School Board addresses email conduct violation at latest meeting
Board member Shelly Jarnot offered her apology and was met with a round of appreciation for her dedication to the community
At the Aug. 11 school board meeting, an email sent by Shelly Jarnot, the vice president of the Eagle County Schools Board of Education, surfaced when it was read out loud by a parent. The email, which was sent from a personal account, violated the school board’s code of conduct.
The email made clear Jarnot’s position on masks and vaccines and encouraged members of the public who were for masks to attend the meeting and “crowd out” comments made by parents against masks.
At this week’s Board of Education meeting, Kate Cocchiarella, the school board president, addressed the violation and clarified board procedure and policy on the matter. According to Cocchiarella, following the breach she met one-on-one with Jarnot about the violation and then the board met as a whole to review its code of conduct and policies.
“The board speaks with one voice and when the board makes a decision, we all get behind it and when one of us makes a mistake, we all get behind it and learn from it as if it was our mistake as well,” Cocchiarella said.
Jarnot also addressed the board, district leadership and community members in attendance at the meeting to speak about the incident.
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“Earlier this month, I made a mistake and this evening I would like to apologize to my fellow board members and everyone I serve in the community,” Jarnot said.
She went on to say that her decision was made out of passion for schools and the safety of teachers and students.
“My concern for the safety of the students and teachers in the district and my frustration with this ongoing situation got the best of me. The fact that I was motivated by my concern for safety in no way makes my choice of action defensible or permissible, and I’m sorry,” Jarnot said.
She ended her statement with the assurance she wouldn’t make the mistake again and with one ask: “I firmly believe that our community is better when we work together, when we dispense with rhetoric and listen to one another, find empathy among those we disagree with and focus our energy on solutions instead of attacks. I am confident that all of our kids will continue to thrive and grow from the example we set.”
Jarnot also voluntarily recused herself from any future board votes on mask or vaccine policies in the schools to “eliminate any perception of conflict of interests” as she enters her last two months of board service. Jarnot has served on the board for eight years.
Up until this point, there have been no votes by the Board of Education on mask or vaccine policies. The decisions on mask mandates and pandemic protocols are being made by district leadership in coordination with Eagle County Public Health and the Environment.
While the school board is self-monitoring and the president handles all breaches of its code of conduct, the school district’s Superintendent Philip Qualman did address the incident’s impact on the district.
“School board members are elected to lead, which is always a balance between advocating for what you believe in and representing the will of your constituents,” Qualman said. “Those types of positions, passionately held, can be the impetus for important changes within our organization. And for 20 years, in the case of Mrs. Jarnot, she has been active in pushing ECSD to be the best that it can be.”
Cocchiarella expressed a similar sentiment, asking attendees to “reflect on the times we may have made a mistake that was driven by passion or love or fear and remember how hard that was to work through on our own personal level and to reflect on how challenging it must be to do it on such a public level.”
During public comment, a number of community members took the time to acknowledge and thank Jarnot for her service.
One resident, Carol Johnson, thanked Jarnot for her service to students and families in Eagle County. “I wouldn’t have watched my kid compete live at the Olympics if it wasn’t for you,” she said.
“Her service has really been above and beyond,” said Wendy Rimmel, president of the Education Foundation of Eagle County. “Our community is fortunate to have a woman of her caliber, of genuine kindness, intelligence and commitment.”