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Board backtracks; principals continue double duty

Water damage becomes heart of discussion

February 17, 2016
During a special meeting, which took place Jan. 21, the Crawford County School Corp. Board of Trustees flip-flopped on its decision to approve Superintendent Garry DeRossett's recommendation to hire two former elementary principals to fill the gaps at English and Leavenworth Elementary schools for the remainder of the academic year. The initial decision would have again allowed every building to have its own principal, aiding Alan Cox and Lisa Smith, who have pulled double duty for all of the 2015-16 school year.

"I've talked to two ex-principals, they retired, they worked for us, Nan DuPont and Debbie Ade, to work for these next four or five months and get us through," DeRossett said at the regular meeting on Jan. 14. "They both are, from what I've heard, excellent people, excellent curriculum people."

Although a couple of the trustees were skeptical due to financial reasons, DeRossett pointed out that the issues due to the lack of having a principal in each building five days a week weren't going away and that this was his best recommendation to solve that problem.

"I mean, I can put coverage in there, but I heard very plain, our most important point is we get those people in there and deal with the situations that we have," he said. "I can find somebody to take care of the nuts and bolts of every day, but I cannot necessarily find someone who's been in those trenches, who's done those things, who has helped those teachers to move forward, and I think, if we go back in their history, their buildings probably did fairly well."

After much discussion, the board voted to approve DeRossett's recommendation at the Jan. 14 meeting, 5-0-1, with president Traci Kerns abstaining (trustee Dennis Talley was absent). Afterward, trustee Kelly Hammond and Kerns attempted to rescind their votes; however, in order to do so, they would've had to make a motion and the board would've had to approve it. Instead, the board called for a special meeting exactly one week later.

Following approval of the consent agenda at the Jan. 21 special meeting, which only contained the resignation of head football coach Alan Hess, it was Hammond who took charge of old business.

"Under old business and what we discussed when we made the motion last meeting (Jan. 14) to look at hiring and voting to hire two assistants, and this evening I want to make a motion not to approve contracts for assistants to principals at Leavenworth and English, and the corporation will continue to explore additional options to fill those vacancies," he said.

Trustee Myrna Sanders was quick to second that motion, and it was approved 7-0.

"They just didn't think we had the money to do it," DeRossett said following the meeting. "We spent a lot of time discussing it, and I understand, financially is that the best thing to do? Probably not, but we'll do what we can."

To close the meeting, DeRossett took the time to update the public on the water damage issue that affected eight rooms at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, when a register in the glass classroom located inside the media center burst on Jan. 18.

"The outside air was supposed to be closed. We don't know if it shorted or if it opened up. Of course, this cold weather that we had froze it and then the hot water came through, lit the frozen part, and that's where she came," DeRossett explained at the meeting.

Children and teachers were immediately removed from the affected areas, with crews beginning work the day it was reported and continuing to work nights until the rooms are completed.

"Two crews came in, the drywall is up, I believe it's all mudded. Four rooms have been stripped of carpet, a lot of insulation, anything that looked anything like water damage that could create mold or anything like that, that was removed, thrown away, the drywall replaced," DeRossett said.

DeRossett also clarified that, while there was water damage, no sign of mold had been detected.

"We had people post (on social media) that we had mold. Here's exactly what those black dots are: when you have water and pipelines, rust occurs and it's black," he said. "None of that is ever going to be left. It's always cleaned, always disinfected. I'm sorry that people feel that that's the best way to expose something on Facebook, but I'll be honest with you, you're more than welcome to come in, see any of those areas.

"We've never hidden anything. I'm in that building at least twice a day to look at those areas along with a principal," he continued. "With the building at the age that we have, things happen with those heater elements. So much pressure has to be in, no matter what. Sometimes it remains open, freezes and then we have the water problem."

Talley asked CCJSHS Principal Brandon Johnson to address complaints that he had heard about teachers and students getting sick because of the damage. Johnson said no students or teachers had been sent home sick.

"There were some days where the smell was rough, and we've removed everyone from those areas, but it was the rust-proof, if you will, things they put into the water," Johnson said. "It has an acrid smell, it does, but we have not had anyone get sick at school that we have sent home. … In fact, the staff especially has been extremely flexible … everyone has said, whatever you need, however long, we'll make it work. Everyone has done a great job."

DeRossett, in a later interview, said the affected rooms have been painted and the carpet has been laid.

The next regular board meeting was scheduled for last night (Tuesday).

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