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Montana Superintendent meets with Wyola school board

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Posted at 11:48 PM, Oct 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-19 12:50:21-04

WYOLA - Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Artnzen visited Wyola on Wednesday and heard from school staff and parents.

The trip comes after rising tensions between parents and administrators, a situation that saw classes canceled and the principal arrested.

And it turns out the board wanted to have separate meetings for two groups of parents.

Some of the parents were banned from going into the school to hear from Arntzen and the update from the school board, so she also met with parents at the community center.

Two Big Horn County sheriff's deputies and two Bureau of Indian Affairs officers talked with parents who had been banned from Wyola school.

"I am concerned," Arntzen said.

Arntzen still gave those parents a voice.

"I'm going to honor the trustees," Arntzen said about the board wanting to keep some parents out of the meeting. "They would like to keep a set of parents outside of a public building and yet there's a group of parents that are inside the building."

"We had some very unfortunate events," said Dr. Robert Smith, Wyola teacher and administrator.

Inside, Smith said Wyola Superintendent Kenneth Deputee, Sr., who was arrested last weekend, banned some of the parents from the school because of an incident on Oct. 4 and that prompted the closure

"Must've been 9, 10 or 11 people on the morning of October 4," Smith said. "They occupied and they possessed the office here. Our response was to notify law enforcement and make a request that they restore order of our school."

One parent said he disagrees with Smith.

Meanwhile, Board Chair John Caplette would not do an interview and asked us to use his comments to the parents at the meeting.

"A lot of individuals always want to ask me what happened," Caplette said at the meeting. "Why are we in a situation right now? My response is what situation? The only situation we have here is let's move on."

Trustee Juanita Stewart tells Q2 that Deputee made the decision to close the school, not the board.

And parents talked about why they came to the meeting.

"Whatever it is that's going on here needs to resolve," said Beverly Shane, a Wyola parent. "Hoping that things will start going in place."

"I support Wyola school staff," said Dayle Felicia, a Wyola parent. "I support the school board. I support Mr. Deputee."

"What I'm doing today is fact-finding and listening to try to understand," Arntzen said. "Not ever pointing fingers at one group or another."

RELATED: Wyola school official arrested on child endangerment charges following school shutdown