By Mike Sherfy, KnoxPages.com Reporter
HOWARD - The public participation segment of Wednesday’s meeting of the East Knox School Board was short but eventful as the East Knox Education Association called for a Vote of No Confidence in three Board of Education members.
More than ninety audience members looked on as President Don Lemley, Christy Keffer, and Warren Edstrom were singled out for criticism.
EKEA President Kevin Oldaker took the floor, introduced the Association’s agenda of helping the students of this community learn and grow in a healthy educational environment, and then introduced Spokesperson Mindy Von Freymann to read the Resolution calling for a Vote of No Confidence into the record.
Board President Lemley looked on with a bemused smile, bouncing his left leg under the table, sipping at his bottled water, and occasionally shaking his head as Von Freymann read the resolution—which Oldaker later pointed out had been nearly unanimously of by East Knox teachers.
The resolution accused Lemley, Keffer, and Edstrom of engaging in behavior that “created crises that detract from the educational mission of the district”, of taking a “’divide and conquer’ approach toward the community, students, faculty, and staff rather than a ‘together we can’ attitude for the betterment of the district” and its educational goals, and of participating in a “power struggle that has been detrimental to the district through bad press, withdrawal of students to other districts, poor morale among the staff, and an overall negative image of the district as a whole, as stated by Roger Hardin, Chairman of the Emergency Fiscal Commission.”
It also accused one or more of the Board members of using “intimidation, bullying, and harassment tactics with staff members, particularly veteran staff members”, of posting “unprofessional and accusatory public rants on social media websites against other Board members and staff members”, of disrupting classes and intimidating teachers in their classrooms, and of harassing and being openly disrespectful to staff members in a variety of settings—including their homes.
The Resolution noted also that one of the accused Board members had even—in his capacity as a community member at a Bladensburg Community Meeting rather than as an East Knox Board of Education member—proposed the idea of converting the former Elementary School building to a charter school which, charged the EKEA, was “an outright conflict of interest as an elected official on the Board of Education.”
“We, the members of the East Knox Education Association, no longer have trust in these Board of Education members as it is our belief that they are no longer serving in a capacity that is in the best interests of the students, community members, or the staff of the district,” read Von Freymann. “We hereby call for a Vote of No Confidence in these three Board of Education Members.”
With that, nearly the entire audience—largely clad in East Knox purple—joined in a hearty standing ovation.
Fifteen minutes had been allotted for public participation. The reading of the Resolution had consumed just under six minutes. Board President Lemley requested and received a copy of the EKEA resolution but did not open the floor to further discussion or comment before moving on to the next item on the School Board’s agenda.
The East Knox Educational Association is investigating their organization’s options and considering further action on the matter.
Said one EKEA member after the Board had adjourned into Executive Session and left the auditorium, “They just can’t be screwing with the teachers….We are trying to help the kids.”