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Education

Helena Flats School Board Evaluates Superintendent in Closed-Door Session

The board declined to allow the public to observe an evaluation of Superintendent Andy Maheras, who was charged in November with misdemeanor assault of a student

By Denali Sagner
Helena Flats School in Evergreen on Dec. 19, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Helena Flats school board on Tuesday night evaluated the performance of Superintendent Andy Maheras during a closed-door session, two months after the administrator was charged with misdemeanor assault following a September altercation with a 12-year-old student.

School board trustees declined to open the evaluation to the public, citing Maheras’ right to privacy under Montana law, and declined to state whether or not they would be discussing the charges brought against the superintendent during the closed session.

After conducting about 90 minutes of routine business, Board Chair Jessica Dyer said the board would move into executive session to evaluate Maheras.

Per Montana Code Annotated, public boards are allowed to enter executive session and close a meeting if the discussion will involve matters of individual privacy that outweigh the public’s right to know. It is standard practice for personnel evaluations conducted by school boards to be closed to the public.

The Beacon asked Dyer if the charges brought against Maheras would be discussed during the closed evaluation.

Dyer said that she “can’t say that it will at this point in time” and that she could not disclose that information because “it is a privacy right.”

The Beacon acknowledged Maheras’ right to privacy during the board’s evaluation of his day-to-day responsibilities as superintendent, but requested that any discussion of the charges brought against Maheras by the Flathead County Attorney’s Office be open to the public.

Board trustees said that they could not disclose whether or not the charges would be discussed and repeated that Maheras has a right to privacy. Trustees said they do not have any new information and that there is nothing to discuss regarding the charges.

Maheras is working remotely until further notice and has been in attendance at in-person school board meetings. The decision for Maheras to conduct his responsibilities remotely came out of a unanimous vote by the board of trustees following a closed Dec. 7 special meeting.

Two parents in attendance at the Tuesday night meeting pushed back against the school board, saying there has been a lack of transparency surrounding the charges against the superintendent. One parent said that “things have not been open and honest.”

“We are really starting to infringe on [Maheras’] right to privacy and matters that the board is not able to handle at this time. We have done what we can do as a board, and that is a separate matter,” Dyer, the board chair, said in response to parents’ objections.

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed Nov. 20 by Deputy Flathead County Attorney Larissa Malloy, Maheras allegedly grabbed a 12-year-old male student by the arms and face and pushed the student into a locker after attempting to discipline the student for kissing another student in the hallway. The incident is said to have occurred on school grounds on Aug. 31.

The school district formally notified parents of the alleged incident and charges against Maheras in a Dec. 12 text message.

Dyer told the Beacon last month that the board was notified of criminal charges against Maheras in early December and that the district resolved the matter during an internal investigation a few months prior.

The Helena Flats school board held two special executive session meetings this winter, one on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. and one on Dec. 7 at 8 a.m. The board voted to have Maheras work remotely during the December meeting. Board trustees, Maheras and attorney Elizabeth Kaleva were in attendance at both meetings.

An omnibus hearing regarding the charges against Maheras is set for Feb. 6 in Flathead County Justice Court.

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