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Troy parents voice displeasure; teacher tenders resignation

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | September 16, 2022 7:00 AM

Troy Public Schools will have to replace C.J. Franke after she resigned from her position as the intervention counselor earlier this week.

Franke, who was suspended on Sept. 6 after the school launched an investigation due to allegations of misconduct, submitted her resignation to the school on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Franke told The Western News she submitted her resignation in a text message on Tuesday. It followed a school board meeting Monday night in a packed library where several parents and concerned citizens spoke their feelings about the situation.

Franke said she was not told what the allegations were, but school Superintendent Jacob Francom said they dealt with not going through the proper channels in the school for handling a complaint.

“We were investigating her communication with parents about our AD’s performance and that was the main reason why we put her on leave so we could investigate that,” Francom said. “When she was put on leave, she was told not to communicate with parents, well within an hour we had a couple parents show up to talk to administration and to also pull some of their kids out of school for the day, which validates specifically she was in communication with parents about the situation instead of going through the complaint process and talking with us if she had problems with Milo (Rogers).”

Rogers, who coaches tennis and teaches carpentry at the school, recently took over as athletic director.

Franke was the intervention coordinator for the school as well as the head volleyball coach for the Lady Trojans. She said she worked as a family advocate, taught a psychology class, two intervention classes and as a mentor for students on probation.

Brooke Soley took over head coaching responsibilities for the team in their Sept. 6 match.

Francom said Franke was hired for the full-time position late in 2020 with money from the American Rescue Plan Act which originated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a temporary job that we had because of COVID money and the position will expire at the end of the 2022-23 school year,” Francom said. “I think we’ve found someone to fill it, but it may only be part-time or we may not fill it at all.”

Francom said the investigation is over.

“Some conduct had to be looked into, but it didn’t rise to the level of dismissal,” Francom said.

The situation arose out of a trip the volleyball team took to southwest Montana on Labor Day weekend. The Lady Trojans played at Deer Lodge on Sept. 2 and at Anaconda on Sept. 3.

Rogers made arrangements for the team to stay at a Red Lion Inn & Suites in Butte on the night of Sept. 2.

According to Franke and parents of volleyball team members, the rooms were not clean and the student-athletes felt unsafe after interactions with a hotel staff member.

“The hotel was filthy and when a hotel employee gave the girls towels, he called them “baby,” Stephanie Jellesed said. Jellesed has a daughter on the team and was with them that night at the hotel.

Another concern that was raised was security.

“When they got into their rooms, they were dirty, so when they went back to the front office to try and get other rooms, they were given a master key and told to find other rooms,” said Christina Fisher, a parent of two volleyball players.

“Of course, this made the coaches and players feel unsafe because they wondered if others had master keys and were able to get into their rooms,” Fisher said.

Fisher said after Monday’s meeting she was considering taking action to seek the removal of Francom and Rogers.

“We are still considering action to seek the removal of Francom and Rogers,” Fisher said. “It’s tough because Milo is from here and we know him and his kids. All we wanted was to have a conversation and it’s unfortunate that couldn’t happen.”

Francom said he still wants to have a conversation about what happened.

“For people who want to talk about this or any other concerns, I’d encourage them to come and talk to me,” he said.

Fisher also took issue with the fact that the U.S. flag was not displayed at Troy’s first home football game on Sept. 2.

“Our cheerleading coach, who had just been hired, is responsible for helping the cheer squad display the flag and it was just an oversight, not anything intentional,” Francom said.

Franke said she thinks the entire situation was handled poorly and that better planning was needed.

“I think they handled this poorly and they told me to not talk to the parents or students about it,” Franke said after Monday’s board meeting. “And they never told me what the allegations of misconduct were, who made them or who investigated.”

Franke said the situation has been upsetting.

“My heart breaks for the kids,” she said. “It seems they (school administration) are more worried about covering themselves than making sure the kids are safe.”

Franke shared a statement she sent the school along with her resignation letter.

“One thing I know 100% is how grateful I was to work with all those kids and I love them dearly. I worked hard for every position I was responsible for,” she said. “I know whole heartedly my communication and organizational skills were impeccable.”

Toni Franke, C.J.’s mother, was extremely unhappy about how her daughter was treated.

“I graduated here in 1978, my dad graduated here and we’ve been here for generations and I’m appalled at the way the AD handled my daughter. I think he needs training and that kind of intimidation is uncalled for,” Tanya Franke said.

Francom acknowledged mistakes were made.

“In terms of the choice of hotel, it was a mistake and he (Rogers) could have done a better job of investigating into places to stay,” Francom said. “But it’s something we’ll learn from and move forward.”

C.J. Franke expressed her frustration and disappointment with the entire situation.

“It’s been a very disappointing, heartbreaking and frustrating situation,” she said. “All I can do is move onward and upward and continue to bring positivity back into my life,” she said. “The outcome is disappointing, but I’m a single mom of a son who is autistic and my big priority is him and and that is moving forward and finding another job in an environment that is much healthier for me.”