By Greg Bird
Embattled McCreary County Superintendent of Schools Michael Cash has reached an agreement with the Board of Education to resign his position and forego his tenure, effectively ending his educational career in McCreary County.
In a sometimes-heated Board meeting Thursday night the BOE voted to approve a settlement with Cash following a 19-minute executive session and a lengthy public comment session where citizens urged the Board to fire the Superintendent over alleged unethical actions.
After a unanimous vote to approve the settlement, Board Chair Dustin Stephens said he had considered several options and decided the agreement was in the best interest of the schools, and potentially saved the District from prolonged litigation costs.
“The man fired himself and walked away from our school district,” he said. “I had to pick the best way to spend your tax money.”
The Voice obtained a copy of the agreement through an open records request Friday. According to the terms the Board agreed to change the 30-day suspension issued on February 1, to a suspension with a leave of absence and removing the original suspension from his personnel record. Cash will remain on leave of absence while he seeks to gain disability retirement from the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, or June 30 – whichever comes first. After that time Cash will resign his position and waive his tenure with the District. The Board agreed to take no further actions against Cash, and to terminate the investigation in to his actions.
During his leave of absence Cash will be able to use his accumulated annual leave. If that leave time is exhausted, Cash will be able to use any accumulated sick leave time – if supported by a doctor’s statement.
The Board will also notify the Kentucky Department of Education concerning the vacancy for the position and will begin the process of finding a successor.
The agreement was negotiated between Crawford and Cash and Cash’s legal council Crawford said.
Stephens noted the actions of both Cash and the teacher involved on a reported video have been reported to the Educational Professional Standards Board. Ultimately it would be up to that board to determine if any actions should be taken against the individuals, up to, and including a revocation of their teaching certificates.
Acting Superintendent Sonny Fentress, said Friday the teacher in question has been suspended from duty, and he hoped to be able to take action on the individual once the EPSB concludes their investigation.
The investigation initiated by the Board last month had been put on hold pending the negotiation, Stephens said. He added very little had been done to this point with the investigation.
Board member Lori Foster, who took office in January, tried to explain to the crowd that simply firing Cash would not be satisfactory as he has tenure within the district and would have been eligible to return to teaching in the district.
“If we vote to terminate, we have to put him back in the classroom,” Foster said. “We have chosen to sever all ties.”
It was noted that while the agreement means Cash can no longer teach in McCreary County, it doesn’t prevent any other school district from employing him in the future. Stephens said the terms of the agreement would be part of Cash’s personnel file, and any future employer could request a copy prior to any hiring action.
Prior to the executive session the Board opened the floor for citizen comments, hearing complaints and demands from concerned parents concerning the leadership of the District. Several of those in attendance staged a peaceful protest outside the Board Office prior to the meeting – many carrying signs demanding the removal of Mr. Cash.
The demands included an “outright firing” of Cash and a Board recommendation to the EPSB for possible revocation of licenses of both Cash and the teacher involved, the removal of Crawford as Board Attorney for conflicts of interest, and the termination of Assistant Superintendent Aaron Anderson for past “inappropriate behavior.”
Other parents asked what is being done about the reported placement of a secret camera used in the Middle School, noting possible legal action against the Board if any students were captured on the film.
Stephens said the School District is looking to purchase equipment to detect non-authorized cameras, and noted the District is trying to determine who placed the camera.
Cash, who has been employed by the McCreary County School District for over 20 years, was hired as Superintendent in January 2016. His contract was due to expire in June 2020. He began his teaching career in McCreary County in 1992.
BOE plans new Super by July 1
By Greg Bird
The McCreary County Board of Education held a special session Monday night to meet with the representative from the Kentucky School Boards Association to learn more about the process involved in selecting the next Superintendent for the McCreary County School District. The Board hopes to have a new Superintendent in place by July 1.
Tim Eaton, Field Consultant for the KSBA, will be assisting the District in all aspects of the search, helping to advise the Board and the Screening Committee as they examine applicants for the position.
On Monday Eaton worked with the Board to develop a potential timeline for the process. A tentative starting date for a new Superintendent would be July 1, 2019, but that date could be moved forward or back if needed.
The position, officially posted on the KSBA website on Wednesday, legally has to be advertised for a minimum of 30 days, which would close the application process on April 6.
The official posting should read as follows:
“The McCreary County Board of Education is seeking an innovative, student centered leader with strong proven leadership and a record of improving student achievement as its next superintendent. The successful candidate should have administrative experience and be an instructional leader who is assessment and data driven. It is important for the candidate to have the ability to effectively communicate and meet the needs of all staff in a fair and consistent manner that promotes teamwork. The new superintendent must be involved and visible in the community as well as possess strong morals, ethics, honesty and integrity.
Experience with budgeting, school finances, facility planning, along with working knowledge of the Kentucky Education System are a plus. The salary will be negotiable with the contract to begin July 1st, 2019.To apply, please go to KSBA’s website; www.ksba.org click on the Superintendent Search tab, KSBA current searches, under the ad you will find the link to apply for this search.”
While the application process is open the Search Committee will be formed- comprised of one Board member, two teachers, one principal, one parent and one classified employee from the District.
Once the committee is formed, and all applications are turned in, the Board will meet with the committee members to officially charge them with the task of screening all applicants and provide them with the qualities they are seeking in candidates. That initial meeting is scheduled for April 15.
The committee will meet in closed session and begin the screening process.
At their second meeting, planned for April 30, the committee will begin conducting background checks of applicants, and on May 9 will meet to narrow down their list of candidates and finalize their recommendation for the Board.
The two groups would meet again on May 16, where the committee will present the Board with three to six prospective candidates they feel meet the requirements set by the Board.
Over the course of the following 14 days the Board will conduct interviews with the candidates, and could make a decision to hire one of the applicants.
The Board also has the option to look at other applicants if a candidate does not accept an offer or they do not feel the candidates meet their criteria.
All dates listed above are tentative, and subject to change.
A similar process was taken in 2016 and 2007, the last two times a new Superintendent was hired.
In 2016 a total of 18 applications were received following the term of Donnie Wright. The screening committee eliminated six out-of-state and incomplete applications, narrowing the field to 12. Of those, three names were recommended to the Board, who conducted interviews and ultimately hired Mike Cash.
In 2007, when naming a successor to Ray Ball, eight applications were received, with four names recommended to the Board. Donnie Wright was hired following the interview process.
The Board also voted Monday night to extend the agreement with Acting Superintendent Ronald “Sonny” Fentress. Fentress was originally contracted to serve in the leadership capacity for 30 working days, but agreed to stay on in an “as needed” basis, up to June 30.