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Board accepts Wright’s resignation

Upset parents, teachers and students flood Board meeting


A standing room only crowd packed the Central Office Wednesday night for a special called meeting of the McCreary County Board of Education.

The only item on the agenda was the discussion of Superintendent Donnie Wright’s contract, with possible action to be taken.

Superintendent Wright was not in attendance for the meeting, and Board member Roxanne Shook was notably absent as well.

The general consensus among the attendees, comprised of teachers, students and concerned citizens, was the Board was preparing to announce a buy out of Wright’s contract. And the majority of them were not happy with that thought.

As Board Chairman Brandon Kidd opened the meeting, entertaining a motion to enter into executive session, he was interrupted by a member of the audience who questioned the logistics of the supposed move.

Angela Loudermilk, a teacher in the school system asked how the Board could justify paying a settlement just a week after enacting a budget reduction plan.

“We have had major budget cuts and lost teachers,” she said. “How can we buy out a contract? Where does the money come from? As taxpayers we have a right to know.”

Board member Debbie Gibson countered that the Board was not buying out Wright’s contract, and no additional money was being spent.

A brief verbal sparring match between Gibson and the crowd broke out before Kidd regained control of the room.

With a promise from Kidd that no action could be taken during the executive session and people would be allowed to voice their opinion when the Board reconvened, the Board met behind closed doors for 26 minutes.

With the session reopened and the public allowed to re-enter the Board room, three law enforcement officers were present as well, apparently summoned by the Board as a precaution.

Chairman Kidd began by asking for motions and seconds on several actions related to Wright’s contract.

The first was to accept the resignation of Wright, effective on December 31, 2015. The second was to grant Wright a leave of absence, effective immediately until the December date of the resignation.

A third motion was to allow the Board to enter into a settlement agreement with Wright, and the final motion was to appoint Assistant Superintendent Aaron Anderson as Acting Superintendent.

All four motions were passed unanimously, 4-0.

Board Attorney Jeff Hoover stated by the terms of the agreement with Mr. Wright’s lawyers, they were not able to disclose the terms of the settlement.

When asked how the taxpayers would be able to learn the terms, Hoover stated an open records request could be filed with the Board.

(The Voice presented an open records request at the conclusion of the meeting and will publish the results as soon as they are received.)

With the motions passed, Kidd opened the floor to the public.

Several people took the opportunity to criticize the Board for their actions on the budget and accused them of foregoing the education of the children for a political agenda.

Others, however, spoke in support of the Board.

Loudermilk took the floor claiming the Board’s actions to raise the student/teacher ratio at the high school would have a negative impact on education.

“You voted to raise the student/ teacher ratio and that was not in the best interest,” she said. “The more kids you put in my classroom, the harder it will be to teach them.”

Other comments, from Director of Pupil Personnel Mitzi Stephens, implied the Board made the cuts to the budget involving Central Office staff would have a large impact on the schools by putting more duties on already loaded employees.

“You make the cuts, but have no idea the duties we all have,” she said. “We are the link between the Kentucky Department of Education and the teachers. You don’t know what we do. It’s our job to take care of the teachers.”

Bryson Loudermilk asked how the Board could make cuts when the schools’ performance is on the up swing.

“Our scores are improving,” he said. “Attendance has gone up, ACT scores are up… Now that these scores are improving you want to take reductions and cut teachers?”

Kiley Martin, a student at MCHS asked how the Board could justify the high school losing four teachers.

“You say you are working for us,” she said. “Why are all the cuts pulled from one school?”

The student stated the cuts threatened the dual enrollment program, and could have a detrimental affect on her future.

Martin’s father, Todd, drew applause for his question.

“I’d like to know what is the purpose of sending our Superintendent home, and keeping him paid?” he asked.

“The superintendent resigned,” Kidd answered.

“Because why?” Martin asked to laughter and applause from the crowd.

Brad Coffey spoke about the politics of the move.

“I hate that personal vendettas have got in the way of our kids,” he said. “How can our kids and their teachers function well if there is stress from above?”

“I had a great deal of respect for you all, but I lost a lot of trust tonight.”

Barry Baird had a pointed question for the Board near the end of the meeting.

With the process of hiring a new Superintendent requiring the formation of a search committee to screen applicants and forward their suggestions to the Board, Baird asked if they would approve the selection the committee would make.

Kidd, Gilreath and Gibson all said they would listen to the recommendations, but stated they were under no obligation to approve that candidate.

“I will not answer yes or no,” Gilreath stated.

“Because you have your mind made up,” Baird replied to cheers.

One former employee of the school district, Mike Jones, spoke to the crowd stating he had been harassed by Wright, a former Board member and another employee about hiring someone for a position, and lost his job as a result.

Kidd was asked if there could be another meeting called to discuss the budget cuts, to which he replied “yes,” but no date has been set.

At 7:33 p.m., under advice from the attorney, Kidd called for a motion to adjourn.

Wright was chosen for the post in November 2007, beating out three other candidates after a search lasting for several months for a successor to Ray Ball. There were a total of eight applicants for the position, but a review committee winnowed the list down to four for the Board to consider at that time.

Wright had previously served as a teacher for six years, before becoming a Principal, where he served for 12 years. At the time of his hire he had been Principal at Pine Knot Intermediate School.

He was originally hired on a four year contract, but that was extended another four years in 2011. In 2013 Wright’s contract was extended again by seven months to comply with Kentucky law, which stipulates contracts should expire on June 30 – the last day of the fiscal year.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education Wright was scheduled to make $126,454 for the 2014-15 school year.

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