BONIFAY – Holmes County District School remained silent as three residents gave speeches filled with accusations during the public hearing portion of the board's June 17 regularly scheduled meeting.
Opening the public hearing was Veronica Smith, who was also present at the June 3 meeting. Again, Smith addressed contradiction in funds the school board agreed to contribute toward the Bethlehem High School’s Junior Beta trip to Nationals. She
explained the board approved to contribute $250 per student who attended the trip but then reimbursing a lesser amount.
“(The board's contribution amount) was verified and confirmed in January before it was ever announced to these students or their parents,” said Smith. “During the meeting held two weeks ago, $250 is the amount said to be given. When I spoke of the original $250 per student, the chair of the board and Rusty Williams both spoke up and nodded in verbal agreement that this is the amount to be given. Apparently, (Superintendent of Schools Eddie Dixon) was the only one aware of the change, and it was done without the approval vote of the board.”
Smith went on to ask Dixon why it was changed only three weeks prior to the trip.
“During the last meeting, you stated that only travel expenses and hotel expenses are covered for all ball teams attending State Championships,” said Smith, addressing Dixon. “The Junior Beta would gladly accept the same treatment in lieu of $250 promised per student, if that is an option. You understand that this act shows you, Mr. Dixon, on public record as being unfair, unsupportive, unreliable and dishonest to some of Holmes County’s top AB honor roll students.”
Smith said she had requested financial records on another group who went to the State Championships, but the paperwork was delayed on grounds of having “student names redacted.”
“We’ve noticed that (school board member Debbie Kolmetz) is willing to stand up for our students and issues of concern in our district,” said Smith. “The District has entrusted each of you school board members to act and honestly take care of issues of concern for our students, and I do not understand why this isn’t being done. For example, the motion has been made three times now by Mrs. Kolmetz in recent school board meetings to make the audio recordings as part of the public record online for all citizens to have access to and it hasn’t even received a second.”
Next to speak was Holly Jones of Bonifay, who expressed concern that teachers were being threatened with termination of employment, demotion and refused rehiring if they were found to have opposing views to the current school board.
Jones requested the board strengthen policies to protect personnel from any retaliation for stating their thoughts and opinions.
Another issue she said she had with the board is in regards to Edgenuity, the virtual program for virtual classes taught in Holmes County schools, questioning Dixon’s affiliation with the company in the past.
Christine LiCausi of Bonifay also spoke, alleging the principal of Bethlehem High School, Stacey Thompson, isn't qualified for his position. She also alleged "everyone is aware" Brent Jones is being hired as Thompson's successor "before he was hired" and that "job postings put up during the holidays so that no one could see them."
The Holmes County School Board has neither confirmed nor denied Jones' hiring.
LiCausi went on to voice her concern about teacher qualifications, stating Holmes County has been lax in their enforcement of qualification requirements and practices nepotism.
“In my opinion, favoritism, cronyism and nepotism undermine the common good,” said LiCausi. “When someone is granted a position because of their connections rather than those who have the credentials and experience, the service that person renders to the public may be inferior. These practices are often covert and undercuts the transparency that should be a part of the hiring and contracting process.”
Superintendent Dixon says there is no merit to any of the accusations made.
“The majority of what was said doesn’t warrant a response,” said Dixon. “I’m just grateful we are blessed to live in a country where people can come and express themselves whether they are with me or against me.”
In other business, HCSB approved:
· Contract for certified Waste Water Treatment/Potable Water Plant Operator
· Second year extension for contracts with Walker Septic Tank Services, Cross Country Exterminators, Star Fire Extinguishers, Inc., Tri-County Gas and Waste Management.
· Amend the 2012-2015 teachers master contract.
· Grandfathered salary schedules for performance pay for 2014-2015.
· 2014-2015 performance contract for school health services.
· Amend Edgenuity Virtual Program policies and procedures, with a vote of 4 to 1, with Kolmetz voting “no.”
· Amend minutes for June 3, correcting a name misspelling and number correction at the request of Kolmetz, followed by an approval of the minutes with amendment.
· Personnel recommendations.
The next scheduled meeting of the Holmes County District School Board is set for a workshop starting at 8 a.m. followed by a regular meeting at 9 a.m. on July 1.