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USD 260 BOE reverses course on vote against renewing administrative contracts

On Feb. 20, the Derby Board of Education reversed course on a previous vote to not renew contracts for three Derby administrators that was passed at the Feb. 13 BOE meeting.

At the Feb. 13 school board meeting, BOE members voted 4-2 against renewing employment contracts for the current district superintendent and two assistant superintendents starting with the 2024-25 school year.

Board members Matthew Joyce and Tina Prunier voted to approve the contract renewals at the Feb. 13 meeting, while Board President Michael Blankenship, Andy Watkins, Jennifer Neel and Robyn Pearman voted against the renewal. Board member Pam Doyle was not present at the meeting.

The vote on non-renewal of contracts related to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Holly Putnam-Jackson, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Becky Moeder and Superintendent Heather Bohaty.  The three individuals are currently in contract through the 2023-24 school year. 

According to Bohaty, the board’s options included renewing the contracts as presented, renewing for just one year or to take no action on the request.

Following the vote to non-renew the contracts, a special board meeting was held on Feb. 20 to address that issue. After an almost three hour executive session, Board President Michael Blankenship read a statement to the packed crowd at the district administrative center.  

“The board believes that Superintendent Heather Bohaty, Assistant Superintendents Becky Moeder and Dr. Holly Putnam-Jackson will lead our staff with strong overall improvements as a district,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship went on to say that a report will be shared at the next school board meeting on Feb. 27 containing some of the academic focus areas over the next few years.

Blankenship then asked the board to entertain a motion to approve the contracts as originally recommended at the Feb. 13 board meeting. The motion would extend contracts for Derby Public Schools Superintendent Heather Bohaty, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Becky Moeder and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Holly Putnam-Jackson through the 2024-25 school year. 

The vote was 5-2, with Blankenship and board member Andy Watkins voting not to approve the contracts.

DRC board hears public comment on transgender locker room issue

Emotions ran high during the public comment portion of the Derby Recreation Committee (DRC) meeting Tuesday night. More than 20 people signed up to give comments prior to the meeting and each speaker was allotted five minutes to address the DRC board.

The topic driving so much comment was a recent directive by DRC management to staff to allow members to use the locker room of the gender they identify with and not just their gender assigned at birth. An unnamed DRC employee brought this to the attention of the Informer earlier this month, stating staff were directed not to ask patrons questions about their birth gender or transitioning.

Reading from prepared remarks, DRC Chairman Kerry Dexter stated “As a board, we desire to obey the law and be fair. We also view it as an imperative to be a safe place for all of our members and ensure they have security and privacy in all areas of Derby Recreation facilities, including in the locker rooms and restrooms. Though we have benefitted from legal advice we have received, we have found federal and state court decisions and guidance to be at times ambiguous.”

Dexter went on to encourage those present to contact their local, state and federal representatives to provide clearer guidance. He also sought to clarify some of the misconceptions, mainly regarding terminology being used. 

“The DRC has not enacted an official policy concerning transgender use of locker rooms. The board has taken no action on adopting a policy and will not until consultation with school district and city officials on the matter,” Dexter said.

Public comments ranged from Bible verses and dismissal of the concept of transgender as a mental illness to pleas for more understanding of the challenges faced by transgender individuals.

Many raised concerns that allowing biological men to use the women’s locker room facility would create unsafe conditions for patrons, particularly children who could be exposed to male genitalia. Some expressed concern that members were not informed of the guidance in place or allowed to be part of the decision-making process.

“Have you asked your members? Obviously not. You were forced to speak out about this after someone spoke to the paper. Ask your members how they feel about having a man changing, showering, using the restroom next to their child, wife or grandchild,” said Kelli Farber, a DRC instructor and 15-year member. 

Others expressed skepticism about the board following the advice of legal counsel and instead implored them to do what is morally right.

“You as a board are free to make whatever decision you want. Just because a lawyer tells you this is the best decision to avoid being sued does not mean you have to take their advice. Lawyers are not paid to tell you what is the right decision, they are paid to tell you what is the safe decision. The truth is, often, the right decision is not the safest decision,” said Caleb Bowman, a DRC member, youth coach and frequent event volunteer. 

Other speakers accused the board of child endangerment and encouraged “civil disobedience.”

“…I’m backed into a corner. If this decision goes through, the only recourse I have besides my vote and my grievances against the government is to put my money where my mouth is and withdraw all the money I possibly can from the DRC. If enough of us do that, maybe we can get the DRC turned over to private ownership completely,” Jessica McNett, a former DRC member, said in her comments to the board.

Following a more moderate approach, some speakers such as Tim Mott pointed out a simple solution would be to designate the current family dressing room to be used by transgender individuals. 

“I really believe there’s a simple solution to this. I don’t think we should even be having this meeting because we have a facility that we can designate for family and designated others. … I don’t think [transgender individuals] are the problem. I think when they come here and work out I think they go home and take their showers. I don’t think they’re the ones causing this trouble. I think it’s other individuals that are bringing this up and I have a problem with that,” Mott, a long-time DRC member, said.

After an hour and a half, public comment ended. The DRC board then went into an executive session with legal counsel. No action was taken as a result of this session.

DRC Superintendent Chris Drum said the board continues to receive public input and is considering a range of options regarding bathroom/locker room usage for transgender individuals.

“Our intention is to include a range of options for the board to consider that we hope will be responsive to the concerns we heard on [Feb. 14]. It is still very early to forecast the final decision the board will make,” Drum said. “I’m under the impression the board has a sincere desire to work and consult with our local government partners on this matter, which is currently a very complex social issue. The board has expressed a sense of urgency to consider policy options sooner rather than later.”

DHS drama teacher Richard Shultz making curtain call

After nearly three decades teaching at Derby High School, Theatre Department Chair Richard Shultz is set to take his final bow, so to speak – planning to officially retire at the end of the current school year.

“I joke that I came with the building. The building opened in January of 1994; they hired me in August,” Shultz said

While not quite matching the historic streak of “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway, Shultz has had his own impressive run in Derby. He came to Derby after spending his first five years teaching at Berean Academy (just east of Newton), initially taking a position as a computer science teacher.

Not long after he started at DHS, he volunteered his services to the the theatre department, helping with sound and carpentry as technical director – a role he held for 10 years. Then, when former chair Sue Tanner retired – and after he had received his certification – Shultz took over the department that he has been leading for the past 17 years.

During that time, between main stage productions and musicals – as well as puppet shows with his Acting III class over the past decade – Shultz estimates he has helmed 60-70 shows at Derby High. Through them all, Shultz noted his focus has been on empowering and equipping his students to take charge. 

“The true role of a director is to have the vision for the play, the vision for the musical, convey that to everybody else and then help them achieve that vision,” Shultz said. “The biggest thing that I bring is a willingness and a desire to collaborate. I try to teach my students how to find their strengths, but also find their weaknesses, and find people that compliment their weaknesses.”

Using himself as an example, Shultz admitted he does not like painting – but he has students who do an amazing job in that arena, like with the set for the most recent and final show Shultz helped stage, “Seussical.”


DHS Theatre Department Chair Richard Shultz was presented with a Hawaiian shirt – for his pending retirement – ahead of the final production of “Seussical” on Feb. 18.

“Seussical,” in fact, was the first show Shultz directed when he took over as department chair in 2006. When it came time to decide on his final musical last spring, Shultz said it was actually his friend and longtime vocal director Tyler Morris who suggested bringing his career full circle.

Whether teaching computer science or any of the acting and tech classes he has led over his time at Derby High, Shultz noted he goes in wanting his students to aim high in preparation for what comes after their educational careers.

“My classroom goals have always been I want my students to understand what the professional standards are and to do their best to live up to them,” Shultz said. “I’ve always wanted my students to set their own standards, to set them high and to work hard to live up to them.”

Of those former drama students, particularly, many have taken that philosophy and run with it. Shultz noted he has multiple former students pursuing acting professionally, while others are working with Music Theatre Wichita, as a stage manager in Denver, as an art director for live TV productions of musicals (like “The Sound of Music”) or some other form of pursuing their artistic dreams.

Gearing up for his final show, Shultz noted his students were emotional, but excited to be a part of it – like senior Sara Collins. With her family, including two sisters, going through the drama department previously, the impact was not lost.

“It’s obviously been fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for a better theatre teacher,” Collins said. “Just the way that he carries himself and cares so much for people, I feel like I definitely am going to take that [with me].”

While Shultz admitted he doesn’t have any set plans for retirement, he expects he’ll end up back in theatre at some point – hoping that spark of passion will carry on in the DHS theatre department as well.

“It’s still a little surreal, the idea that next fall I won’t be coming back here. It’s sinking in intellectually, but it hasn’t hit me emotionally yet,” Shultz said. “There’s an educational thought that students won’t care how much you know until they know how much they care. I want my students to walk away understanding how much I care about them, how important to me and to my life that they are, because they are.”


Shultz made an appearance on stage – in cutout form – during the curtain call of the Feb. 18 performance of "Seussical" – his final directorial effort at DHS. A reception was held with current and former students afterwards.