A group of over 80 citizens attended a special meeting of the Darlington School Board that took place Monday evening, Jan. 14 in order to show their support for Darlington High School (DHS) principal Doug McArthur.
There were so many people attending that the meeting was moved from the board meeting room at the elementary/middle school, to a larger conference room.
The main event of the special meeting was the review of the principals’ evaluations as well as the contracts of the principals and the district administrator, all of which took place during an executive session, closed to the public.
The employees whose contracts were under review included: Doug McArthur, DHS principal, Michelle Savatski, Darlington’s elementary/ middle school (DEMS) principal and Denise Wellnitz, administrator.
The citizens that attended the meeting Monday seemed to be in fear that McArthur’s job was in danger and had attended the meeting to show support in numbers for the DHS principal.
During the time set aside for public comment at the beginning of the meeting, which began at 6:00 p.m., two members of the public spoke before the school board, Pat Hardyman of Darlington and Leona Havens, a Darlington High School teacher.
When school board president, Duane Jorgenson, invited the public to speak, Hardyman stepped forward immediately and asked those in the crowd who were there to support Doug McArthur to raise their hands so the board could see the number of people present for that purpose. Hands were raised across the room.
“He [Doug McArthur] provides expertise and passion,” said Hardyman. “There’s a lot of places we can get expertise, but there’s very few people that will provide the passion that he provides.” Hardyman concluded his speech by asking the board to support the renewal of Doug McArthur’s contract and stating that there was a petition with over 300 signatures supporting the high school principal.
Havens then stepped forward and asked to speak on behalf of the teachers. She read a letter that she said, “the majority of the staff, both support staff and teaching staff have signed.”
The letter showed additional support for McArthur, saying he “is the right person for the job because of his dedication to maintaining and improving excellence in [the] school” and that McArthur has a “vested interest and knowledge of the Darlington area and our school district.”
In the letter’s conclusion, Havens read: “It is for these reasons that we request that Mr. McArthur be provided the opportunity to continue as our high school principal.” When Havens finished reading, applause from the public filled the room.
The board then took care of a few other brief agenda items and then retired to the board meeting room to enter into executive session.
Many of the citizens who had attended stayed in the larger conference room, hoping the board would emerge to take action on what had been discussed, but were informed that the school board planned to come out of executive session and simply adjourn the meeting. It was indicated that any potential votes or decisions were to be put off until the next board meeting.
The contract renewals will again be on the agenda for the next regular board meeting which is scheduled to take place on Monday, Jan. 21 at 7:00 p.m. in the Darlington Elementary/Middle School.