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Hendrickson supporters unite while BOE, superintendent continue to take heat

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Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 8:30 am

POLSON — Last Wednesday morning, a group of approximately 30 Polson High School students gathered outside their school to protest the non-renewal of assistant principal Shawn Hendrickson. One sign read “education not politics,” and another said “Hendrickson fits in at PHS,” but the majority of the signs simply stated “we love Hendrickson.”

Since the Feb. 14 meeting when school board members voted to not renew Hendrickon’s contract, select community members have used their pens and keyboards to voice their anger with the school board, and their support for the assistant principal. Channels for their message have included letters to the editors of local newspapers, comments on media websites, and a 208-follower strong Facebook fan page.

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          • Discuss

          Welcome to the discussion.


          • Dayton1 posted at 3:40 pm on Sat, Mar 26, 2011.

            Dayton1 Posts: 3

            I am writing to voice my concern for the manner in which the non-renewal of Mr. Shawn Hendrickson’s contract as Vice Principal of Polson High School has been handled by Superintendent Whitesell and the Board. I am a PHS alumnus (Class of 1995) and knew Shawn for a number of years while a student in Polson. While I no longer reside in Montana, I occasionally monitor the local papers and have been extremely disappointment in the Board’s and Superintendent Whitesell’s failure to demonstrate anything even remotely resembling good governance in the handling of this matter.

            Public officials have a duty to conduct public affairs and manage public resources in a transparent and accountable manner. While I do not believe there is any dispute as the Board’s legal ability to refuse the renewal of Mr. Hendrickson’s contract on a “without cause” basis, the Board and Superintendent Whitesell do owe an explanation to the community as to why this non-renewal is in the interest of the impacted students, families and School District. Superintendent Whitesell professes on his own homepage to be “committed to providing progressive leadership and communicating the vision of our district”. It seems he has failed on all counts to fulfill this commitment in this instance by refusing to communicate a rationale for his decision to the families and community with whom he is supposed to be a partner.

            Additionally, from the Board’s perspective, if I understand the Polson Public Schools Board Policy correctly, the organization of the Board is meant to establish “a structure in order to deliver educational services that comply with the mission, philosophy, goals, standards, and policies of the District. In order to accomplish this duty, the Board retains all powers and duties, statutory and inherent, as provided by law.” Given that “Community Involvement which emphasizes the educational belief that learning and living are intertwined to the point where the classroom and the community are inseparable, and encourages citizens and agencies to join hands as partners in the education process” is one of only two underlying principals upon which the goals of Polson School District is based, I would question whether the Board has exercised it’s legal powers in a manner consistent with the goals of the District. The Board should bear in mind, they are accountable to the community they serve, not the Superintendent.

            I understand that people lose their jobs for various reasons, and particularly in the private sector, a “without cause” dismissal typically will be accepted without explanation. However, in this instance, we are dealing with a decision made by public officials whom if held to the standards of their own statements and policies (see Superintendent Whitesell’s homepage or the Board Policy) are accountable to the community and are required to provide an explanation as why their decisions are in the interest and advance the goals of the community. It seems to me the opinions and voices of the community are being ignored in the hope they will go away. I would urge the Board and Superintendent Whitesell to demonstrate a much higher standard of public service, fulfill their commitments and obligations as public officials and provide the community with an immediate explanation for Mr. Hendrickson’s dismissal.

          • Falcon posted at 12:46 am on Wed, Mar 9, 2011.

            Falcon Posts: 1

            It is a fact that administrators and boards make decisions all the time that people don't like. Unless you are a member of that board or an administrator, isn't your diatribe just opinion? When you don't have all the information, but you disagree, why do make it personal? What that says about you is that you are a negative, mean-spirited person. I feel sorry for you.

          • rednwhite posted at 10:27 am on Sun, Mar 6, 2011.

            rednwhite Posts: 4

            Sorry, somehow a sentence was dropped from below. Second paragraph second sentence should read: One of them he outright fired without cause because he was nontenured, others he intimidated or made working conditions so uncomfortable they resigned, and another one, Mr. Weber, he outright illegally fired.

            I might add: Whitesell put TB in two law suits that could have been easly avoided. I think Polson School District is carrying a huge liability with DW at the helm. I know he interviews well but in actuality he is hot headed, narcissistic and lacks consequential discernment.

          • rednwhite posted at 5:45 am on Sun, Mar 6, 2011.

            rednwhite Posts: 4

            I am from Twin Bridges and was just informed about your unfortunate situation in Polson. I knew at some point I would see this in Polson but not quite so soon. Polson residents are quicker to learn than TB. I wonder if Whitesell's MO is the same in Polson as it was in Twin. Let me see...Does he have the board believing that they work for him instead of the other way around? Does he have his own entourage that he pampers? Does he have a multi-year contract so you cannot fire him without cause? Is it his way or the highway?

            In TB Whitesell put six teachers, all males, all family men on the run. One of them he outright fired without cause because he was nontenured, others he intimidated or made working he outright illegally fired. Weber was the only one that had some legal standing and the tenacity to make Whitesell cry uncle. That lawsuit cost the TB district a lot of money. It was not the only lawsuit he got TB into during his tenure. He also put the district in a lawsuit concerning equal access. It would have been easy for Whitesell to comply with the grandparent that wanted to see thier son's spelling bee but instead he took the low road, got TB and Madison County involved in a lawsuit that could have easily been avoided. He managed to weasle out of it and the County got stuck with the tab. Whitesell came to the peaceful town of Twin Bridges, crapped all over it and then left to repeat his actions in Polson. Twin Bridges continues to feel the pain of a "man" that turned families upside down, destroyed carreers, and divided the community. There are still those in TB that worship the ground he walked on, that think he was the best of the best. They were members of his entourage. Whitesell lacked wisdom and ruled with vengeance. What I can't figure out is why did Polson hire him? His track record was no secret in Twin. Wasn't anyone called? Oh, that's right Bea Kaleva, his defense attourney in the Weber case, got him is job in Polson.

          • sleuthon posted at 12:16 pm on Sat, Mar 5, 2011.

            sleuthon Posts: 2

            The answer is to follow the money. If the truth be known Mr. Hendrickson probably questioned some financial schanannigans to or for the benefit of Whitesell. Freedom of INformation, get a full accounting. Check to see what he was getting in Twin Bridges for his contract and what he actually received. Find out how much Keleva got paid by the insurance company for representing Whitesell in Twin Bridges and at the same time representing the school board. Can you say conflict. School board rolled over and played dead and if they didn't they weren't invited to the meetings. Only one person on the board making the decisions - no one else had to be involved. Works better that way. She was representing Twin when hired to do the 'search' for Polson's super replacement. While promoting him for Polson, didn't want that silly little law suit on his resume. How did that get fixed? After plucking Whitesell for Polson got hired in Twin to 'search' for his replacement. Still no conflicts. Now she represents Ennis school board and a supervisor there. AGain, not a conflict in sight. Check it out in the Madisonian. It works really well. The insurance company pays and everybody but the taxpayer gets rich. The schools do not benefit after being involved in the scheme, but then that isn't the point.

          • Karma2005 posted at 7:55 am on Fri, Mar 4, 2011.

            Karma2005 Posts: 2

            Polsonite...Elizabeth Kaleva is also known as Bea Kaleva and yes she is a Missoula Attorney.

            Polson school dispute heads back to courtJun 28, 2007 ... POLSON - Talks between school officials and parents broke down this week, ... " We tried," said Elizabeth Kaleva, attorney for the district.

          • bush_baby posted at 3:35 pm on Thu, Mar 3, 2011.

            bush_baby Posts: 2

            The district in which I work is always looking for quality educators. Come up north and you'll receive a warm welcome.

          • Polsonite posted at 3:27 pm on Thu, Mar 3, 2011.

            Polsonite Posts: 1

            wow karma2005 that is interesting a good scoop for a story too! I'm a bit confused though, because if you click on shawnofthedeads post down below where it says read more, I see where there is a Elizabeth Kaleva, Esq., Attorney, Missoula, MT who represented Mr. Whitesell, check it out. This story is getting juicier by the hour. I hope they all go to jail.

          • Karma2005 posted at 3:09 pm on Thu, Mar 3, 2011.

            Karma2005 Posts: 2

            ShawnoftheDead, I like the information you provided and wish you would have included the attorney's name for Whitesell as there is an eerie twist that Bea Kaleva was his attorney as well as Polson School Districts and recommended David for hire to Polson School Board. Makes you want to say hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I guess Polson Board Members will NEVER stand on their own two INDIVIDUAL feet. Why do we have you anyway if you are just going to be puppets? Bea Kaleva, Sue McCormick and now David Whitesell....who else puppeteers you?

          • ShawnoftheDead posted at 1:31 pm on Thu, Mar 3, 2011.

            ShawnoftheDead Posts: 1

            I see where history is trying to repeat itself. Apparently Mr. Whitesell was sued in Twin Bridges by a teacher.

            2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 13144,*;314 Fed. Appx. 5

            MARK WEBER, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. TWIN BRIDGES SCHOOL DISTRICT; CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 7, MADISON COUNTY; DAVID WHITESELL, individually and as Superintendent of Twin Bridges School, Defendants - Appellees.

            No. 07-35156


            314 Fed. Appx. 5; 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 13144

            June 6, 2008 ** , Submitted, Seattle, Washington**The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for decision without oral argument. See Fed. R. App. P. 34(a)(2).

            June 18, 2008, Filed



            SUBSEQUENT HISTORY: Appeal after remand at, Remanded by Weber v. Twin Bridges Sch. Dist., 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 19982 (9th Cir. Mont., Sept. 4, 2009)

            PRIOR HISTORY: [*1]

            Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana. D.C. No. CV-05-00083-RFC. Richard F. Cebull, District Judge, Presiding.



            COUNSEL: For MARK WEBER, Plaintiff - Appellant: Patrick T. Gallagher, Esq., Attorney, SKAKLES & GALLAGHER, Anaconda, MT; Michael D. McLean, Esq., Attorney, McLEAN & McLEAN, PLLP, Anaconda, MT.

            For TWIN BRIDGES SCHOOL DISTRICT, CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 7, MADISON COUNTY, DAVE WHITESELL, individually and as Superintendent of Twin Bridges School, Defendants - Appellees: Elizabeth Kaleva, Esq., Attorney, Missoula, MT.

            JUDGES: Before: BRUNETTI and CALLAHAN, Circuit Judges, and BENITEZ, *** District Judge.

            The Honorable Roger T. Benitez, United States District Judge for the Southern District of California, sitting by designation.


            MEMORANDUM *

            - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Footnotes - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -*

            This disposition is not appropriate for publication and is not precedent except as provided by 9th Cir. R. 36-3.
            - - - - - - - - - - - - End Footnotes- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

            Before: BRUNETTI and CALLAHAN, Circuit Judges, and BENITEZ,*** District Judge.

            Mark Weber (Weber) appeals the district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants. We reverse and remand.

            Because the parties are familiar with the facts and procedural history, we do not restate them [*2] here except as necessary to explain our disposition.

            Under Montana law, "[a]ny teacher who receives notification of reelection for the ensuing school fiscal year shall provide the trustees with written acceptance of the conditions of the reelection within 20 days after the receipt of the notice of reelection, and failure to notify the trustees within 20 days constitutes conclusive evidence of the teacher's nonacceptance of the tendered position." Mont. Code Ann. § 20-4-205(2). On April 27, 2005, the Board of Trustees informed Weber in writing that his position was renewed for the 2005-2006 school year. On May 5, Weber accepted his position, and at that point, retained his position for the 2005-2006 school year.

            In its April 27 letter, the Board of Trustees also informed Weber that a contract specifying his salary would be given to him once the Twin Bridges School District and the Twin Bridges Federation of Teachers completed their negotiations. On July 20, the Board of Trustees offered Weber a contract, which provided that Weber's failure to sign and return the contract by August 9 would be regarded as conclusive evidence of non-acceptance, and that his position "shall be declared vacant." [*3] It is undisputed that Weber did not sign and return his contract by August 9; instead, he hand-delivered his signed contract to Superintendent David Whitesell (Whitesell) shortly after 9 a.m. on August 10.

            The following week, Whitesell informed the Board of Trustees that a teacher turned in his salary contract late, but the Board of Trustees took no action. The next day, Whitesell sent Weber a letter informing him that his failure to sign and return the contract by August 9 was being taken as "notice that the position [was] vacant."

            However, Montana law provides that "the trustees of each district shall . . . employ or dismiss a teacher . . . upon the recommendation of the district superintendent, the county high school principal, or other principal as the board considers necessary, accepting or rejecting any recommendation as the trustees in their sole discretion determine . . . ." Mont. Code Ann. § 20-3-324(1). Montana law grants no similar authority to superintendents. Therefore, once Weber accepted his position for the 2005-2006 school year, only the Board of Trustees, and not Whitesell, had the authority to dismiss him, regardless of whether Weber failed to sign and return his contract [*4] on time. It is undisputed that the Board of Trustees took no such action here.

            Furthermore, Montana law specifically describes the procedures used by a board of trustees to terminate the services of a tenured teacher. See Mont. Code Ann. § 20-4-204. Here, none of these procedures were followed.

            Therefore, we hold that under Montana law, once Weber accepted his position for the 2005-2006 school year in conformity with section 20-4-205(2), Whitesell did not have the authority to declare Weber's position vacant without the Board of Trustees first resolving to do so pursuant to the procedures set forth in section 20-4-204. Therefore, we reverse the district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants and remand

          • Mr Big Head posted at 11:00 am on Thu, Mar 3, 2011.

            Mr Big Head Posts: 1

            Whitesell your empire is just starting to collapse. Your skeletons in your closet from Twin Bridges are following you. Whitesell what makes your decision the right decision? Whitesell said. “I don’t think that reflects the community in its entirety.” Whitesell the community is speaking. We are speaking to you. It's not just a select few. You need to bone up on your media spin techniques. You appeart to be nothing but a coward and it's really starting to show now. You need to quit and get out of town. It only makes sense. Nobody likes you here. You've picked a fight with the wrong people. We are united against you. Only the truth will prevail.

          • roaddogg posted at 9:45 am on Thu, Mar 3, 2011.

            roaddogg Posts: 1

            Interesting that Mr. Whitesell divulges inforamation about only select teachers being there "on behalf" of Mr. Hendrickson when approximately 40 teachers from the school district could not attend as they were out of town training. Interesting also that the meeting was scheduled during that time in which supporters/teachers were away as well as it being scheduled during Valentine's Day. The digging on Mr. Whitesell has begun and from Twin Bridges to other lawsuits including Mr. Whitesell being named in those lawsuits this fight to rid this community and this school district of individuals with ego issues such as Mr. Whitesell has just begun.

            Mr. Whitesell is a coward and he does not represent this community. Watching a championship game where our kids play basketball and he chooses to sit on the opposite side of the gym from the rest of this community is but a metaphor of his elitism and ego taking precedence over his duties. I hope his days around this community begin to show an expiration date and he feels as sick driving through the town of Polson as those in Twin Bridges do thinking about him in their community.