The Washington C.H. city school board discussed the employment status of superintendent Matthew McCorkle during an executive session Thursday evening.
The vast majority of the crowd of about 40 individuals in attendance spoke in support of McCorkle, who is in his third year as the district superintendent. Although several people close to the situation have confirmed to the Record-Herald that the board discussed the employment status of McCorkle, board members refused to confirm that they were discussing his employment.
The reason the board discussed McCorkle has not been divulged. McCorkle and board members declined comment following the executive session.
At the beginning of the meeting, the board opened the floor for several McCorkle supporters before entering executive session. The agenda stated, “The Board will enter executive session for the consideration of the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of a public employee or official, or student.”
It was understood by the many in attendance, particularly parents and teachers who spoke on his behalf, that the employee the board was discussing was McCorkle. The crowd of supporters that gathered chose to come and discuss McCorkle’s work ethic, personality and efforts to change the district for the better, but the board would not confirm by the end of the meeting if they were discussing McCorkle’s employment during the executive session.
“This meeting is for addressing the issue, it is not to attack any board members, and if we don’t abide by those rules it will end at that time,” board president Ken Upthegrove said.
The first person to speak to the board was Mitch Augenstein, a fifth-grade teacher at Belle Aire Intermediate. He said that growing up in high school, he did not know his superintendent and couldn’t say what he actually looked like. He said he never saw his superintendent at sporting events, never saw him in his classroom and never knew what his purpose was in the district.
“Fast forward to college, I graduate from the University of Findlay,” Augenstein said. “I joined the job fair and saw 50 different schools that day. I met Mr. McCorkle, sat down for an interview and found that he was the most genuine, down-to-earth and truly heartfelt person. I shared my story, asked some questions, but more importantly (the interviewers) shared their story and asked me questions about who I was. They were my first job offer of five. I accepted Mr. McCorkle’s offer because for the second interview I came here and sat with him. He then took me around the town, showed me the city, showed me the schools and different places. He really made me feel part of the community. And that is what I was looking for in a job, not just to teach, not to just get test scores, but to be a part of the community, to connect with kids, and to make a difference. McCorkle showed me, from the beginning, that was his purpose. He put the district first and the kids first.”
Mary Kay West then took to the podium to speak. She said she was not there to judge the board, but had come to ask for understanding. According to West, she has seen many issues that needed improvement within the district, including leadership. She claims that strengths and weaknesses were identified and positive changes were made for the education of the students in the district under McCorkle’s leadership.
“A structured curriculum, oh my how we needed that,” West said. “We are once again offering opportunities for all of our students to succeed, we have discipline, and the unity of all four schools working together, and importantly, a vision. A vision and guidance for the future of our students. I have a question for the board, have these needed changes been accomplished for the betterment of our students educational welfare within the past two-and-a half years? One of the 16 code of ethics for the school board members is, ‘Render all decisions based on available facts and your independent judgment rather than succumbing to the influence of individuals or special interest groups.’”
The board was advised not to answer any questions by a Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP attorney present at the meeting.
Supporters, including teachers James Carr and Mark Bihl, as well as city council member Leah Foster, continued to speak highly of McCorkle for nearly 40 minutes before the board voted to move to executive session. After deliberating for an hour-and-a-half, the board emerged, finished the meeting and adjourned with no decision announced.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy