By Greg Bird
The McCreary County Board of Education met in an hour-long special session Monday night to discuss a possible change to the school calendar, hire an additional school nurse and discuss pending legislation in executive session.
While the first two matters took less than a minute of the overall meeting, the majority was spent in executive session concerning the pending legislation.
As neither Superintendent Corey Keith nor Board Chair Dustin Stephens could comment on the nature of the discussions or what they were related to, the Voice searched Court records to find a possible reason for the meeting.
The Board of Education is subject to two ongoing cases, one in Federal Court and the other in McCreary County District Court. It is unclear which of the cases were subject to the discussion, and it is possible there may be another pending suit against the Board, though there is no indication of any such case.
The federal case involving the Board of Education regards the alleged “bullying” of a special needs student, which was filed last year. That case contends the child, identified as Mary Doe to protect her identity, was the victim of bullying in the McCreary County School District and District officials were “deliberately indifferent” to the actions of other students and teachers when informed of the initial allegations.
That case is slated to go to trial next October, and no recent Court filings have been discovered.
The other active suit in which the Board is named as a defendant dates back to 2015 and the alleged demotion and/or mistreatment of several school officials.
In 2015 Former Instructional Supervisor Tim Moore, his wife Cynthia, at the time Vice Principal of Whitley City Elementary, former Director of Special Education Jenny Lynn Wilson Davis and former Director of Pupil Personnel Melissa “Mitzi” Stephens filed suits against the District and then acting Superintendent Michael Cash claiming their demotions and salary reductions at the time were retaliatory actions taken against them for actions opposing proposed budget cuts and their political stances against Cash.
Those lawsuits were suspended at the request of the plaintiffs pending the outcome of hearings of their appeal of the decision before the Board.
According to the latest Court records the plaintiffs filed an appeal and requested judicial review of the outcome of their original cases against the Board and Cash. That appeal was filed in November of last year after the Board of Education upheld the demotions at the hearings in an administrative hearing.
In the request for review it was stated a hearing was held in Mr. Moore’s case in November 2015 wherein both sides of the case were presented before a hearing officer approved of by both parties. Following the presentation of evidence, the Board retired to private chambers to discuss the case, and eventually returned to vote 5-0 in favor of Cash’s decision to demote Moore to a teaching position.
Moore, and the other defendants subsequently reinstated their original claims and are asking the Court overturn the decisions to demote and reduce pay. The original lawsuit asked for the defendants to be reinstated to their positions, or positions commensurate with their positions from which they were demoted, fees and any relief they are entitled to.
The Board’s response to the original lawsuits was entered on September 4th. The response defends the Board’s original actions and denies any wrongdoing.
The three original lawsuits have been consolidated into a single claim and is ongoing as of this time. Both Timothy Moore and Wilson-Davis have since retired from the District, while Cynthia Moore and Stephens remain employed in other capacities.
Following the 52-minute closed session the Board returned to open session to address two other matters before them.
The Board voted unanimously to amend the current school calendar, giving students an off day on November 5th, the date of the upcoming General Election. Both McCreary County Middle School and Pine Knot Elementary School are used a polling places on election days, and the Board opted to close school on that day to accommodate the increased traffic and mitigate the disruption of the school day for students and staff at that time. That day would be added to the end of the school calendar, which currently has the last day for students slated for May 13.
It is likely the Board will also adopt a similar decision for the May 19, 2020 Primary Election next spring at a future meeting if the school year is extended due to inclement weather this winter.
The Board also agreed to add a school nurse position to the District, bringing the total number of positions to six. The nurse will be considered a District employee, but the position will be paid for by Family Health Care of Barbourville. That firm has an agreement with the District to provide health care staff to the schools, covering salary and benefits in exchange for managing all medical billing.
The McCreary County Board of Education is scheduled to hold their regular October meeting next Monday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Central Office.