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Beloit School Board electees are a disgrace

Beloit Memorial High School

While most eyes were turned to the presidential primary during Tuesday’s election day, many overlooked or underestimated the severity of two local electoral decisions: the election of Pam Charles and re-election of Shannon Scharmer to the Beloit School Board. With 4,011 votes, Charles was the second-leading vote getter for the board, with Scharmer a little ways behind at 3,117. This reality should shock community members given the appalling track records of these two individuals.

Charles had previously served on the Beloit School Board from 2006 to 2009 as, per her Facebook page, “vice president, clerk, policy committee chair and also on the finance committee and curriculum committee.” Scharmer has served on the Board for the past 12 years and is currently its president. During this time, both Charles and Scharmer have become lightning rods of controversy and wrongdoing that have become a blight upon the School District of Beloit.

According to the Beloit Education Association’s School Board Report Card for the year 2008-2009, Charles and Scharmer are the key figures behind the board’s horrid grades. Under a section entitled “Vision and Purpose,” Charles and Scharmer were written up for having, on several occasions, “shouted at and made negative personal remarks to other Board members and to District staff at all levels.” Both Charles and Scharmer were also accused of engaging in “unprofessional and bullying behavior” that “caused more than one top administration or central office manager to resign and seek employment in a less toxic workplace.” For “Vision and Purpose” that year, the Beloit School Board received a grade of “F.”

In the section focused on “Leadership,” Charles was cited twice for her behavior, and was the only member of the Board who was mentioned in this section. In the first bullet point, it is written that Charles “repeatedly refused to follow standard building procedures while in schools, and on more than one occasion, [had] interrupted classroom instructional times to pursue a personal agenda not authorized by the Board. During those times she claimed to be acting as a parent, she injected her status as a Board member into the conversation. She has repeatedly exceeded the scope of her authority as a Board member.” In the second charge, Charles allegedly had “attempted to bully a group of teachers into replacing a cast member in a school play so that her own child could have the part. She referred to herself as a Board member in that conversation.” For “Leadership” that year, the Beloit School Board received a grade of “F.”

Under “Governance,” Charles was a major factor in the Beloit Education Association’s assessment that the Beloit School Board had “failed to ensure compliance with local, state and federal laws, standards and regulations and/or their own Board policies.”

In one such instance, “Charles used her position as a Board member to ensure that one of her own children would be allowed to play with the [Beloit Memorial High School] Jazz band even though her child was not of high school age and was enrolled in a private school. This resulted in sanctions against the entire Jazz band by the Wisconsin State Music Association, which prohibited the Jazz band from competing in state contests for one year. Charles ignored administrative advice that might have avoided these sanctions.”

Charles and Scharmer were also found to have “repeatedly” violated “the Open Meetings law, Board Policy 161.1(2) and the Attorney General’s recommendations concerning Board communications, by communicating via email to a quorum of Board members concerning board business and actions to be taken. Such discussions must take place in open meetings.”

Furthermore, Charles and Scharmer “failed to follow Board policy for turning in receipts following a trip to Orlando to attend a Board conference. Scharmer requested reimbursement for lost wages as well, even though this was not approved as part of the original request. Family members accompanied them on this trip. When told they had not followed policy and could not be reimbursed, they used their Board positions to change the policy. They were eventually given the money.”

Both Charles and Scharmer received another damning indictment, with the textual emphasis added not by the author of this piece, but by the Beloit Education Association: “Charles and Scharmer used their positions on the Board as individuals to harass and intimidate two top level administrators into changing the criteria for the use of Gifted and Talented monies in order to benefit their own children, at least two of whom were not identified as Gifted and Talented under the criteria in place.”

The Beloit Education Association continued: “Gifted and Talented money has always been earmarked for use by families qualifying for free and reduced lunch, but because of their [Charles and Scharmer] tactics, this requirement was dropped. The change was never officially communicated to District families. Scharmer received $2,400 to pay for a residential enrichment camp for her children, one of whom was not a student in the District and who had not been identified as Gifted and Talented. Charles applied for and was approved for money to send one of her children to a summer band camp, but later withdrew the application when other Board members expressed concern.” For “Governance” that year, the Beloit School Board received a grade of “F.”

The issue regarding Charles and Scharmer’s unethical dealings with the Gifted and Talented programs tied into why after the Board voted to spend $500,000 on the 33 students who had been declared Gifted and Talented in the District, Charles and Scharmer, as well as two other Board members, “refused to allow significant cuts in this area even though it will mean larger class sizes and fewer programs for the majority of the District’s students.” This section, entitled “Teaching and Learning,” earned the Board a “D-,” their highest grade in 2008-2009.

Under the final section, “Recruitment Systems,” it was found that the “School District of Beloit is suffering from recruitment issues affecting all levels of the District.” The Beloit Education Association found “that the constant public and private mistreatment of staff and the actions of the Board undermine the ability of the District to retain qualified and professional staff.” For this section, the Board also received a “D-.”

This litany of indiscretions, coupled with Charles’s near-constant pushes for abstinence-oriented sexual education, ultimately forced Charles off the board. She sought reelection several times and lost until her victory in this most recent election. Scharmer never lost her position and, as was mentioned earlier, is currently the Board’s president.

This reality should frighten the parents of Beloit. To know that two self-serving individuals masquerading as civil servants are currently dictating the flow of public money and have even been caught attempting to flow it into their pockets is a disgrace. How and why these two people were able to find their way back to the Beloit School Board is truly beyond the comprehension of this writer.

In 2013-2014, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction had already found the School District of Beloit to be lacking in its abilities to provide for the children of the area. In its overall accountability rating, Beloit was rated as “meets few expectations.”

With individuals like Charles and Scharmer dictating the course of the District’s future, you can rest assured that Beloit’s schools will soon be meeting even fewer expectations as the Board returns to grade “F” levels of boorish, childish and downright despicable behavior.

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