Staff protest principal’s transfer
Snow at center of bullying issues

Middle School Principal Melinda Snow will not be in her current position next year, according to Grand County Schools Superintendent JT Stroder, but will be transferred to a new position. A number of teachers and staff showed up at the May 16 meeting of the School Board to protest the decision.

Middle school teacher Erik Secrist spoke on behalf of a number of middle school teachers and staff.

“We’ve been told that there is not really a reason that is associated with blame or wrongdoing but it’s a concern on our part that with Melinda being moved out of our school, it sends a message to the public that in fact, there has been some wrongdoing … We want to make sure that the fact that, as we’ve been told, there is no blame to be assigned is well known,” Secrist said.

Other speakers put it more pointedly.

“This is a horrible decision in my opinion, to remove her from the middle school. She has done a fantastic job,” said Ginger Torres. “The general public out there … has been told that it’s because of a bullying situation that wasn’t taken care of properly. Of all the administrators in this district, and I know them all and they’re good people and I have a lot of respect for them but Melinda is really, really strict on bullying and when she knows it’s happening, she takes care of it to the best of her ability.”

Torres referred to the death of Lily McClish last year, in which bullying was a factor. After Lily’s death, her mother Molly McClish came forward to ask the schools to do something about what she called a “persistent bullying problem.”

McClish said a flood of people came forward with their own bullying experiences after Lily’s death

“It’s a culture of bullying, and anyone who is slightly different is targeted,” McClish said. “Parents and students have come to me expressing that they felt like not enough was done with bullying, and that the kids don’t feel safe to report. Employees who know and see the problem do not feel safe to report because they feel fearful for their job and for their children. What has become clear to me, is that this has been a problem for many, many years.”

Several months ago when the issue was being discussed, Stroder commented, “If [the community’s] seeing bullying happen, we need to know about it. When you shed light on those things, that’s how you get something solved. But people have to be willing to come forward and say something.”

Another speaker at last week’s meeting said that Snow is being “scape-goated.”

“In the past year at least one member of our community made public some extremely serious allegations against GCMS,” said Chance Palmer, reading a letter from Darin Menlove, who was not able to be present at the meeting. “To my knowledge, the district never publicly confronted these serious allegations. Rather, the district allowed those allegations to dominate the stage. I for one can draw only one conclusion—that Principal Snow has become a scapegoat in the district’s mishandling of these serious allegations. If those allegations were not true, they should have been laid to rest with the same vigor in which they surfaced … My confidence in the district administration is shaken as I find it highly questionable to remove Principal Snow from a position that brought pride to our community through good performance and results.”

Snow did not respond to requests for comment, but the GCMS student handbook shows that Snow organized anti-bullying assemblies each term.

Secrist said that if personnel decisions are being made based on public outrage, it puts other teachers at risk.

“I’ve also had teachers express some concern to me that if decisions can be made based on public perception, it does make a scary situation for teachers. There can be a perception out there about someone that’s unfounded. But if there’s no open, transparent discussion about it, that puts other administrators and teachers at risk as well,” Secrist said.

Jayne May said in an emotional appeal that there was a spate of suicides as Snow was starting her job as GCMS Principal and that Snow brought the student body together.

“The [recent] tragedies … this isn’t new for this woman [Snow]. She did not turn and run from this community. What she did was she banded the kids together and with assistance, she built a skate park in honor of those kids. Then she came in with these enormous wings that she has and she held our children through all the confusion,” May said.

Middle and high school strings teacher Carolyn Stiles said that her students had wanted to be at the meeting to speak in defense of Snow, but she didn’t feel it was her place to bring them. “Those kids wanted to go to bat for her. These are seventh graders that want her as their administrator next year,” Stiles said.

May and others asked the board to reconsider the decision to transfer Snow.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent