School board meeting public comment period ends with calls for resignation, firing of Reynolds, recall of most members
Masks recommended, not required; no vaccine mandate for students or staff, Reynolds reiterates
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
TOMAHAWK – The public comment period during the School District of Tomahawk Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 10 saw several members of the public voice their oppositions to potential mask or vaccine requirements and ended with one individual calling for the resignation or firing of District Administrator Terry Reynolds and the recall of the majority of the board.
The individual presented “statements of intent” to circulate recall petitions for six of the board’s nine members.
Earlier this month, District Administrator Terry Reynolds notified students, families and staff that at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, masks will be recommended in the school building, but not required. Reynolds also stated that vaccinations will not be required for students or staff.
Reynolds reiterated the information during the meeting.
Public comment period
Numerous individuals discussed the district’s COVID-19 response and policies during the public comment period, with each being opposed to mask or vaccine mandates.
One member of the public stated that they “(found) it very disturbing” that Reynolds, “with the guidance of (Board President Kay Kissinger Wolf) continue to be the lone decision makers in the policies and procedures around COVID-19.”
The individual went on to say that they “(found) it very disturbing” that the board continues to rely on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Lincoln County Health Department (LCHD), calling the recommendations “ever-changing” and “quite frankly, not the truth.”
A second individual presented two petitions to the board. The first petition, which the individual said had been signed by more than 700 members of the Tomahawk community, sought to oppose the requiring of mask wearing on campus.
The individual said the second petition had been signed by about 750 “eligible voters and parents enrolled in the Tomahawk School District,” explaining that those who signed it oppose “any measures that punish, restrict, or segregate students that choose not to receive the COVID shot” and “the school building being used for any COVID vaccine propaganda and/or COVID vaccine clinics for students.”
A third individual discussed “the importance of teaching our young people to stand the line for our Constitutional rights,” telling the board that a mask or vaccine mandate “may seem small to you, but it’s huge to those of us here today.”
“It only takes a trickle of water flowing through a breach in the dam to quickly bring it down,” the individual stated.
A fourth member of the public touched on a recent publication from the Lincoln County Health Department that pointed to vaccination and mask use as priorities against the spread of COVID-19 in K-12 schools.
The information provided in the document came from the CDC and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), according to LCHD Director and Health Officer Shelley Hersil. The document had been updated on the day of the meeting to include information on a federal order that requires face coverings to be worn on school buses.
“Our school needs to keep their primary focus on academic curriculum, and the delivery of this curriculum,” the individual said, adding that the document “just got people fired up again, threw gas on the fire, and is one of the first steps towards ripping our community apart again.”
A fifth individual said they know of several students enrolling the Merrill Area Public School District “as they don’t trust the Tomahawk School District” regarding COVID-19-related policies.
“If anything is forced on our kids once again, and everything does not remain optional, the school will have a much bigger issue on their hands than they did this last spring,” the individual stated.
A sixth member of the public said they were “very disappointed in the behavior of the Tomahawk School Board and District Administrator Terry Reynolds.”
“Your inaction has bred doubt and fear amongst the students, staff, and community members,” the individual stated. “I question the Tomahawk School District’s ability to meet the needs of its students for their success.”
The individual called for the board to “consider immediately firing or asking for the immediate resignation” of Reynolds and also presented to Reynolds and board Clerk Deb Vellux “statements of intent to circulate recall petitions” for Kissinger Wolf, Board Vice President Ron Zimmerman, Board Treasurer Jeffrey Johnson, and board members Dick Huseby, David Long, and Bonnie Rudie.
No action was taken during the meeting regarding Reynolds’ employment status or the makeup of the board.
Reynolds: Masks recommended, not required; no vaccination mandate
Later in the roughly 90-minute meeting, Reynolds reiterated the district’s policy recommending but not requiring face coverings, and not mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and students.
The school building has been open to the public since the policy was implemented at the end of the 2020-2021 school year on June 7, Reynolds noted.
COVID-19 testing will be available for individuals showing symptoms, but will not be required.
Reynolds said he has remained in contact with LCHD regarding recommendations about returning to school. The health department continues to recommend mask wearing, vaccination, physical distancing and handwashing, he noted.
The district is prioritizing in-person instruction, Reynolds said.
“Certainly with the COVID situation out there, we’re going to do whatever we can to create the most safe and healthful facility that we can so students can maximize their time here at school in-person, and that is our priority,” he stated.
Although the district at this time plans to move forward with the current policies in place, the district will “pivot” regarding its COVID-19 policies if LCHD recommends it does so in the future, Reynolds said.