HOWARD — Public participation was high at the East Knox school board meeting Thursday, as nearly a dozen concerned parents and students voiced their frustration with administrators’ actions regarding two longtime volunteers.
Debbie Smith told the News that her daughters, Alisha McCardel and Annie Smith, have served as the district’s auxiliary majorette coaches for 19 years. For many of those years, they did so on a volunteer basis.
Smith and McCardel were not present at the meeting.
Outrage from community members stemmed largely from a May 2 Facebook post by McCardel, which included a screenshot of a Facebook post by an East Knox staff member, who wrote that the East Knox Marching Band was looking to fill the positions for color guard and majorette coach for the 2019-2020 school year.
Superintendent Steve Larcomb stated that the district did not sanction the content of the post.
“The posting was unauthorized. It was an employee that had absolutely no business posting it,” said Larcomb. “Every job posting in this district comes from my office or it doesn’t exist.”
McCardel’s post also included images of a supplemental agreement given to her and Smith by Alan Keesee, principal of the junior high and high school.
The conditions would bring the activity of the color guard and majorettes under the jurisdiction of the band director and give the band director final authority over everything from the auditions and rehearsal schedule to uniforms and choreography.
Larcomb said that the changes were intended for the benefit of the band program.
“Everywhere I’ve ever been, the assistant band director, the flag corps, the majorettes, everybody’s under the band director. That’s not been the case here,” he stated.
Keesee said that when he presented the agreement to McCardel and Smith, they asked if the word ‘supplemental’ in the agreement meant that they would be paid. He explained to them that in order to do so, the district would have to go through a process to create an official paid position.
Per Ohio law, public school districts are required to gain approval from the school board to create a paid position. Schools are also required to post all open positions, including coaching positions, internally for five days. If no school district employee signals interest during the five day span, the job posting can be made public.
Keesee claims he asked the sisters via email if they wanted the district to create a position or if they preferred to continue as volunteers and never received a response.
Debbie Smith contested, saying that her daughters had tried to contact various school officials, including Keesee, by phone, and their calls went unanswered.
“We all feel that you need to review the situation a little bit more,” said Jasmine Cunningham, whose daughter is a member of the color guard. “There has been a severe lack of communication between the band director, the auxiliary coaches, the parents and the students.”
“Speak to the students that are involved, find out how they feel,” one parent told the board.
Matt Schwartz, who presided over the meeting in the absence of board president Dustin Buckingham, said that the board was not aware of the situation before Thursday’s meeting.
The board also:
•Formally recognized the retirement of Sandy Schell, seventh grade language arts teacher and junior high intervention specialist. Schell has been with the district for 33 years.
•Accepted the resignations of intervention specialist Sylvia Ellen Frazier, effective at the end of the 2018-2019 contract year.
•Employed Breana Pitsenberger as an intervention specialist for the 2019-2020 school year.
•Set school fees for students in grades K-12 at $40 per pupil for the 2019-2020 school year.
•Approved quotes from X-Tek Partners to purchase and install 38 security cameras and accessories. The total amount of the quotes is $55,677. The majority of the cost will be paid with school safety and security grant funds from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that total $37,605.75. The remaining amount will be paid from the district’s permanent improvement funds and other State funds.
•Accepted the following donations: $240.40 from Band Boosters for band trip to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; $1,625.59 from Bladensburg Church of Christ from an anonymous donor to be used toward students’ unpaid lunch charges; $718.47 from Chipotle for a track fundraiser, and $226 from East Knox PTO to cover the cost of transportation for Junior High field trips.
•Approved the agreement with Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio, Inc. (BHP) from Sept. 1, 2019 – May 31, 2020 for providing on-site behavioral healthcare services not funded by Knox County United Way at a rate of $3,333 per month, not to exceed $30,000.
•Approved the renewal of the COBRA administrative services agreement with United Healthcare for an annual fee of $500 plus other filing costs.