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Steve Bennion

Residents oppose hiring decision

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local Jamestown,North Dakota 58401 http://www.jamestownsun.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/16/1025/a1bennionmugcolor1.jpg?itok=Nv3T11PQ
Jamestown Sun
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Residents oppose hiring decision
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

Hiring Jeff Nold, the son of Jamestown High School Principal Bill Nold, is on tonight's agenda for the Jamestown Public School Board.

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The School Board made the controversial decision not to hire him on April 25 due to concerns about nepotism, despite the recommendation of a hiring committee.

Since then, a group of community members has gathered 450 signatures on a petition asking the School Board to reconsider.

"It's unfortunate that we've come to this, and I'm really disappointed that we're having this fight over hiring," said Bob Toso, JPS superintendent.

Jeff Nold had been recommended for hiring as a business teacher by a hiring committee composed of four JPS staff, three of whom do not report to his father -- though all do work with his father. He was chosen from a field of seven candidates due to his background in business and willingness to serve as a coach if needed.

The 5-3 decision not to hire Jeff Nold could be discussed twice during today's 5:15 p.m. School Board meeting in the Jamestown Middle School gymnasium.

First, the School Board will hear from Steve Bennion, a community member concerned about the board's decision.

Bennion, a former teacher himself, once coached Jeff Nold in high school hockey, and has also played amateur baseball with him. He and others have collected approximately 450 signatures on online and offline petitions urging the School Board to reconsider its decision and hire Jeff Nold.

"We think he would be an awesome individual to be a part of our public school system," Bennion said. "... and the (School Board's) decision was made without all the information that was out there, as to why the hiring committee recommended him."

Bennion said he believes Jeff Nold is the best candidate for the position, and he does not believe nepotism influenced the hiring committee.

"They followed the normal process involved. There was no nepotism at any point, and therefore, the best candidate for that job should be given that job," he said.

Bennion and his wife, Julie, also believe the School Board should follow existing JPS policy.

That policy recommends that spouses not work in the same building -- but says nothing about other relatives or unmarried partners.

Toso said he is aware of at least one parent-and-child duo working in the school district, but they are not in the same building.

"That's what it comes down to -- it shouldn't matter who his dad is, if he's a good teacher and the best person for the job," Julie Bennion said.

Steve Bennion emphasized that if hired, Bill Nold would not be Jeff's direct supervisor, and would not be writing his performance evaluations.

People with strong feelings about the issue should attend today's School Board meeting, Julie Bennion said.

Discussion continues

under 'Old Business'

After Steve Bennion speaks, the School Board will proceed to other business, but according to its agenda, the subject will be revisited again later, under the heading "Old Business."

Then School Board members will have a chance, if they wish, to vote to rescind their previous decision. That will require a motion, a second and a majority vote of those present at the meeting.

That first vote only rescinds the April 25 vote, however. To hire Jeff Nold, the School Board would have to make a second motion, which would need to be seconded, and then take another vote, which would again require a majority vote of those present.

In his weekly "Superintendent's News and Notes," Toso wrote that it would be possible for up to 200 people to attend today's meeting.

"I understand that we may also have a large crowd on hand for this," Toso wrote. "Let's make sure that we remember this is a business meeting held in the open and not a community forum."

Toso also indicated that a member of the hiring committee would be available to talk about the hiring process -- and recommended that no one else be recognized when considering Nold's hiring.

"We do not want this to be anything other than a business meeting," Toso wrote. "It is not a community debate."

His "News and Notes" also indicated that it was the first time in Toso's 32-year career as an administrator that he has seen a School Board turn down a hiring recommendation.

"Mr. Jeff Nold is a fine young man of high character who builds relationships with his students," Toso wrote, recommending that he be hired. "He has an excellent business background. He can help us with coaching."

Despite the controversy, Jeff Nold said Sunday that he would still be interested in working in Jamestown.

"I really appreciate the support, I guess, from members of Jamestown (community) that have gotten behind me, and you know, have started a petition and have written letters coming in," he said. "... it's been a pretty crazy week and a half."

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be

reached at 701-952-8453

or by email at

klucin@jamestownsun.com

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Kari Lucin
Kari Lucin joined the Grand Forks Herald as a multimedia producer in August 2014. Previously, she worked for a few years at the Jamestown Sun in Jamestown, N.D., as a staff writer, and prior to that, for about six years as staff writer and later online content coordinator, at the Daily Globe in Worthington, Minn. A graduate of Jackson County Central High School and Augsburg College, she has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and English. Find more of her writing at her blog, Oh Look, a Shiny Thing! or on Twitter at @karilucin.
(701) 780-1119
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