School board seals deal for interim superintendent

Published 9:32 am Friday, January 16, 2015

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The Elizabethton Board of Education unanimously approved a contract with Dr. Corey Gardenhour for his new position as interim superintendent of Elizabethton City Schools.
Gardenhour was named interim superintendent on Jan. 5 following the retirement of Ed Alexander, who had served as superintendent since 2006. Gardenhour also serves as the director of special education, RTI and related services and will continue in those positions while acting as interim.
Gardenhour was selected to serve as interim during the December school board meeting. He was considered along with Assistant Superintendent Richard VanHuss, who recommended Gardenhour because Gardenhour plans to apply for the permanent position.
Board chair Rita Booher said the only real difference in the contract between the interim superintendent and the permanent superintendent was the wording.
The contract does have a set end and cannot extend past June 30, 2015.
“So you can see, we are kind of on a timeline,” Booher said, referencing the search for the permanent director.
Gardenhour said he looks forward to serving as interim superintendent because of his love for the school system.
“I want to do this because I have had a lot of great experiences in the school system and I care for the parents and the children in the schools,” Gardenhour said. “If I do get to serve as a superintendent, I want it to be in Elizabethton.”
The board also approved the replacement and installation of a new pool heater for the Elizabethton High School pool not to exceed $30,000 from Trane.
“This is a great relief for us,” Gardenhour said. “The pool is an important part of the community outreach for the school system.”
Director of Facilities and Technology Services Joey Trent said the current heater was damaged beyond repair, and that some of the damage to the heater was “scary.”
He said not only was the heater burned out, the pump and air combustion system had issues.
“This is not just going to fix it, this is going to fix it right,” Trent said.
The board unanimously approved suspending the “special purchases” portion of the board policy on purchasing to allow the system to make direct material purchases for the new stadium and music room construction projects.
The special purchases section states all purchases require specific prior board approval on an item-by-item basis.
VanHuss said by allowing direct purchases, the school system would save money on sales tax. He said a report on purchases would be made to the board each month: including a list, total spent and a schedule. He added the system’s auditor and attorney had been consulted and no issues had been found with the request.
“These items have already been bid out,” VanHuss said. “This truly allows us to stretch our pennies.”
The board also heard from a parent, Debra Scalf, who expressed her displeasure with the school system’s investigation into her allegations that her son had been verbally abused by EHS football coach Shawn Witten.
The system investigation found inappropriate language had been used, but that it did not rise to the level of harassment.
In a letter dated Jan. 6 from Gardenhour to Scalf that was sent after the investigation was completed, it stated Witten had been counseled on proper language use and would be monitored for compliance.
Booher and Gardenhour informed Scalf that if she wanted to readdress the matter she would have to file an appeal for the board to hear the argument.
Other community members also spoke regarding the matter. Kebo Scalf, Debra Scalf’s husband, urged the board to take action on the matter. Parent Wesley Holsclaw and grandparent Patsy Rash said their students had reported similar incidents.
Cyclone Football Club president Tony Briggs, game announcer Rick Walters and physical therapist Danny Smith spoke in support of Witten. All stated Witten supported his players but was tough when he needed to be. All three also said they had not heard any player complaints against Witten in their interactions with students.