Ennis School Board Unsure Of Superintendent's Future, Town Remains Divided

MADISON COUNTY

POSTED: 6:01 AM Feb 07 2012   UPDATED: 6:12 AM Feb 07 2012
ENNIS, Mont. -

There's some controversy in the school system in Ennis, and in the thick of that controversy is Superintendent Doug Walsh, who Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said misused property taxes in order to raise money for a new elementary school. Some are calling for Walsh's job, and others are standing up for him, but one thing seems clear: it's dividing the town of Ennis.

"I'm sad what this has done in our community. It has cut our community in half. You've got some total and complete friends that aren't friends any more because of the divisions," said Ennis resident Melinda Merrill.

"There are people that are really divided one way or the other," said Ron Miller, another resident of the town.

According to the Montana School Board Association, the Office of Public Instruction approved the Ennis School District's plan to transfer funds meant for adult education and transportation to build a new school, but the Attorney General says that's wrong.

"They took funds and you have to remember that the Office of Public Instruction, OPI, approved our budget every year. You have to remember that we have two audits per year that are voluntary," Merrill said.

But others aren't sure what Walsh and the school board did was right.

"I think there was something funny going on with the way they spent the money," Miller said.

Some in Ennis credit Walsh with helping students succeed. He's been the Superintendent for over a decade.

"I think Doug Walsh was a phenomenal superintendent and it's going to be one of those things that when we look at it in hindsight we'll start to see all the benefits he brought our community," Merrill said.

"There's something obviously went wrong out here that's not legal, so that's what people are talking about," Miller stated.

A local paper reported Walsh plans to step down at Wednesday night's school board meeting, but the board chairman says that's not right, but he admits he doesn't know what Walsh might do.

Either way, the next steps the school board make will be watched closely by folks in this town.

"I think it's going to stick with the town for quite some time, until it all blows over, regardless of what happens," Miller said.