Miles City Packs School Board Meeting In Support Of Coach & AG
Tonight, at the School Board Meeting in Miles City, it was a tense one for board members and the local community. Sit back, and get ready. This is a LONG article, with a lot of photos, highlighting the events of tonight.
Don't Mess With Cowtown, USA
After a post made rounds on Facebook about the district letting go of their female wrestling coach, and the concern about the district discontinuing the FFA/Ag programs, the parents... FFA students... and concerned citizens packed the house at the Custer County District High School Multipurpose room.
The meeting was also broadcast LIVE on Facebook, thanks to concerned citizen Dawn Reiger, garnering well past 250 live viewers who could not be in attendance.
The board meeting was moved to the High School after the post went viral on Facebook, to accommodate the mass influx of locals.
Wrestling Coach Vandie Buckingham
First on the agenda, which caused an outpouring of support, was Vandie Buckingham, the current Girls' Wrestling Coach for the high school.
Athletic Director Daulton Reid made a statement, voicing his decision and support to the board to not renew the contract of Coach Buckingham. After his statement, a flood of comments came from the citizens of Miles City.
From going above and beyond to help parents, to bringing home multiple second-place trophies this year, and many other fine accomplishments for Coach Buckingham, these parents are STRONGLY opposed to releasing Coach Buckingham for Girls Wrestling in Miles City.
One school board member, Kim Peila (In the photo below, on the right), spoke up after multiple people in the community voiced their opinions, saying "When will it be about the kids?" "Where's the rest of the members who agree!?!"
Board Member Don Hoffman stood up, in an attempt to get the meeting back on track, however, more members of the community has opinions to share.
After more public comment, the board decided to add an amendment to add Vandie Buckingham back into the running as a 2nd Girls' Wrestling Coach, which was successfully voted on thanks to the Miles City Community.
Miles City IS an Agricultural Community
The other heated topic on the agenda was the decision to pause the FFA and Ag Programs for Custer County District High School, by releasing the current Agriculture Education Teacher Todd Lackman.
The board clarified at the start the non-renewal of Todd Lackman was without cause.
Up first, was Todd Lackman himself, announcing that he made the choice to become a teacher. He went on to explain his past as a teacher in Colstrip, and his successes in that district. Mr. Lackman's goal, starting two years ago in Miles City, was to build the FFA Program in Miles City and expand on it.
He was keen to point out he is the "Agriculture Education Teacher, and not the FFA teacher" to highlight his wide-reaching knowledge and attention to Agriculture.
Mr. Lackman pointed out he is certainly concerned about the decision to not renew his contract, and said there were some "personality challenges", though he hopes to have the chance to solve those issues.
He ended with "Regardless of what happens this evening, I want to see the Agriculture Program succeed" and was greeted with a round of applause.
Now, onto community comments. First up, John, and his first words... "I shouldn't be here!". He highlighted the curriculum and highlighted the impressive shop, that students learn in. He strongly encouraged parents to know what is being taught in their classes, and said some instructors hit the "easy button" for their teachings... but with Mr. Lackman, that wasn't present. He hit the road running with a plan to teach the kids and stressed that Mr. Lackman is a valuable part of the high school, and he needs to stay.
Next up, the FFA Students themselves wanted to share a letter they wrote to the board, voicing their support for their own teacher, among other stories about their teacher.
One of the students, a freshman, was nearly brought to tears thinking about losing their teacher. Another student, also a freshman, shared how well-kept the shop is now that Mr. Lackman has taken over the program, compared to before his tenure.
A senior in FFA came forward, and said he would have QUIT the FFA program without the leadership and program Todd Lackman has revitalized.
And on and on the same was repeated. Todd Lackman brought Miles City the knowledge, experience, and drive to build the FFA program into something other school districts are jealous of... and strive to become.
Bringing Out The Big Guns
Jack Larson, the former Agriculture Education Teacher for the Miles City School District, stood up to a resounding round of applause.
Mr. Larson related to his time when he started in Miles City, having to deal with the same issues Mr. Lackman is right now with the shop and current program.
He stressed it took multiple years to bring the program up to snuff and made his point CLEAR to the crowd and school board. You can't expect changes overnight, without hard work and determination, and Todd Lackman deserves that chance to do the same.
When he came into the shop after Mr. Lackman took over, he was appalled at the condition of the shop. But Jack Larson said Todd Lackman saw a gem in the rough and went to work to make the program great once more.
Concluding his statements, Jack Larson said he "Really, Really" wants to see Todd Lackman be given that third-year contract, and a chance to make a difference in the community after the program had been lacking for so long.
And the outpouring of support continued, now 2 hours into the board meeting, from parents and students alike.
Ryan Jones asked the board to consider the extension and renew the contract, giving Mr. Lackman a shot at making the best program possible.
In a surprise appearance, the Ag Teacher from Forsyth, Jan Banks, made the trip to voice her support for Mr. Lackman.
More and more support poured out for the Ag Program in Miles City and Todd Lackman to continue heading up the program.
Toby-Jeanne Almy (Hi Toby! Good to see you are doing so well.) goes on to elaborate on her family being 5th generation Montanans, and how much Miles City relies on FFA and Agriculture... and without it, they may as well become "city slickers".
After a full hour of community comments, including some from people defending the former Agricultural Education Teacher, one parent who does not support Todd Lackman, and one community member sharing comments on alleged secret meetings and personality disagreements... board member Andy Zook stood up to voice his support for Mr. Lackman, saying the program is certainly not perfect, but we need to give him more of a chance than two years on the job.
The Final Vote
At the time of voting, after hearing from the community at large, the board is going to renew Todd Lackman's contract for a 3rd year, and suggested he take this as a learning lesson moving forward.
Here's a final photo dump, taken after the vote for Todd Lackman.
One Big Conclusion
I'm going to deviate from the news now and add my own comment.
As a 30 year Montanan, born and raised in Miles City... an alumnus of Custer County District High School... and a current resident of Billings, I can say I am PROUD to see the support for the educational system in Miles City.
I hope this showing of support from the community of Miles City has enlightened the school board that any decisions made should involve the community... the parents... and the students.
And going forward, Miles City will be keeping a watchful eye on the happenings of the school district and school board.
And so will I.
P.S.: A BIG thank you to my friend Kristy Hinebauch-Crews for the photos, as without you, we wouldn't have a true vision of what the happenings were tonight.