Confusion, calls for transparency from school board renewed among Carroll Consolidated community

A board member suddenly resigns. His replacement process is not advertised, and the person chosen unexpectedly passes. An unexplained change in timeline for renewing the superintendent's contract. Some in the Carroll community are wondering what is going on with the school board.

Posted: Nov 24, 2020 9:10 PM
Updated: Nov 25, 2020 8:44 AM

FLORA, Ind. (WLF) - Some people in the Carroll Consolidated School District have many questions about the future. It all started in the first five minutes of the November 10th school board meeting. 

This was the first meeting after the election. Challenging school board candidates Amanda Redmon and Billy Lytle both won their races. Board President Patrick Hickner announced at the beginning of the meeting that board member Jon Johnson handed in his resignation two days after the election.

Carroll parent and alumna Jamie Seibert has unanswered questions.

"I have literally no idea what is happening with the school board," she said. "If Jon Johnson didn't want to do it, why wouldn't he have stepped down before the election? Like did they have this planned?"

Redmon said she heard a rumor that day about the situation. The rumor being that Johnson was stepping down and the board would replace him that evening.

"I actually didn't believe it was going to happen. I really thought it was a rumor," she said. "Sure enough, as my husband and I were watching the live stream we were like, is this really happening?"

Jon Johnson was one of four who voted not to renew Redmon's contract as Carroll Elementary Principal in February. A decision that upset many in the Carroll community. His resignation and replacement vote were not on the November 10th agenda.

"I think they probably should have announced the resignation, let some time pass, let the public know that the spot is going to be open. Because no one knew it was open," said Redmon.

Redmon said they are technically following the bylaws, which are vague on the situation. The bylaws state that the board must wait a "reasonable" amount of time before filling a vacancy on the board. 

Dave Bordner nominated former board member David Lambert. Lambert was already in the boardroom when the group voted him in unanimously. 

That's when Mr. Bordner said this: "Lambert, welcome back to the good ol' boys club!" This was followed by some laughter and a woman saying, "Don't say that."

"Joke or no joke, it was extremely poor taste and not appropriate," said Seibert. "I was really disgusted by that. All I'm thinking in my head is I have a little girl who is five and she goes to school there. Is she not going to be able to do things because she's not part of the good ol' boys club? She'll never be a part of the good ol' boys club because she's a girl."

Grant Davidson is also a parent of two kids at Carroll, one being his daughter. Davidson felt this wasn't the first time sexism has been shown by this board.

"It's embarrassing to the community that happened on a public forum," he said. "It hurts because you want the best for your children."

After the vote, Mr. Lambert stood up and was sworn into office. He sat down at the table next to his new fellow board members and proceeded to vote on some of the remaining agenda items. Redmon, Seibert and Davidson felt him being at the meeting ready to assume the role showed this was planned.

However, it was Friday, November 13th when things took a sad and unexpected turn. David Lambert suddenly passed away three days after he was sworn into office. According to his obituary, Mr. Lambert died in the emergency room at St. Joseph Hospital in Kokomo. Click here to send condolences to the family and read more about the legacy he leaves behind.

Redmon said she hasn't reached out to the board about it yet.

"I'm trying to be respectful of the fact that Mr. Lambert passed away," she said. "I think you have to be respectful and give that some time. And I have no idea what the board will do next."

For Seibert, she said she only heard good things from the people she talked to about Mr. Lambert joining the board. She heard he was very budget-conscious, which is something important to her. The problem she found was in how the board brought him on.

"I didn't talk to anybody who had anything ill to say about who it was," she said. "It was more just the way it all happened. We were all just very caught of guard."

She is not happy that the lack of transparency is continuing.

"Pat Hickner sat in a debate and said we are completely transparent, anything you want to know I'll tell you and then they turn around and do that and I'm thinking, no that doesn't work for me," she said.

The school board meeting agenda for Nov. 24 again did not say anything about another replacement vote. But again, at the very beginning of the meeting, President Hickner asked for any recommendations to fill the vacancy. Kyle Wagner was nominated and sworn in within the first five minutes of the meeting starting.

Next, the board opened a public discussion for the renewal of Superintendent Keith Thackery's contract. The notice for public discussion was posted in the Carroll County Comet the same week of the Nov. 10th meeting. This notice came as a surprise to some because Mr. Thackery's contract was renewed in January of this year and typically only happens once a year. This contract renewal would extend his job until 2023 and increase his compensation package by $3,700.

His signed January contract (Jan. 28) and proposed November contract can both be found here.

"Typically they vote on contracts in January and February," said Redmon. "It just seems a bit rushed."

Davidson said the next school board members should have a say in the matter, and he got five pages of signatures from people who agree with him. Davidson submitted his petition to the board and received confirmation it was received.

"I think the new board needs an opportunity to evaluate these types of decisions," he said. "They are trying to extend the contract of the business manager as well and that's a huge expense to the taxpayers."

Seibert and Davidson both asked questions as part of the public forum. Seibert asked about the timeline by which Mr. Thackery's contract has been renewed in the previous three years of his employment. President Hickner said in the past, the process started in November and ended with a vote in January. Seibert wanted to know why this time it was suddenly being done differently. Hickner couldn't give a clear reason at this time.

Seibert is also an educator who teaches at Frankfort Schools. She wished that the leaders at Carroll could come together and be open with the public.

"I wish we could all just work together for the kids because in the end, those are the only people missing out on anything," she said. "This has nothing to do with us as adults, it's the kids."

The next school board meeting will happen on December 8th. Redmon and Lytle will begin their terms on the school board during the first meeting of January.

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