LHS trustees get an earful from standing-room crowd

Lassen High School’s Board of Trustees heard from the community at its Wednesday, Feb. 8 meeting.

Fewer than a dozen residents in the standing-room crowd offered their comments to the board, but those comments were just short of incendiary.

Non-renewal of Superintendent/Principal Morgan Nugent’s contract
Following public comment, the board tabled consideration of an amended employment contract with Superintendent/Principal Morgan Nugent until its March 8 meeting. It’s possible the trustees may hold a special meeting to discuss the issue before then. According to the agenda, Nugent’s contract would be extended until June 30, 2025. His base salary is $159,052. He also receives a mileage allowance, a cell phone allowance, a gas allowance and health benefits, life insurance and sick leave.

Christ Choo, a Native American, reminded the board after a March 2022 incident involving the alleged different discipline handed down to White and Native students, Choo asked the board to direct Nugent to hold a cultural sensitivity workshop for high school staff. Nugent later announced that workshop would be held in January, but that did not happen. At the Feb. 8 meeting, Nugent said that workshop would be held later this month.

Not good enough for Choo.

“Ten months have passed, and I stand here asking why?” Choo said.

She also alleged after that March 2022 meeting, “teachers were retaliated against for supporting students of color who were wrongfully charged with a crime. Where is the justification for this type of behavior from the superintendent?”

She also alleged last month a mother whose child had been accused of assaulting another student had to cite California Education Code to see a video and have a discussion with Nugent.

“Again, why does it take parents to cite Ed Codes in order for them to have access to video of their student?” Choo asked.

She also questioned the issue of suspensions after the board responded in March 2022 that the board sets policy and the administration administers it.

“Do you trust your superintendent is following your direction?” Choo asked. “I recommend the board vote no on a nonrenewal contract for superintendent Nugent based on Nugent’s performance this last year. We need a change in leadership. It is imperative this board work to ensure long-term stability for staff and students at Lassen High School.”

SIR support for Jamie Huber
Choo, representing the Susanville Indian Rancheria Tribal Business Council, asked the trustees to reinstate Jamie Huber as vice principal at the school.

“The Susanville Indian Rancheria has not been successful in getting the support, needs and communication when it comes to supporting our tribal member students at Lassen High School,” Choo said. “In the past we have had horrible success rates and high dropout rates with our tribal member students. This past year, the Susanville Indian Rancheria got legal counsel involved when one of our tribal member students was being treated unfairly. Since this incident occurred, Ms. Huber extended an olive branch to our council and community to establish a positive working relationship with us. She has solely been supportive in the success of Native American students in your school system and their families. She listened to their needs, which are often overlooked, and has been pivotal in breaking down those barriers for us as a community, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

Choo also said the SIR Tribal Council supported making Huber “the sole and primary vice-principal in charge of discipline” because “she has been fair and treats students with equality. The Tribal Business Council feels she is the best individual for the job and supports her reinstatement as vice-principal in charge of discipline.”

Football coach controversy
Lassen High School head football coach Jason McCloskey also drew fire for allegedly destroying the community and player support of the program, exhibiting unprofessional behavior, treating some players differently than others, blaming losses on the players and making negative comments about players during an awards ceremony.

Volunteer assistant coach Jimmie Lynn, who some claimed had been fired after discussing his position with Nugent, said, “The players have no respect for him (McCloskey) and don’t trust him. Without these, this program will not have success … He has a saying — ‘Mac always wins’ — when this happens only the kids lose because we know it’s not the other team.”

Nugent clarified that he met with Lynn and the volunteer coach told him he would not be returning next year. Lynn said McCloskey never talked to him or asked him to return the school’s property.

Lynn said, “My intention was to talk to Morgan and let him know the things I let you guys know and that I was going to resign because I can’t be around that type of person and this type of program … My ultimate goal was to resign, anyway.”

McCloskey said a lot of misinformation had been presented at the meeting. He said Lynn held dinners for “a select few” players and not others, and some players told him the purpose of the dinners was to divide the team and “put negativity into the program and pit the kids against me, and I believe it hindered our progress this year for their buy-in to the systems that we’re doing. The reason I didn’t reach out to him (Lynn) is because I have nothing to say to someone who’s going to undermine the program and the progress of the kids.”

Other actions
The board unanimously approved its consent agenda; its general agenda; a sports tournaments proposal; to offer bids for the back parking lot project; declaring the Mugsy hot dog stand as excess property; and the 2022-2023 School Safety Program.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 8.