Parents of Madrone Trail Charter School students made it known Wednesday that they feel the school is straying from its Waldorf-inspired roots and that some changes need to be made in the way its board members are appointed.
The meeting held in the school's gym was busy with parents reading statements that were critical of recent changes to the board and the school's bylaws determining how new members can be appointed.
The Madrone Trail bylaws require that at least two of the seven to nine members "must be people with experience or training in teaching the Waldorf educational curriculum," but don't elaborate on the type of experience or how extensive the training must be.
Chairman Doug Breidenthal said board members should have experience in accounting and public policymaking.
He said the school is the steward of $1 million in public funds, which requires a mind for budgets and the legalities of running a public institution.
"Frankly, we haven't received too many applications until recently," he said.
The parents argued that parents and educators with knowledge of Waldorf-style education experience would make valuable board members.
The school opened in 2007 and will be up for renewal this year. The Medford School Board will have the ultimate say in whether the school remains in operation. The school has to present the Medford School Board with a plan that insures it is on sound financial footing and whether students are meeting educational goals in the classroom.
Many of the parents said that faculty members should have more of a say in how the school is governed.
Abby Hatfield has submitted an application to serve on the board. She believes parents and faculty members should have a say in the governing process.
"I dispute the notion that we can follow the mission of the school, and the core values of Waldorf-inspired education, without input from Waldorf educators on the school's board of directors," she said.
Breidenthal said the board would listen to the comments made Wednesday night and would seek legal advice to see whether what the parents and faculty were proposing is allowed under the law.
Hatfield and Lorraine McDonald, a parent and a founding board member of the school, said they have consulted lawyers familiar with charter school laws. They said the lawyers told them the changes they are seeking to the bylaws are legally sound.
"The changes we want will align us with other charter schools across the state," Hatfield said.
McDonald is running for a board position to make changes that reflect the wishes of parents and faculty.
"For the past two years it has felt to many parents that our board is not listening to or responding to our concerns," she said.
When challenged about his personal opinions in the controversy, Breidenthal said that his mind is not made up. He said he plans to listen to public comments before deciding if it's a good idea to allow changes to the bylaws.
The school is in the middle of a lawsuit filed by a donor who is suing the school, saying it has not repaid a loan he granted it in 2010. The $95,000 loan was used to help the school purchase its building on Ross Lane just west of Medford.
The school receives roughly $1.1 million in per-pupil funding from the Medford School District.
McDonald said the parents hope the bylaws will be changed to allow Waldorf educators to serve on the board in the coming months.
"We think the Medford School Board wants to get this done," she said.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.