By Jesse Wood
Feb. 11, 2013. In the first Watauga County Board of Education meeting since two incidents involving Watauga County Schools Supt. David Kafitz came to light, the school board didn’t acknowledge the recent controversies surrounding the superintendent.
Nor did Kafitz himself address his past behavior during the superintendent monthly report that kicks off each school board meeting.
This silence follows more silence from a closed-session meeting that lasted six hours and was continued for an extra night of discussions for personnel matters. The closed session meeting was scheduled immediately after a Watauga County Board of Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges wrote a statement about her encounter with the superintendent. This account was released days after the Mellow Mushroom incident was publicized.
However, a last-minute addition to Monday night’s school board agenda provided for an unexpected twist, a sort of mental whiplash, at the very end of the open-session meeting.
Board Member Ron Henries motioned to direct staff to send an email to all employees on the behalf of the Watauga County Board of Education to recommend employees disregard a recent teacher survey handed out by Board Member Barbara Kinsey.
Henries read his motion, but a second didn’t follow immediately. Board Member Brenda Reese asked for Henries to re-read the motion. He did, and Reese seconded the motion. It passed 3-0 with Kinsey abstaining. Board Member Delora Hodges was absent due to a death in her family.
Although the motion was unexpected for those in attendance, Kinsey said Chairman Dr. Lee Warren notified her before the meeting that the board would vote on the recent survey she initiated.
Kinsey, who said the survey was created in light of the recent controversies surrounding the superintendent, added after the meeting to High Country Press that she was not pleased with the motion.
The motion stems from Kinsey’s actions at a recent faculty meeting, where Kinsey handed out a three-question survey to faculty members of Watauga County Schools. She said it was understood to teachers that this survey was not under the auspices of or affiliated with the Watauga County Board of Education.
She didn’t have a copy of the survey on hand after the meeting, but she did say the questions consisted of “What are your concerns at a particular school or within the county system?” and “What things would you like to see changed in a particular school or the whole school system?” Offhand, she couldn’t remember the third question.
She said it was odd that as a representative on the school board she couldn’t seek feedback from the teachers of the system that she was elected to serve.
“Teachers were told [by me] ‘Don’t even use [my] prompts [in the survey] if you don’t want to. Just get a plain sheet of paper or email me.’ I gave all my personal contact information – address, phone and personal email. Some teachers didn’t want to respond through the school email,’” Kinsey said.
After the meeting, Henries said the survey wasn’t authorized by the entire board and that he made this motion to clarify that to teachers. He was requesting teachers not fill out the survey until such a time that the Watauga County Board of Education as a whole may send out a survey to judge for itself the “atmosphere” of the school system.
What happened tonight was similar to when Kinsey addressed the board and read a statement about school system concerns she had heard from teachers and parents and community members since she first began campaigning for the November election school board race.
That speech by Kinsey seemed to come from out-of-left field, but just a week later, Chase Luddeke, general manager of Mellow Mushroom, wrote a blistering letter of his own, putting into perspective what Kinsey was speaking about.
Kinsey said she would provide a copy of the survey she handed out to teachers at the faculty meeting as soon as possible.
Scroll down the High Country Press’ “Education” page at www.hcpress.com/education for several articles about these recent issues and controversies.