Monday, May 19, 2008

State may be asked to help in Macy dispute

Published Saturday May 17, 2008
State may be asked to help in Macy dispute

LINCOLN — The attorney for the Macy, Neb., school district said Friday that the Attorney General's Office may be asked to intervene in a dispute between the school district and the Omaha Tribal Council over the status of school Superintendent Morris Bates.

Bates on Wednesday was escorted off the Omaha Indian Reservation by members of the Tribal Council and tribal police and told to never return.

That action followed a meeting of the Omaha Nation School Board in which a motion to fire Bates was made but never seconded.

The school board member who made the unsuccessful motion, Barry Webster, also is a member of the Tribal Council. He and the tribal chairman, Ansley Griffing, led the contingent that expelled Bates, according to minutes of the school board meeting.

Attempts to reach Bates at his home in Homer, Neb., were unsuccessful.

Webster said the Tribal Council was exerting its sovereignty rights, expelling the superintendent due to poor test scores of Omaha Nation students.

"It should have been done a long time ago," he said.

John Recknor, the school district's attorney, said the Tribal Council has no jurisdiction over employment of staff of the school, which is a state entity.

Bates, he said, just received a two-year contract extension from the six-member school board, a majority of whom believes the superintendent is doing a good job.

Recknor said he was instructed by the school board, during an emergency meeting Thursday, to send a letter to the Tribal Council informing them of the "real mess" they have created.

He said summer school would be canceled because of the removal of Bates, who must be paid because of the new contract. State funding and the status of federal grants administered by Bates also are imperiled, Recknor said.

Recknor said he hoped the Tribal Council would reverse its action against Bates and back off a threat to expel two other school administrators. If not, he said he might ask the attorney general to step in.

Omaha Nation Schools superintendent removed from reservation

Omaha Nation Schools superintendent removed from reservation
BY DOLLY A. BUTZ / Sioux City Journal
Friday, May 16, 2008 - 07:10:25 pm CDT

MACY — The Omaha Tribal Council has removed the Omaha Nation Public
Schools superintendent from the reservation and asked that two
principals be dismissed from their positions for unstated reasons, the
school’s lawyer said Friday.

John Recknor, an attorney based in Lincoln who represents the school,
said the school board was meeting Wednesday when a board member moved
that Superintendent Morris Bates be fired immediately. Recknor said the
motion was never seconded. A short time later, he said, members of the
Tribal Council ordered Bates off of the reservation.

“A couple members of the Tribal Council, including the board member,
came in and handed him a piece of paper saying that he needed to get
off of the reservation immediately, and that he should resign or they
would remove him from the reservation,” he said.

Recknor said the Tribal Council also produced a motion asking to
dismiss high school principal David Friedli and special education
director Mary Wilson from their positions. Unlike Bates, he said the
two were not ordered to leave the reservation. All three staff members
are under contract, according to Recknor.

Sioux City Journal reporters made numerous phone calls to the Omaha
Tribal Council office in Macy but were unable to speak with anyone
about this issue.

Recknor said Bates was escorted out of the meeting by a tribal police
officer, allowed to gather his things from his office and told to leave
the reservation.

Then, at 10 a.m. Thursday, the Tribal Council held a meeting in which
three council members voted in favor of a motion to remove the three
Omaha Nation school officials. Those council members were: Barry
Webster, Amen Sheridan and Sterling Walker, according to meeting

One member, Rodney Morris, voted against the motion, saying he felt the
school board should make the decision, not the Tribal Council. Council
member Ansley Griffin did not vote on the motion, and two council
members, Mitchell Parker and Tim Grant, did not attend the meeting.

Recknor said the school is unaware of any wrongdoing alleged against
Bates and said the Tribal Council has not provided a reason for his
dismissal, or that of Friedli and Wilson.

“He’s still our superintendent,” Recknor said. “We have no grounds or
desire for him not to be our superintendent.”

An emergency meeting was held Thursday afternoon at the school. Recknor
said Broderick Steed is temporarily acting as superintendent.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he said. “Basically,
this appears to be usurpation of the school district’s power.”