member) that if Frederick’s board voted against the proposed football coop, would they honor our existing coop or enter a different one with Eureka, the Leola School Board refused to give an answer. Now recall the purpose of this meeting, as I have described it in the previous paragraph, of being essentially an open discussion between boards and patrons. Unlike our meeting on the 9th where silence should have been expected, here it was perplexing and quite telling when Leola’s board remained silent. After being asked the same question by Mr. Achen for a second time, they then gave a suspect response that not all board members were present, so they were unable to answer the question at that time. Such a response carried little weight, as they had been engaging in a board meeting with a quorum from the beginning, having only been missing one board member. Try to understand that without knowing our coop partner’s intentions, our board was left with very few options. At this point in time the “shoe was on the other foot,” and Frederick didn’t have enough student athletes to field a football team. Knowing this, some parents of Frederick students expressed to the board that if Frederick Area School didn’t have a football program, then they would open enroll their student into other school districts, a dilemma Leola was staring in the face on Monday night, prior to Frederick’s motion to table the issue. Obviously, the loss of enrollment equals the loss of tax dollars for the district, and we were left with no choice but to agree to enter the coop. I ask you this: Why is it that when the deck was stacked in Leola’s favor, that they didn’t have the same consideration for the well-being of our school district as we were apparently supposed to have for theirs? I have since deemed the North Border football coop a “shotgun” coop for obvious reasons. There are too many sources to list here, but you shouldn’t have trouble tracking one down to confirm these facts, as several board members and some administrators are still currently with their respective districts.
Fact Group 3
This occurrence is of lesser importance as it pertains to our sports coop, however, it speaks volumes to the hypocrisy that has taken place on the Leola School Board’s part. After contacting Dan Knust, Athletic Director of the Ipswich School District, he gave me a firsthand account of how the wrestling coop between Ipswich/Bowdle, and Leola was abruptly ended just a couple of months prior to the start of the 2020-2021 season, which is also public knowledge and can be found by reading the minutes for the November 9th, 2020, Ipswich school board meeting on the Ipswich School website. It turns out that Leola abruptly voted to dissolve their wrestling coop with Ipswich/Bowdle at their October 13th, 2020 school board meeting (this can be found in the Leola school board meeting minutes for that date on the Leola School website). Ipswich only learned of the dissolution after it had already passed. This is evident because there is no mention of a motion (or even a discussion) made by Ipswich board members to dissolve the wrestling coop that I can find in their October 13th, 2020 board meeting minutes. The soonest it appears on the Ipswich side is in the aforementioned November 9th meeting minutes, where it is simply reported by Mr. Knust that Leola is no longer part of the wrestling coop. This would imply that it WAS NOT a mutual dissolution. Also, through my conversation with Mr. Knust, and after reviewing both Ipswich and Leola school board minutes/agendas leading up to the October dissolution, I found that Ipswich and Leola never held a joint meeting to discuss the dissolution of the wrestling coop. I find this interesting as it was very evident that the Leola School Board felt that they were owed that exact courtesy by the Frederick Area School Board before we made any type of decision. This would appear, at least to me, to be a double standard on their part, but you can be the judge of that. Not only did the Leola board propose a dissolution of a sports coop in the exact same manner, but they actually approved it without so much as a word to Ipswich/Bowdle stakeholders! It’s at this time that I would like for you to recall the previously mentioned letter sent by Frederick to Leola. Apparently, the relationships formed in the coop with Ipswich/Bowdle were not of equal importance to the Leola School District board as those formed with Frederick. As a side note, I reviewed all Leola School Board meeting minutes from the October 13th, 2020, meeting, backwards to the end of the 2019-2020 wrestling season and only found a brief entry at their March 12, 2020, meeting (end of the wrestling season) where it states that the wrestling program was discussed and tabled. Seems like an awful long time to go without further discussion between that entry and the October 13th dissolution. I also noted that there were no Open Forum entries recorded that raised any concern about the program in that timeframe, but don’t take my word for it! Please review the documents for yourself in your spare time, or simply ask the Leola School board (again, all the same board members then as now).
Mr. Knust did also inform me that Leola had recently approached Ipswich about a potential sports coop, after having heard of Frederick’s intent to dissolve the Leola/Frederick coop. He mentioned that when the topic of the proposed sports coop was being discussed in public forum at the January 9th, 2023 Ipswich school board meeting, he reminded the Ipswich board members of the abrupt dismissal by Leola in their former wrestling coop and to take that into consideration when deciding on whether to enter a new sports coop with Leola.
I have laid out these facts to show that while the Frederick Area School Board is currently “on trial,” Leola’s school board is far from innocent. Whatever perception you have of either board, I want us to at least all be judged on the same playing field. It is my belief that only now, when the Leola District School Board has nowhere else to turn, do they claim to be fully committed to this sports coop. My question to the Leola patrons would be this: Did you know about your board’s previous actions, or were they carried out in the darkness of secrecy? I hope your answer is no, otherwise, it would seem that your relationships with your Frederick counterparts maybe are only important to you when it is convenient. If you were unaware of these events, then I hope you contact your board members with the same amount of concern that we Frederick board members were met with at this past Monday’s meeting. Frederick patrons: I also ask that you to reach out to the Leola board and ask for an explanation for these events, like so many of you reached out to me when learning of our proposed dissolution.
I recognize that this may cause a great deal of backlash for me personally but please know that I acted alone in writing this address and believed it to be the right thing to do. I have seen social media posts and have personally received text messages containing some discouraging content from those who haven’t bothered to call and get the facts from me or my fellow board members. It is disappointing that these people feel they can voice their opinions without at least attempting to hear us out. I also understand that in laying out the details of each fact listed above, I only gave one side of each event. For obvious reasons, reaching out to the “other side” would have been counterproductive to the writing of this address. The good news is that YOU can make those calls and get their side of the story, and I would absolutely encourage you to do so!
I am currently in my seventh year on the Frederick Area School Board, and this is only the second time I can remember having this size of participation in a board meeting. It’s honestly great to see, although I wish I had a better seat from which to view it from! Unfortunately, the first time was also involving a sports coop. Knowing this, I ask that you don’t lose sight of why the school board exists, and in case you are wondering, it’s not solely to create sports programs. I have never seen a gym full of concerned stakeholders over a teacher hiring/firing or a budget item. It would appear to me that the current Frederick board has been trustworthy enough when it comes to those decisions, and I would argue that those are the decisions that are much more significant when it comes to student education and longevity of the school district.
Lastly, I believe the men who serve on the board of the Frederick Area School District to be honorable men who keep the students, taxpayers, and future of the school district always at the forefront of their minds when making decisions. It’s fair to say that their character may have come into question because of recent events, but if you wish to persecute the Frederick Area School Board for what is perceived by many of you as unacceptable behavior, then I simply ask that you hold the school board of our coop partner to those same standards.
Thank for Reading,
Great letter Alex. All the best for you and the board. Thanks for giving your time
Thanks for explanation Alex. Even though I no longer have school age children, I take an interest in your school since 1 of my kids graduated from it. I’ll admit I was a bit surprised when I read of the possible dissolution of the sports coop with Leola. Even though your presented facts were only 1 side of the story, I get the picture! Keep up your good work for the next generation.
Very well stated, and enlightening Alex. Thank you for being on the board. Not everyone has the ability to do this job.
Hello Mr Hart
I’m responding to your letter as a former member of Frederick School District and am in contact with current members.
First, thank you Mr Hart for your time on this board. You’re obviously very dedicated to the best interests of the school district.
Second, I know Nick Weismantel is a genuine person. Believe and trust him. I have deep Eureka and Herried history and feel competent on this.
Third, the Leola School Board has a history of making decisions even their voters scratch their heads for….for YEARS.
Fourth, I hope you continue to give the Frederick School District your best. Things are SO complicated with managing a school district now. Wishing you and the rest of the Frederick School Board good luck!
Former Frederick resident
Very well written Alex! Thank you for your time to explain the other side of the story for which all of us know there was one- there always is!