Possibly the biggest shakeup in recent memory in the Coos Bay School District occurred over the past month. Athletic Director and Dean of Students Greg Mulkey finally returned to work yesterday after nearly a month-long suspension pending dismissal by Superintendent Dawn Granger. Her decision was overturned by the school board last Wednesday night in a 6-1 vote. Additionally, Principal Doug Holland decided he will not return to MHS next year. Following these two announcements, strong reactions arose aimed at Granger from district administrators, certified and classified staff members, students and community members, resulting in 64 formal complaint forms turned in at the school board meeting on April 13 and a student-led walk-out and demonstration dubbed “Operation White Buffalo” on April 8. As the school board members proceed to deal with the complaints, it is time for them to really examine these issues and other decisions being made by district administration that are negatively impacting the students of Marshfield.
The resignation of Holland should be a huge warning flag for the board, as he has openly stated his reasons for leaving. According to Holland, the tipping point for his decision is his inability to work effectively with Granger. Many students have already watched several great teachers come and go during their time at MHS, but to lose Holland, who has gained the trust and admiration of staff and students alike, is a huge blow to the school. As the district seeks to find a new principal and fill inevitable teaching positions for those who choose to leave, it will be difficult to find quality people who want to jump into the mess.
Personnel issues coupled with other recent financial decisions by Granger have many community members and students wondering if MHS is getting the short end of the stick in the district. According to The World Newspaper, Granger also has plans to take approximately $150,000 of funding from Marshfield athletics and activities to be used in other schools in the district. The importance of high school activities and athletics cannot be overlooked. They are a means of opportunities for students to enrich their lives, earn recognition that may help them earn college admission and scholarship activities they aspire to and also a great source of community pride. It would be foolish and detrimental to retract funding from activities that already have to fundraise to stay alive.
The impact of Mulkey’s sudden departure impacted students directly and negatively. Spanish teacher Floyd Montiel and special education teacher Kayla Crook stepped up to share the responsibilities of the position of Dean of Students in Mulkey’s absence, while Assistant Principal Bryan Trendell took on the additional duties of Athletic Director. Substitute teachers are filled in for Crook and Montiel while they picked up the extra administrative duties. Though very few people know why Mulkey was put on leave, the reasons better be very good ones for causing so much disruption so close to the end of the school year. Students should not be victims of the district’s administrative decisions when it is the leadership’s job to provide a learning environment to children where students are best suited to succeed. Administration should be working to keep the student’s best interest at all times.
The Marshfield community has been greatly disturbed in recent weeks. Many students, staff, parents and community members are fed up. The quality of education and the experience that students are receiving is suffering, and the community will soon follow. As they wade through this mess of formal complaints, Granger and the school board must keep their priorities focused on the number one reason this school district exists: the students. No personal agendas should get in the way of what is needed to best serve students and those who work with students at MHS and throughout the district.