Superintendent Pontrelli deserves complete support from community


Photo by Julia Bennett

School board members voted 5-2 at a board meeting in June to begin discussions about a separation agreement. Superintendent Pontrelli is not interested in cutting ties with District 834.

Julia Bennet, Social Media Editor-in-Chief

The school board began discussions this past summer regarding a separation agreement with the Superintendent Denise Pontrelli. Closing three elementary schools and changing the course of action for the district caused an enormous amount of frustration and distrust within in the community since the BOLD closures in 2015. 

Many community members, teachers and students have shown their support for Pontrelli through rallies at board meetings as well as social media pages dedicated to her. Changes to the district have been an adjustment for many. However, the best way to move forward is to support the Superintendent in whatever decisions are made.

“I think we’re through those changes and I’m hopeful that we can really focus on some of the exciting things that we’ve started to work on with the career pathways for the high school, some of our innovation teams, those are the things that we should be really focusing our time and energy on,” Pontrelli explained.

Lingering issues within district administration will negatively affect students. Many feel any form of separation or termination of the Superintendent would interrupt the school’s progression concerning future projects.

Khuluc Yang, Student Council Co-President, believes the district “needs to grow from this to better ourselves in the future” when controversial topics occur within the community.

Making tough calls is not an easy thing to do, especially when it will affect thousands of people. Pontrelli made hard decisions knowing she may face backlash. Standing tall in the face of adversity is no simple task. 

“I made a commitment when I took the job in Stillwater and I wanted to stay and really try to help with some of the programming and things that hadn’t been taken care of in a long time,” Pontrelli said.

I think we’re through those changes and I’m hopeful that we can really focus on some of the exciting things that we’ve started to work on.

— Denise Pontrelli

School board members began conducting the Superintendent evaluation back in March, finishing up in the end of May. They felt concerns raised in the evaluation needed to be discussed in depth. This left Pontrelli reluctant, rightfully so. She expressed her discomfort with a closed meeting.

“At that time she chose to have her evaluation in an open meeting instead,” board member Sarah Stivland explained.

The school board passed a resolution July 11 as another attempt to sit down and have formal conversations with the Superintendent. This resolution added more fuel to the fire. 

“We were basically being strong armed from the Superintendent not allowing us to have these conversations,” Stivland said. 

Five board members felt that supporting discussions regarding a separation agreement was the only way to move forward for the district. However, ending Pontrelli’s contract would disrupt future growth. The community is divided on the past BOLD decision, but she has made improvements to the district. Many of her ideas and additions to the school aim to benefit students. Changing the district leadership would create more transition. 

“Whenever you have a change in your Superintendent there is a change in leadership,” Pontrelli explained. “It just stalls some of the work you’re doing.”

Buying out the Superintendent’s contract would cost money the district does not have. Therefore, it would do more harm than good, affecting the energy and flow the district currently has. Upcoming plans and developments could be put on hold if a new Superintendent joined the district. 

“I think everybody wants the superintendent to do a fantastic job, they want the board to do a fantastic job and they want all of us to be working together that’s what the goal is,” Stivland explained.

“Like I said to the board earlier, I am not interested in that,” Pontrelli said.