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Entire Wyola School Board removed from office

Sign at Wyola School
Posted at 3:05 PM, Nov 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-10 12:23:47-05

Update 5 p.m.

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen has appointed three new members of the Wyola School Board.

They are Beverly Shane, a former Crow Head Start teacher with grandchildren in Wyola schools, Jacquelyn Stewart, the tribe's substance abuse director and a former St. Labre school director and Wales Yellowtail, a rancher and Crow tribe land use board member.

The three were selected from a pool recommended by John Small, the Big Horn County superintendent of schools, and Big Horn County Attorney Jeanne Torske.

All three members of the Wyola School Board were removed from their roles Thursday by Big Horn County commissioners, following allegations they failed to perform their duties and improperly barred parents from the school.

The three board members, Misty Old Coyote, Albert Caplett III and Juanita Stewart, also face charges in both state and tribal courts, Big Horn County Attorney Jeanne Torske told commissioners during their meeting in Hardin.

Citing a letter from Big County County Superintendent of Schools John Small, Torske said the charges involved:

  • failing to provide claims books
  • failing to make proper payments to teachers' retirement system since June 2023
  • failing to properly file documentation for nonbudgetary spending
  • failing to get equalization for bus routes
  • failing to have accounting records and get proper audits
  • failing to provide minutes of public board meetings
  • failing to make payments to IRS
  • destruction of financial records
  • appointing relatives to key positions in the district

"I believe they are all serious allegations," Torske said.
The three also face charges in Crow tribal court for violations of the tribe's constitution by infringing on tribal members' rights to free speech and assembly by barring parents from the school and extracurricular activities, Crow Tribal Prosecutor David Sibley told commissioners.

The removal of the three board members comes about three weeks after Wyola's principal, Kenneth Deputee,was arrested by Bureau of Indian Affairs officers on 88 counts of child endangerment. The charges were related to his role in the abrupt closure of the school for multiple days with no explanation in October.

Small, the county schools superintendent, and Montana Office of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen now must appoint three new members to the board, according to Torske.

Old Coyote, Caplett and Stewart have been issued a summons and are scheduled to appear in tribal court Nov. 17, according to Sibley.

Related: Classes canceled twice in one week, with no explanation, at Wyola school