Anti-bullying policy remains; Karns CTE class funded retroactively

Sandra ClarkGovernment, Karns

The school board has kept its bullying and harassment policies intact, declining to remove “actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation” after weeks of protests from students, staff and community members. The policy review committee had recommended replacing the specific language with the word “sex.”

The vote was 6-2 on veteran board member Mike McMillan’s substitute motion to “leave the language like it is.” McMillan noted that he, Gloria Deathridge and Lynne Fugate had voted for the policy in 2012.

Voting with McMillan were Deathridge, Fugate, Susan Horn, Amber Rountree and Tony Norman. Patti Bounds and Jennifer Owen voted no, and Terry Hill was absent.

Five former, non-voting student board members jointly urged the board to retain the policy: Abdalla Husain, Lucy Greer, Adam Hasan, Sydney Gabrielson and Sydney Rowell.

Karns culinary program: How did the school system manage to spend “up to $450,000” to create a program without board approval?

It happens when you’ve got three superintendents and two chief academic officers in two years. It happens when Russ Oaks is on sick-leave. And it happens when the bureaucracy blurs lines of authority.

The perpetrator/victim is C. Don Lawson, director of Career Technical Education and an innovative educator, who has been on unpaid leave since July 21 and probably won’t return to the job he loved and did well.

Superintendent Bob Thomas shared results of a preliminary investigation with school board members this week, taking blame as the CEO. Board member Tony Norman pushed Thomas to name Lawson’s direct supervisor. It is Daphne Odom, executive director of innovation. She reports to Dr. Jon Rysewyk, chief academic officer, who reports to Thomas.

Thomas said Lawson opted to manage the project to install equipment and renovate a classroom at Karns High School for a culinary arts CTE class. He submitted invoices directly to the county’s business office for payment.

Now the contractor’s bill for almost $400,000 is due, and Thomas said he can take that money from fund balance. The board voted to spend “up to $450,000” to complete the project.

Thomas said “about six policies were violated,” and there were points where someone should have called time-out.

The board approved $50,000 for equipment without asking about the program itself. Thomas discussed it with the principal in late May. But then Gloria Deathridge questioned a culinary class at Karns when she says Austin-East in her district still has not received promised equipment.

Support material with Wednesday’s agenda showed three bids for the project. The winning contractor, Shelton General Contractors from Blaine, bid $386,861, but asked for another $11,585 on a change order. Other bidders were K&F Construction Inc. at $438,000 and Skilled Services LLC at $453,760.

School board policy reads, in part: “All personnel are expected to keep their immediate supervisor informed of their activities and shall refer matters requiring administrative action to the administrator to whom they directly report. That administrator shall refer such matters to the next higher administrative authority when necessary.”

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