Curtis' job back on the line

Monday, September 28, 2009

Termination of the director of school's contract is up for discussion by the Marshall County Board of Education for the second time in less than three months.

A special called board meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5, a Monday, when there's to be another review of Schools Director Stan Curtis' position.

School board member Craig Michael called for the special meeting. Board member Ann Tears endorsed the plan that was adopted 5-3 when board member Mark Wilkerson was absent. A similar motion by Michael in July, after results of the director's evaluation were revealed, failed 6-2, with one abstention.

"This is the only process by which it can be discussed in public, and no action is possible without 10 days' notice," Michael explained during the Wednesday night meeting. "By voting 'yes,' you're voting to have the meeting for discussion. We're not bound to take any action."

"It distresses me (that) we're at this point," Michael added Thursday morning. "It makes me uncomfortable."

Board members Mike Keny, Curt Denton and Dee Dee Owens voted with Michael and Tears to consider terminating Curtis. The 'no' votes came from Randy Perryman, Kristen Gold, and Todd Tietgens.

Division of the board into two camps was evident from the start of Wednesday night's meeting when new officers were elected. Mike Keny was unanimously voted in as chairman, after being nominated by Michael. For vice chairman, Tietgens nominated Gold, and Tears nominated Michael. Denton, Owens, and Tears voted for Michael; while Perryman and Tietgens voted for Gold, so Michael was named vice chairman. Keny, Gold, and Michael abstained on that vote. Gold was unanimously appointed "chairman pro tem" to act in case both chair and vice chair were absent.

Curtis met opposition from the board at nearly every point of the meeting.

Denton put discussion of the elementary curriculum on the agenda as new business and began with a motion to reprimand Curtis for not discussing this major change in the school system with the board.

"We met Aug. 26 with some elementary teachers," Denton said. "We saw the frustration and heartbreak. If they're being effected that much, the kids are too. I've had numerous phone calls and letters."

Michael saw it all as "deeply troubling," and seconded Denton's motion to reprimand Curtis.

"We're eight weeks into the school year, and we don't have the materials and training for the interventions," Michael continued. "I voted for Curtis (to be director) because he said he believed in involving teachers. We couldn't get further than we are from that process. Morale is incredibly low."

Tears agreed: "It was eye-opening hearing the teachers' concerns. We haven't been updated; I would like to know what the status is."

Curtis complained that he had been "blindsided," and not given time to prepare answers because discussion of the elementary curriculum was not listed on the agenda.

"If I'd known, I could have been prepared," Curtis said. "With this not being on the agenda, I'm not prepared."

Michael balked.

"It's been a month," Michael told Curtis, asking, "How could you not be prepared?"

Denton insisted that curriculum change is "a very important issue. You should have been informing us."

Curtis claimed managerial authority.

"You hire the director to make the decisions," the director said. "I thought you would trust me to be the expert. Obviously I was mistaken."

The roll-call vote on Denton's motion to reprimand Curtis failed because of a 4-4 tie as Keny joined the 'no' camp.

"We can review it on Oct. 5," Owens said.

The board moved on to discussion of a supplement to maintenance supervisor Sheldon Davis' pay because he and his crew, plus two new employees, are to take over maintenance of the County's buildings, starting on Nov. 1.

"I think Mr. Davis deserves a supplement for going on call 24/7 and having that many more buildings," Curtis said. "The county said 10 percent, and Davis said $25,000."

"The contract (with the county) says there's a 'possibility' of a supplement," said Michael. "Teachers don't get a supplement for taking on more students. I think it would be poor judgment to pay more money now."

Denton interjected, "The contract also says this is on a 90-day trial basis."

Curtis recommended paying "some type of supplement to him (Davis) for those 90 days."

Tietgens' motion to approve a 10 percent supplement failed for lack of a second. Denton's motion to go with the contract, without a supplement to Davis, and "see where we are in 90 days" was approved by 6-2. Keny and Tietgens cast the 'no' votes.

Curtis also presented a pay scale for support staff, but approval was unanimously denied, and he was asked to do more research, and bring it back to the board by November.

"I would appreciate input from the board to try and equalize this," Curtis said. "It's a working document until it's approved."

He cited the difficulty of finding out what other school systems are paying, but board members told him to try again, and also research what comparable county and city employees were paid, as well as the amount of their benefit packages.