HOWARD — The East Knox Local Schools board of education voted Thursday to formally begin the two-step process of putting a bond issue on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The four board members present all affirmed a resolution of necessity, certifying that it is in the best interest of the district to issue and sell bonds totaling $19 million for the purpose of constructing a new junior high and high school building. The resolution stated the bonds would be dated Dec. 1, 2019, and carry an estimated interest rate of 4.5% per year.

Superintendent Steve Larcomb predicted that it would be a 37-year, 3.25-mill bond issue, but stated that the exact millage would be determined sometime in the next month by the Knox County Auditor.

The board also approved a second resolution requesting the consent of the Tax Commissioner of Ohio and Superintendent of Public Instruction to issue bonds to the school district.

Next month, the board will review the estimates prepared by the county auditor and vote on a resolution to proceed. If that resolution passes, the bond issue will appear on the November ballot.

Peggy Hockenberry addressed the board during the public participation portion of the meeting to ask why an unnamed student-athlete, who had been suspended from athletics for misbehavior, had been reinstated despite board policy that extracurricular activities were “a privilege and not a right.”

“My question is how did this student continue to play sports?” Hockenberry asked. She expressed concern that there was a pattern of favoritism in the district.

“You shouldn’t be treated different no matter who your parents are, where they work, anything,” she said. “I’m just tired of double standards in this school.”

After Hockenberry spoke, Debbie Smith expressed concerns that her daughters, Alisha McCardel and Annie Smith, had been treated “with total disrespect” by school administrators. Smith brought a similar complaint before the board during its meeting on May 9.

McCardel and Annie Smith had spent 19 years as volunteer majorette and flag core coaches for the district. During that time, her daughters had operated largely on their own, running the program as they saw fit and often paying for supplies, costumes and transportation costs out of their own pockets.

“We have an award winning program unique to this school. There is not another school in this county that has a program like this with coaches who were willing to dedicate their lives to the East Knox students, for free,” Debbie Smith told the board.
“They were sharing their expertise with the district for free out of loyalty to their students, many of whom they taught since they were in elementary school, and loyalty to their alma mater.”

Issues between the sisters and the administration began this spring, when McCardel and Annie Smith inquired about whether their volunteer positions could be made paid coaching positions.

High school principal Alan Keesee explained that it could be done, but that teacher contracts require any paid vacancies to be offered first to current district employees and thus, he couldn’t guarantee them the job.

Larcomb confirmed that any open position must be posted “internally” for five days before the job posting can be made public.

According to Debbie Smith’s daughter, Heidi, further discussion was supposed to take place in a meeting May 29.

“They came in expecting to meet with the band director, the assistant band director, the principal and the superintendent and it was just the principal and the superintendent,” said Heidi Smith. “The superintendent told them that he had changed his mind because he didn’t like their attitude and that he was going to fire them. (Annie) tried to say something and he told her, ‘Not today you won’t,’ slammed the door and walked out. And that was the last meeting that they had with the administration.”

“I had originally said, ‘we’ll see if we can get the parties to sit down and talk,’” said Larcomb when asked about the meeting. “There was a lot of negativity on social media that wasn’t appreciated, doesn’t reflect well on this district. And again, after further review, I decided we’re going to follow procedure.”

Per procedure, supplemental positions for majorettes advisor and flag corps director will be posted for district employees today. If no one employed by the district expresses interest in the next five business days, the position will become open for applications from the public.

When asked if the sisters would be considered for the post, Larcomb said the district would consider anyone who wished to apply.

Other agenda items included:

•Entering into a contract with the Knox County Commissioners and/or Knox County Sheriff for a school resource officer for the 2019-20 school year for $15,000.

•Renewing an agreement with Mansfield Psychological Services for Aug. 1, 2019 through July 31, 2021.

•Approving an agreement with the Coschocton County Board of Developmental Disabilities to hire an instructor assistant for the 2019-20 school year.

•Approving various staff contracts.

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Katie Ellington: 740-397-5333 or katie@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @kt_ellington