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Analysis: More turmoil at Lakewood

The faculty parking lot at Lakewood High School was nearly empty Friday morning after about half of the teachers took a last minute leave. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.

The faculty parking lot at Lakewood High School was nearly empty Friday morning after about half of the teachers took a last minute leave. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.

HEBRON – There were only 18 vehicles in the faculty parking lot at Lakewood High School Friday morning.

About half the school’s teachers submitted last-minute leave requests Thursday evening, prompting midnight recorded calls seeking substitutes. Many students left early Friday, leaving the student parking lot about half full at 11 a.m. Some students reported that classes were just study halls and some classes were combined.

The ‘leave-out’ is thought to have been prompted by the school board’s 3-2 vote at a special meeting Wednesday evening to reject Superintendent Mary Kay Andrews’ recommendation to promote assistant high school principal Kevin Krier to principal next school year. Board president Steve Thorp and new board members Jonathan Lynch and Bill Pollard voted “no.”

Pollard sent the following statement to The Beacon Friday afternoon:

“I assume that the High School teachers absence today is in response to the recommendation of Mr. Krier to become the next Lakewood High School Principal and the school board vote that did not support that recommendation. If that is the case, then we let the children of our district down today. I can only speak for myself but after considering all information available to me, I did not feel Mr. Krier was the best leader for the position. I do personally value the opinions of teachers and would not select a candidate that they did not support but we do need to agree on that candidate.”

A news release Monday afternoon announced the special meeting for 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18, but didn’t include the agenda. The board had previously scheduled a work session focusing on the proposed new elementary school for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The special meeting agenda was released just before noon on Tuesday. It included just two items under the Superintendent’s Report – Consent Agenda:

• A two-year contract for Kevin Krier as high school principal at $93,770 per year; and

• Approve Courtney Weekly as a volunteer softball coach for this season.

Every board meeting agenda states, “Items under the consent agenda are considered routine and will be enacted under one motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items prior to the time of the Board votes unless a Board member requests an item be clarified or removed from the consent agenda for separate action.”

It’s a stretch to consider the two-year appointment of a new high school principal “routine,” particularly considering the turmoil in the high school last Fall that lead some parents and students to complain publicly at the November and December board meetings about drug use and sales, and students being bullied and harassed by the drug users/ sellers. Maintaining discipline is one of Krier’s key responsibilities as assistant principal.

His promotion is also controversial given his involvement in the Lakewood stadium project and the very opaque Athletic Boosters fundraising effort. The boosters have refused to provide a complete accounting of their fundraising efforts nor the details of their bank loan to finance the purchase of the synthetic turf for the new stadium.

The high school principal position has also been a costly one this school year for district taxpayers. Stacy Stein resigned for “personal reasons” in February after being charged February 7 in Fairfield County for operating a vehicle under the influence, following an accident on Ohio 37 near Ohio 204. Though she has not returned to school since her resignation was submitted, it isn’t effective until June 30, 2018, meaning she is being paid approximately $35,000 for not working. Sam Cook was hired, via the consent agenda, at a March 7 special meeting as high school principal from February 20 through May 31, at $250/day. His compensation totals about $17,000.

Three candidates were considered – Krier and two external applicants. Candidates were only interviewed by an administrator/ teacher committee prior to Andrews’ recommendation. A board member had to ask to review the resumes. Placing Krier’s promotion on the consent agenda signaled an unwillingness to engage board members fully in the process.

District voters spoke loud and clear last November. Four challengers significantly outpolled the two incumbents seeking reelection. Voters continued to support students by renewing a 4.9 mill levy for another five years.

The lame duck board then angered many voters when they renewed Andrews contract for another two years (to July 31, 2020) some 27 hours after the polls closed.

Lakewood’s new board faces several challenges. First, they have to convince district voters to support a nearly $40 million bond levy to replace a 104-yearold elementary school and to complete some critical capital improvement projects at the middle and high schools. Board members must also convince voters by the end of next year to renew a 10-year, 9.9 mill emergency levy that was approved by a mere 34 vote margin in 2010.

Given the negativity in the Lakewood community about building a new stadium before replacing a 100+ year-old elementary school, the high school turmoil, Andrews’ contract extension, and the terms of Stein’s resignation, it becomes very difficult to understand why board members weren’t provided the opportunity to be fully involved in the selection of the new high school principal. It’s a critical position for the district and voters’ perception of the district.

Board member Bill Gulick didn’t stay for the scheduled work session after the special meeting. On Thursday afternoon, he submitted his resignation stating:

“I, William Gulick, a duly elected member of the Lakewood Board of Education am resigning my seat on the board effective immediately. To this point in time I have, to the best of my abilities and character, served my Lakewood alma mater with forthright integrity and honesty. I take pride in the accomplishments of the district through the past 7 years. I will continue to support student body activities and cheer their success.”

Administrators and teachers have to help board members rebuild the district’s reputation with voters, particularly in how they spend voters’ taxes. Krier did an impressive job explaining the district’s proposed drug testing policy at the last board meeting. It’s too bad that the recommendation to promote him wasn’t fully vetted with the board. Teachers abandoning their responsibilities at the last minute doesn’t promote maturity or critical thinking in their students.

Andrews has reposted the high school principal position. Responses are due by 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 3. Its Performance Responsibilities include:

• Principals establish and maintain a safe school environment.

• Principals share leadership with staff, students, parents and community members.

• Principals connect the school with the community.

• Principals involve parents and community members in improving student learning.

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