HS teacher complains of ‘malicious’ board member

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Beaverhead County High School teacher and coach Zach McRae filed an official complaint with the school board over board member Koy Holland’s “malicious” comments, and sought a public apology.

The school board discussed the complaint in a special board meeting Nov. 2, though McRae and the Beaverhead Federation of Teachers union objected to the result.

“The complaint was in regards to multiple incidents of BCHS board member Koy Holland making knowingly false comments with malicious intent in open board meetings and in the public about my classroom performance and personal traits,” McRae said in an emailed statement.

McRae referred to comments Holland made in a June school board meeting, when McRae was recommended to fill head coaching positions for football and baseball by school officials. McRae said he would relinquish his boys basketball C-Squad coaching spot if appointed to both.

At the time, Holland recommended McRae pick one head coaching position, suggesting the coaching workload was negatively impacting McRae’s teaching. The board approved that request, then reversed the decision in a special meeting the following week.

The board met in a closed session with McRae and math teacher Rick Nordahl, who was there at McRae’s request. An hour later, the board determined Holland’s opinion does not represent the entire board.

Board member Patti Jo Staudenmeyer made a motion to make it clear to the community that individual trustees’ opinions are not those of the entire board, unless the board has specifically authorized those trustees to speak for it. The motion passed unanimously.

Teachers union President Caleb Igo provided a formal statement from the members at the Monday school board meeting. A number of BCHS teachers were in attendance, including McRae.

“Mr. Holland’s repeated disparaging statements about the teacher in question have been made in both private and public settings, settings in which the teacher was not present or able to defend themselves from these false and damaging remarks. Further, Mr. Holland’s later refusal to offer a public apology during the open session of the Nov. 2 special meeting means that no resolution of the complaint has been reached, and this issue remains unsettled,” according to the statement. “In the view of our members, Mr. Holland’s actions are unprofessional, unethical, embarrassing, and represent a serious breach of the teacher’s right to privacy as a district employee as outlined in board policy and Montana law.”

Holland declined comment after both board meetings.

BCHS Superintendent Gary Haverfield said the board will provide a written statement to McRae as to the action taken, in line with the district’s policies. That is the last step in the complaint process, according to board policy 1700.

“Mr. Holland refused to offer a public apology during the open session of the (Nov. 2) meeting, so no resolution of the complaint was reached,” McRae added in his statement. “I am working with our local union and MFPE (Montana Federation of Public Employees) to reach a new resolution.”