GENOA – Months after the request was brought to the Genoa-Kingston school board, the district’s high school sexuality and gender club advisor will get a stipend for club activities following a unanimous approval vote by the board.
The decision for the Sexuality and Gender Equity (SAGE) Club was made at a special board meeting Monday, and met with cheers and clapping. Carly George, the club’s advisor, said the $717 stipend will help the club continue to welcome students.
“We just want to bring awareness and make every student feel welcome,” George said. “I’m very, very appreciative that the stipend was approved. It is extremely meaningful to all of the students in the club.”
Monday’s decision came after several months, and the topic spurred some public debate in the community. Some members of the Genoa-Kingston school community previously said they felt the lack of action -- namely the delayed funding vote -- by the school board was unwarranted. School board members previously said more information was needed before the request could be approved.
[ Sexuality and gender club stipend again delayed by Genoa-Kingston school board amid public outcry ]
The request to approve the SAGE Club’s advisor stipend of $717 was initially put forth in front of the school board Oct. 26. The vote was tabled until the Nov. 16 meeting, but later, the topic did not appear as a board consideration on that meeting’s agenda, after a revised agenda went out. About 30 community members attended the November meeting in support of the SAGE Club, even though the school board didn’t vote on the matter.
In November, club supporters said information required for a funding request had already been provided to the school board.
According to the Oct. 26 meeting minutes, Superintendent Brent O’Daniell showed the school board information he’d been provided regarding the SAGE Club’s request. O’Daniell told the board the club had completed all requirements to be recognized for financial consideration.
On Monday, several school board members spoke about the community response to the board’s role in the funding request proposal, saying they were painted in an unfair light.
“I know some of us were mislabeled even with the media,” said Board President Matt Krueger. “We as board members are publicly elected officials and we’re expected to be communicated with with the media so that headlines and articles are written appropriately. When we’re approving clubs we need to really follow the rule of the law because other clubs may come in and expect funding right away and that’s not the way that it necessarily works.”
Board member Gordie Leahy addressed social media backlash from the previous meetings, which he called a product of misinformation.
“I don’t think we ever discussed anything that said no, we’re not going to do this,” Leahy said. “I think we got labeled as being close-minded. The whole social media aspect of this has been really disappointing in a small town.”
Board Member Mary Hintzsche, who said she supports the club, said the reason why the board requested more information prior to approving SAGE club funding was to steward public tax dollars. According to Oct. 26 meeting minutes, Assistant Superintendent Bradley Shortridge told the school board that tax dollars aren’t used to fund clubs.
“We have to be very careful of how things get put on our agenda and make sure that they are appropriately talked about prior ... to avoid this whole situation, which I feel absolutely horrible about,” Hintzsche said. “We didn’t say yes or no to anything, we were just trying to get more information.”
After the meeting, George said one of her goals is to make the process of creating school clubs easier in the future.
“It was all very confusing and not very clear,” George said.
George said that the goal of the SAGE Club is to focus on equality and wellness for Genoa-Kingston students, whether they identify as LGBTQ+ or not. The club is open to all students. It currently has about 20 members, she said.
“We talk about topics that all of our students struggle with,” George said. “In December, we talked about stress, the stress of finals, and how we can do something to help ourselves and others.”
In the future, George said the SAGE Club plans on having club tables at school events.