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Ontonagon school board petition dropped

Former superintendent reverses position

August 2, 2012
By STACEY KUKKONEN - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

ONTONAGON - A petition to recall a member of the Ontonagon Area Schools Board of Education has been dropped.

Former superintendent Larry Ford brought the petition against board member Charles Yost after Ford said he heard and witnessed bullying by Yost toward another member of the school board, Bruce Johanson. Ford was also concerned Yost's wife Avelin was receiving special treatment through employment opportunities at the district.

Ford heard from many people who were opposed to the petition after a clarity hearing in Ontonagon County Circuit Court Monday.

"The majority that attended did not want to see the recall process proceed," Ford said Wednesday. "It was said in different ways but most of those speaking wanted both for Mr. Yost and Mr. Johanson to settle their differences and work together for the good of the community. ... I decided to follow the advice I heard at the hearing and see if the differences between Mr. Yost and Mr. Johanson could be addressed and if a solution satisfactory to both parties could be found."

Ford said he was moved to drop the recall petition after Avelin Yost told Judge Janis Burgess and the audience she and her family have never been approached by Ford or Johanson.

"I called Mr. Yost and asked if he would meet with me to discuss the situation," Ford said.

In his meeting, he was able to speak with Yost and his wife separately for about two and a half hours and Ford said he found both parties willing and open to discuss the situation. Ford also had the chance to meet with Johanson, who was also willing to put differences aside.

"I see no further reason to proceed with the recall process," he said.

Ford said Avelin Yost was to thank for helping him change his mind about circulating a petition to recall her husband.

"I found her very gracious and willing to assist in the solution," he said. "She should be thanked for her assistance in bringing about this solution to the situation."

During the clarity hearing, Ford expressed concern for the way teacher Ken Raisanen was treated by being laid off from the district after 36 years of teaching. He also addressed a situation where 10 teachers, including a family member of Johanson's, gathered together at a local bar and were gossiping about Yost, his wife and Superintendent Gray Webber. After a series of events that followed the bar incident, Yost motioned at a board meeting to censure Johanson for allegedly leaking information from a closed session. The motion failed in a 5-1 vote.

"As for the 10 school employees that chose to sit at the bar and gossip about people, shame on you," Ford said. "You could learn a lot from the graciousness of Mrs. Yost."

Ford said he also extended advice to Webber, who was at the clarity meeting and objected to much of the wording of the petition. At the hearing, Ford said because Webber is employed by the Yost family, it had the appearance of impropriety.

"Perhaps a little more attention to the appearance of things and perhaps a little more gentleness when dealing with people will go a long way," he said.



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