DC School Board Rejects Superintendent’s Recommendations – Full StoryMay 27th, 2011 by Patty Wooten
After nearly four hours of testimony at a pair of personnel hearings Thursday night the Drew Central School Board with no dissenting votes rejected Superintendent Wayne Fawcett’s recommendation not to renew the football coach and junior high cheer coach’s contracts.
Fawcett recommended that James Bell’s head football coach and athletic director contracts not be renewed for the 2011-12 school year. He also recommended that Melanie Brotherton’s contracts as the junior high head cheer coach and high school assistant cheer coach not be renewed. He did not recommend that the teaching portions of their contracts not be renewed.
The board rejected Fawcett’s recommendations. Board member Rene Knowles did not attend the hearings.
Bell, along with Brotherton, requested a public hearing at which Bell was represented by Dr. Carolyn Jones, with the Arkansas Education Association, and Brotherton was represented by Little Rock attorney Greg Alagood.
Below are reports from each hearing.
He said Bell had not increased student participation in the football program, had poor relations with assistant coaches, football players were not properly disciplined, and there was a lack of progress in student conditioning and preparation.
Bell, however, said football participation had increased in spite of decreasing student enrollment.
Regarding Fawcett’s point that an assistant coach quit because the assistant coach didn’t feel that a football player was properly disciplined after addressing the assistant coach with profanity, Bell told the school board that the football player was ordered to apologize to the coach and was benched the entire first quarter and the first six minutes of the second quarter of the following football game.
Addressing Fawcett’s claim that the football players were not properly conditioned and were not well prepared for games, Bell said he tested the players in August, December and April, and they showed progress. He said they were stronger, faster and healthier.
Regarding Fawcett’s point that the players were “winded” during the football games, Bell said, “If you’re playing a 4A powerhouse team, you’re going to be tired in the fourth quarter.”
Bell, reaching into his accordion-style file case while addressing Fawcett’s points, pulled document after document to support his position.
According to the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, educators must be given an opportunity to improve or correct any problems.
Bell said he was evaluated in 37 areas and Fawcett listed only two areas as unsatisfactory and those two areas were not listed as reasons for not renewing the contracts, according to Bell.
“So, I’m confused,” Bell told the school board.
His first reason for recommending that her cheer coach contracts not be renewed was based on a state Bureau of Legislative Audit exception regarding the cheerleading activity account.
Auditors found that Brotherton used “generic” receipt books and did not distinguish whether funds were received in cash or by check, funds were not remitted to the administration in a timely manner or in sequential order and one receipt book was missing, according to Fawcett, who pointed out that there was no allegation of a misappropriation of funds, it was simply poor record-keeping.
He also pointed out that her use of the administration-issued generic receipt book was not a reason for his decision to recommend that her contract not be renewed, although it was cited in the audit. While the receipt book had no space to distinguish whether the receipt was by cash or check, staff had been told that they should do so.
His second point was that itemized bills and invoices showing cheerleaders’ parents what they owned were not provided to the parents in a timely manner.
His third point was a voluntary cheer practice at Kim’s Dance Factory where the cheerleaders were not supervised by certified school personnel.
Fawcett, whose daughter is a cheerleader, said he personally witnessed the lack of supervision. He said school policy requires that practices be supervised by a member of the school staff or a parent volunteer who is certified by the Arkansas Activities Association.
He also claimed that multiple complaints from parents saying they didn’t know what they owed and general disharmony resulted in his decision to eliminate fundraisers and parental involvement in the cheerleading program.
To address each of Fawcett’s claims, Brotherton’s attorney, Greg Alagood, called numerous witnesses, including Brotherton.
Through those witnesses, the school board heard that the generic receipt book that Brotherton used had no space to distinguish whether the receipts were cash or check and that receipt book was provided to her by the school administration; there was a case of another coach not distinguishing whether a receipt was cash or check and that coach was not recommended for contract non-renewal; invoices were provided to the cheerleaders’ parents by a parent volunteer while Brotherton was on medical leave although Fawcett instructed Brotherton to do it before she left; they were not remitted in sequential order because one of the receipt books was missing from an office in the multi-purpose facility at which there were a number of people who had keys; a local gymnastics coach who had a service contract with the school to teach the cheerleaders tumbling was present at the voluntary cheer practice while Brotherton was at the doctor’s office, and that baseball practices are sometimes unsupervised; one witness said she received only one complaint from a parent about Brotherton, which the witness characterized as “amazingly minimal.”
It was also revealed during the hearing that Brotherton had recommended that Fawcett’s daughter be suspended from cheerleading for two weeks after receiving 10 demerits, only one of which was from Brotherton. Fawcett did not authorize the suspension although that was the athletic director’s call, according to Bell’s testimony.
On cross-examination by Brotherton’s attorney, Fawcett admitted that school board members, individually, had advised him to allow the athletic director to handle cheerleading issues because they believed that some parents’ perception was that he could not be objective since his daughter was a cheerleader.
In November, Fawcett notified Athletic Director James Bell, in writing, that he would be turning “all cheer issues” over to him. He said he received no complaints from Bell about Brotherton.
Regarding the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, which requires administrators to allow teachers to correct any problems before dismissal, Fawcett said he did not address the audit issues with Brotherton short of recommending that her cheer contract not be renewed, but believed he met the requirement because he does not have the confidence that she will be able to correct deficiencies within the next school year.
After the two hearings, the school board returned from a 30-minute closed door meeting and voted to reject both of Fawcett’s recommendations.