Whitesburg KY

Principal is demoted, wants public hearing

The Jenkins Independent Board of Education has scheduled a public hearing for next month to consider an appeal filed by former Jenkins Middle High School Principal Teresa Bentley, who was demoted recently to the rank of elementary teacher by the district’s new superintendent.

Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr. took action at the board’s regular November meeting earlier this week to set the hearing for December 15 at 5 p.m. Narramore declined to say who would be involved in the hearing, but the action was taken after a terse exchange between Narramore and Jerry Bentley, who is Teresa Bentley’s husband.

The demotion of Teresa Bentley was mentioned to board members in a personnel report presented by Superintendent Debbie Watts, but the report made no mention of why Watts took the action.

Mrs. Bentley declined to comment on her demotion other than to say she wants the hearing be open to the public and that she has not seen the charges Watts filed against her. Mrs. Bentley was a popular girls’ basketball coach at Jenkins before becoming principal. Her husband also coaches and serves as the district’s athletic director.

The matter of Mrs. Bentley’s demotion was not on the regular agenda and was not addressed further than a brief look at the personnel report which was requested by Jerry Bentley. However, at the conclusion of agenda business, Narramore requested an additional item be added for a staff hearing. Jerry Bentley took issue with the quick passing over of the personnel report. agenda,” said Bentley. “You passed over that one pretty fast.”

“We did it the way we always do,” replied Narramore.

“Right,” said Bentley.

“Yeah, right,” replied Narramore.

The Personnel Report simply read that Teresa Bentley had been demoted. As the board reached the end of the agenda, Narramore asked to add an item and requested a hearing for the appeal of a staff member. Narramore said the approaching holidays would make it hard to accommodate the law, which requires the hearing to be set within no less than 20 days and no more than 30 days after the request was filed. After hearing about individual availability from board members, Narramore set the hearing for December 15.

Narramore said the hearing will only be open to the public if the staff member wants it to be open, so interested parties should call the school board offices (832-2183) before coming to the meeting to make sure it will be an open meeting. Personnel laws give anyone asking for a hearing the option of having an open or closed meeting.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to re-configure the school system into a single entity for the purpose of testing. The action was taken at the request of education consultant Frank Welch, retired superintendent of Pike County Schools.

Although the current school structure with principals at both levels will be followed, the school system will now receive only one score on CATS and other end of course testing. Superintendent Watts said she would send the request to the Kentucky Department of Education for approval.

Welch, who was hired by the board after recent dismal results on state tests, said he had asked the school’s site-based council to approve the changes, to allow for students who are having difficulty with classes to be taken from regular classes for one on one instruction, and to do away with the “novice” testing classification at Jenkins all together. Welch also said he would like to see an ACT college test class be started next semester and stressed the importance of ACT scores for college scholarships.

Superintendent Watts said the move will combine accountability among all three schools into a single entity rather than having each one, elementary, middle, and high school scrutinized individually. The board voted to follow Welch’s recommendation and Watts will submit it to the education department.

The board also voted to go ahead and make final payments to the contractors and architects who did the recent renovations on all three schools in the system, withholding only a relatively small “hold out” amount which is customarily only released when a contract is finalized. Superintendent Watts told the board that architect Wayne Clayton of CS Design, had asked her to go ahead with the payment in exchange for a promise by Elliot Contractors to pay for a list of damaged items, including labor to re-install broken tiles and other damages. Clayton said he would continue to withhold $64,000 until Elliot Contractors fulfills its contract obligations. Watts said Elliot has requested an itemized list with cost and labor costs of the damaged items.

In other business:

• Director of Pupil Personnel Harvey Tackett reported that system attendance stands at 92.8 percent with the combined elementary attendance at 93.9 and middle high school at 91.8. Tackett also reported that a college fair was held at the middle high school with sophomores, juniors, and seniors attending. Ten colleges participated.

• Tackett, who is in charge of the Safe Schools program, also reported that language has been added to the school code to accommodate an anti-bullying law passed by the General Assembly in its last session.

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