DUNKERTON, Iowa --- Participants at a special school board meeting Tuesday night applauded vigorously when Superintendent Jim Stanton read proposed reforms.
The measures, including parental notification and more extensive review of potential performers allowed in the Dunkerton school, are designed to block controversial presentations like the one offered last week. Members of Junkyard Prophet and You Can Run But You Cannot Hide infuriated many in the district with their views on homosexuality and by showing students images of aborted fetuses.
"We're looking to make this a community effort," Stanton said. "It's time for us to get out of the quagmire."
Despite initial enthusiasm in the audience, the first speaker to address board members moments later called for Stanton to step aside.
"The kids are suffering over this deal and, Mr. Stanton, you signed the checks," Tim Westergreen said. "I respectfully ask for your resignation."
Others echoed the demand, including Dave Lingenfelter, a parent.
"Everybody is still ticked off. As a community we're going to get past this. But it's time for him to go," Lingenfelter said.
Becky Reichen, a resident in Dunkerton, said there has been "nothing but heartache" for students and staff since Stanton joined the district. She offered no specifics, however.
Reichen also raised the issue of who was with the students during Junkyard Prophet's breakout sessions. She did not like Stanton's answer.
"Did everybody get that? In the small groups there was no adult supervision," Reichen relayed to the audience.
Lingenfelter pressed for information on how much and who investigated the group.
"I took the advice of the Principal (Mike Cooper,)" Stanton said. "I did not make any phone calls."
Board member Kirby Marquart had a difficult time containing his comments as speakers praised Junkyard Prophet's message.
"Not in a public school. It's against the law," Marquart said.
He, too, suggested serious ramifications for Stanton.
"It should have been stopped. You don't screw up that bad and expect to keep his job," Marquart said.
Board member Tony Gamerdinger later suggested Marquart sit with the audience, and Marquart did leave the dais set up in the school auditorium.
As emotions overflowed and the meeting devolved into a shouting match controlled by the loudest voice, board President Alen Nagel called for orderly, respectful exchanges.
"We're going to stop this meeting if we don't get positive comments," Nagel said.
Stanton received significant endorsements as well. Board members Jon Cox and Gamerdinger said after the meeting they had no interest in Stanton's resignation, and Nagel said he saw no need either. Cindi Rigdon said she was uncertain what, if any, action the board might take.
Stanton said he had no plans to quit.
During the meeting, Rhonda Pollock, a parent, shared her views as a former employee.
"Mr. Stanton has changed the school for the better," she said. "We need to support him.'
D.J. Manahl said he backed the superintendent and board members who are trying to sort through the emotional upheaval.
"Mr. Stanton has my full support. You all have my full support," Manahl said.
"All we need to do is move forward," he added.
To do that, Stanton proposed an action plan that includes counseling for students and staff members adversely affected by Junkyard Prophet's appearance. He added the district will also be bolstering its diversity curriculum and forming a review committee to screen potential school assemblies. Committee members will include teachers, students, residents and school board members.
Another new measure would be to require permission slips from parents before allowing a student to participate in a school assembly.
"It will be for every assembly," Stanton said.
As part of the remedy, Iowa Safe Schools will visit the Dunkerton school next week. The organization is a task force organized by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in 2002. Its board of directors includes school administrators, teachers, professors and Eric Tabor, chief of staff for the Iowa Attorney General's Office. Its executive director is Nate Monson.
"I checked them out once, twice, three times before I was going to invite them into our school," Stanton said.
Student Bethany Fish was among those Tuesday night expressing overall concern for the issue is doing to the community.
"We're destroying ourselves over this," she said.
Trevor Rigdon, the school's football coach, shared a similar view.
"It has been very disturbing, the whole thing. It's been hurtful," he said. "I hope that somehow this whole community comes together."