School Board votes to name multiple co-valedictorians
The principal issue at Thursday night’s Grundy County School Board meeting was the controversy over valedictorians. The debate became a hot topic on social media last week after Grundy County High School senior Trevor Sanders was arrested for allegedly harassing a junior who was named valedictorian.
Sanders, 18, was arrested and charged with making non-verbal threats, resulting in his spending the night in jail. After his release, he took to social media stating that his arrest was a violation of his First Amendment rights.
The warrant for Sanders’ arrest had been requested by Daniel Richardson whose daughter, a junior, had earlier in the week been awarded valedictorian despite her junior status.
Although there were questions over the validity warrant on social media, Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum told the Herald last week that the “judicial process for obtaining and serving a warrant was followed correctly.”
At Thursday’s board meeting, Daniel and Jamie Richardson submitted a letter, read into the minutes by board member Chris Snyder, requesting all students with a 4.0 GPA or higher be named co-valedictorians.
Chuck Cagle, board attorney, stated after the letter was read that it is not allowable to change policies in the middle of the school year. However, because the current valedictorian’s parents, sent a letter asking the board to consider naming co-valedictorians, Cagle said it would be fine to make that policy change.
There were no letters submitted by the senior valedictorian Kristin Weaver or her family and it is unclear if they were notified that submitting a letter was an option in determining the resolution of the discrepancy.
Lindsey Layne, sister and legal guardian of Kristin Weaver was not happy with the board’s decision. Weaver was told by the GCHS guidance office as recently as December that she was ranked number one in the graduating class.
“This is not a solution,” stated Layne, “It does not fully recognize the work of my sister. This was a quick fix to make everyone sit down and hush.”
With the board’s decision, GCHS Class of 2018 will have 11 valedictorians.
No tenure for Tate
Former Grundy County High School head football coach Casey Tate was denied tenure at Thursday night’s school board meeting.
In October 2017, Tate was removed as coach after five football players (a freshman, three juniors, and a senior) were accused of attempting to rape a 14-year-old freshman teammate with the metal handle of a dust mop in the school’s football field house.
During the subsequent investigation, information showed Tate had enabled the students’ access to the field house where the attack occurred.
At last week’s board meeting, members voted 5-2 to deny Tate tenure – two “yes” votes from Phyllis Lusk, chairwoman, and Paul Gallagher, vice-chairman. “No” votes were received from board members Chris Snyder, LeBron Coffelt, Chris Grooms, Rueben Newsome, and Janie Layne. Not in attendance at the meeting were board members Kasey Anderson and Gary Melton.
Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey recommended Tate for tenure by stating, “Mr. Tate has met the tenure eligibility requirements set forth in school board policy 5.117.”
The policy states that a teacher eligible for tenure must have having taught for a probationary period of five years and received evaluations demonstrating a performance level of “above average expectations” or “significantly above expectations.”
Tate has been teaching as an “apprentice teacher” from 2011 to 2016, when he became a “professional.”
The policy regarding tenure says that a teacher, once eligible, must be recommended by the Director of Schools, following which the board must grant final approval.
If tenure is denied, the teacher who was eligible for tenure “shall not be rehired beyond the current contract year.”
Following the policy, Tate will no longer be employed as a teacher in Grundy County after his current contract ends on June 30.
Bus driver pay
Also on the agenda at Thursday’s meeting was bonus pay for bus drivers. Last year, the board approved a bonus for bus drivers in the amount of $100 for each year of service. Drivers said they had received a partial payment – up to one-half of the money owed – but had not received a final bonus payment. Lusk said the failure to pay bus drivers was a “miscalculation” and the board approved payment of the remainder of the money.
Teri Tate, a former Grundy County Schools bus driver, currently has a lawsuit filed demanding she receive payment of her full bonus for 20 years of service ($2,000). In the lawsuit, Tate states that she was employee at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year and should have received her bonus along with other bus drivers.
The Grundy County Herald is continuing an investigation in Tate’s lawsuit and will provide updates in a later edition.