Albert Lea superintendent scorned school board member asking for transparency

"Shut them up ... I don't need to sit through this crap, I'm tired of it," a member said as the Albert Lea Area School Board voted to silence concerned parents.

Mike Funk and Albert Lea High School (Albert Lea School District)

The Albert Lea superintendent scorned a school board member who asked questions after  parents were prevented from speaking at a board meeting.

When the Albert Lea Area School Board met Sept. 20, there was standing room only as parents piled in to share their thoughts on the district’s decision to uphold a mask mandate for students. However, the board only heard from five people after voting to end public comments.

“Shut them up … I don’t need to sit through this crap, I’m tired of it,” one member said into a microphone as the board voted to approve a motion closing the forum. The result was that only five people were allowed to speak — all of whom supported the mask mandate and were allegedly known to the board.

Although acting chair Kim Nelson claimed these speakers were chosen at random, some are skeptical. “I have serious doubts the speakers during the open forum were chosen randomly,” Aaron Farris, a class of 2021 representative on the Albert Lea Area School Board, told Alpha News. He said it’s his belief that Nelson “hand-selected people who agreed with her to manufacture a false public image of wide support” for the mask mandate.

Those who were allowed to speak “all had some kind of ties to the district, including one who is the district teachers union president,” Farris claimed.

After the meeting, Jill Marin asked Superintendent Dr. Mike Funk to provide a copy of the list used for parents to sign up to speak, apparently in order to discover whose opinion might have been suppressed. Funk responded by telling Marin she has “zero authority to speak for the board or any other request you are asking on their behalf.” He then threatened to speak with the board chair regarding Marin’s “recent behaviors.”

Funk also called Marin’s requests an “onerous burden” for the administration, arguing that she “repeatedly overstep[s]” her “authority as an individual board member” and that her “authority rests with the school board in session.” He further claimed Marin had violated district policy 201.

“I am an elected official of the Albert Lea Area School Board. You, as the board’s subordinate, are not my superior and have never been,” Marin replied, adding that Funk has “no authority or position to reprimand or discipline” her. She also claimed that policy 201 is being used to “[s]quelch certain board members’ rights and the transparency of government” and requested that it be reviewed by the board.

“For a district that prioritizes our anti-bullying campaign, our leadership at the top clearly doesn’t reflect that,” Farris told Alpha News, adding that Superintendent Funk’s emails portrayed an “aggressive and toxic tone” and that this behavior “isn’t anything new.”