Archive for Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Closed sessions for THS administrators

It’s business as usual at school, principal says after meeting

February 28, 2007

Tonganoxie High School principal Tatia Shelton is still on the job.

"I can tell you, I have not been fired and I have not resigned," Shelton said Monday.

At Wednesday's school board meeting, board members met in executive session with Shelton, but took no action regarding her employment.

"They have not taken action on any administrator contracts whatsoever," Shelton said. "The only action they have taken is to look for the assistant principal/athletic position that they created last Wednesday."

Monday, Tonganoxie school board member Leana Leslie said rumors that Shelton had been fired had reached her.

"I receive quite a bit of correspondence," Leslie said. Leslie said the school board has not made any motions regarding Shelton's contract -- or that of any other the other administrators' contracts. This includes principals, assistant principals and school superintendent Richard Erickson.

"We haven't extended any of our administrator contracts at this point -- or not approved them," Leslie said. "We haven't taken any action at all. ... I believe we will be doing that sometime in March."

'A major target'

Shelton said she's heard the rumors that she's been fired.

"Probably the toughest job of any school employee is the high school principal," Shelton said Monday. "You have a major target on your back all the time. You're a very visible person."

Such visibility also puts the rumor mill into action, Shelton concedes.

"I know there are a lot of stories out there, and where they started from I don't have any idea," said Shelton, who became principal in the summer of 2004 after Mike Bogart retired. "It saddens me that my children are exposed to those things and I don't know how to explain them when they ask me why -- because a lot of the rumors are malicious."

Shelton said, between spending time at work and with her children, there's little room for anything else.

"Unless it is something that is illegal, then what I do during my personal time away from Tonganoxie High School is my own business," Shelton said. "I have never done anything that I am ashamed of. I don't have time for anything. I barely have time to clean my house and get my laundry done."

Other business

Wednesday night board members and the school's attorney met behind closed doors separately with Shelton and Brandon Parker, THS athletics director. Shelton's session lasted about 35 minutes; Parker's about 40 minutes.

Later that evening, in open session, the board voted to merge the position of athletics director into a combination assistant principal position/athletics director position. And board members said Parker, who was not licensed to be an assistant principal, was welcome to update his credentials and apply.

Board members did not mention Shelton's contract during Wednesday's open session.

Board changes job description, putting AD's future in limbo

In the coming weeks, Tonganoxie High School athletics director Brandon Parker will decide whether he'll stay in Tonganoxie past the end of the school year.

Parker's dilemma revolves around requirements for his job, which have changed.

Wednesday, after meeting for more than two hours in executive session in a special meeting, board members changed the requirements for the position of Tonganoxie High School athletics director.

In open session, Leana Leslie said the board had been advised by its attorney that the position should require a license from the Kansas Department of education.

"For that reason, I move that a notice of creation of the position of assistant principal/athletic director for the 2007-2008 school year," Leslie said.

She noted Parker would remain in his position through the end of this school year.

"Brandon will determine what additional requirements are needed to meet this position and make application if desired," Leslie said.

Board member Bob DeHoff seconded Leslie's motion, which received unanimous approval. All seven board members were present.

Leslie also noted this change does not affect any coaching positions.

About his position

Parker said word reached him Feb. 16 that his job requirements would be changing.

"The position of athletic director requires a license from the state Department of Education," Parker said Wednesday evening after meeting with board members in executive session.

"For this reason, the board is going to be creating the position of assistant principal/athletic director for next year," Parker said. "I'll remain in this position through the end of the year."

Parker, who has been athletics director since the start of the 2002-2003 school year, has a bachelor's degree in athletic administration from the Kansas University.

"I may need more credentials," Parker said of gaining the necessary license.

Parker made his news public, addressing the crowd of 60 or so who had gathered in the school board office.

"I've got some decisions to make on what I want to pursue in order to stay in this position," Parker said. "I will tell you that it was not adversarial. No one was on a hunt or anything like that. But in speaking to their lawyer, I've got to decide with my family what we're going to do."

Parker urged those present to be positive and said their support meant a lot to him.

"It's not a perfect world," Parker said. "But being able to see this and be part of it makes a little bit of disappointment be a lot easier, having you all here and being supportive.

"Don't leave here bitter or leave with a chip on your shoulder thinking there is something underhanded. There are things that from a legal standpoint we have to look at and pursue."

Parker also told the group that the school board would decide who would be named coaches in May.

"That is not a topic that will be discussed tonight," Parker said. "It is a May topic with every other coaching position."

Show of support

While board members met behind closed doors, a talkative crowd waited in the front office.

Peggy Pistora, parent of standout athlete Ali Pistora, had this to say: "We support the principal and the athletics director."

Nearby, Jenny Reischman, eighth-grade girls basketball coach, compiled a notebook of letters expressing support for Parker and Shelton. Each letter was signed by students, parents, school staff and other district patrons.

Among those at the meeting were Jeff Carlin and his wife, Margaret, whose children attend school in Tonganoxie. They were also among the 100 or so who signed forms expressing their support for Parker and Shelton.

Jeff Carlin, who is an attorney, said his family came to show support for Parker and Shelton.

"We've heard there may be possibly some negative action being taken against two very good and respected school administrators," Jeff Carlin said.

Carlin said his family had had good experiences with both administrators.

"I know him real well," Carlin said of Parker. "Because of my daughter, Shannon. Shannon respects him a lot and so do the other girls, he's been extremely responsive to parents' concerns and he's always been accessible. He's a phone call away."

Carlin said Shelton, too, had been reliable.

"Mrs. Shelton has always been available to speak to me or any other parents about concerns," Carlin said. "She has an extremely good relationship with the students and that's not easy for a principal."

Carlin praised Parker and Shelton for the emphasis they placed on academics.

"Both of them are concerned with academics first," Carlin said. "When I first met Brandon, he said academics, he told my daughter, you've got to toe the line in school if you want to play."

Carlin said he'd heard the job description of the athletics director might be changing.

"That's within the right of the board," Carlin said. "But my theory is, ... why fix something that isn't broken. Tonganoxie High School does not need fixing -- it's running fine."

However, not everyone present was there to show support. While parent Lexye Shockley was supportive of Parker, she said she felt differently about Shelton.

"I'm unhappy with her job performance," Shockley said. "There are always two sides to every story."

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