NEWS HEADLINES

Alvord school board non-renews AD, then rescinds

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It took the Alvord school board just 11 minutes Monday to OK a roof replacement, approve a joint election agreement with the city of Alvord, appoint election judges and vote to non-renew the contract of its athletic director.

But that last item became the topic of a closed-door session that lasted two hours and 24 minutes, while a crowd of around 50 citizens, students and district employees stood and sat out in the hallway.

When they came back into open session, the board quickly – and unanimously – rescinded the motion on the athletic director’s contract and voted to table it until their next meeting, which should be April 24.

If the discussion that took place in the open is any indication, the closed session was probably a lively one.

Board president Larry Nivens kicked things off by stating that the agenda item to “consider renewal or giving notice of proposed non-renewal of athletic director’s contract” was worded that way on the advice of the district’s attorney. It was not, he said, stated the way board members Vic Czerniak and John Schedcik had requested it.

“Mr. Czerniak and Mr. Schedcik requested this meeting for that item specifically,” he said. “That is not their wording. That is the wording of our attorney because that meets the legal requirement if we’re going to pursue non-renewal. That’s why it’s listed that way.”

A brief discussion followed in which Czerniak wondered if all contracts would now have to be considered individually.

“Is that going to be standard verbiage from now on, for all contracts?” he asked.

“If it’s a proposed non-renewal, yes,” Nivens answered.

Board member Jeannette Ward attempted to clarify the issue.

“If we propose another non-renewal, then it has to be individualized,” she said. “But to renew you don’t have to individualize.”

Superintendent Bill Branum said contracts had to be considered individually “only if there’s a possibility that the board is going to propose non-renewal of someone.”

But when Czerniak made a motion that “the contract for the athletic director not be renewed,” Ward called a point of order, asking for the board to go into closed session “to hear a complaint or charge against an officer or employee” and citing the law.

But Schedcik quickly seconded Czerniak’s motion. Board member Kevin Wood called another point of order.

“Mr. President, according to our attorney, this is a notice of proposed non-renewal,” he said. “We’re not voting on non-renewal; we’re voting on a notice of proposed non-renewal.”

Czerniak insisted on a vote on his motion, just as he worded it.

“We are voting on non-renewal,” he said. “That was the motion that was seconded. We have to vote on the motion. You had an opportunity to say that before it was seconded.”

“I’m sitting here trying to listen to what’s going on back and forth,” Wood said. “I just know this is what the attorney said, this is the way it has to be worded. I don’t know what the problem is in saying proposed non-renewal.”

Finally, Nivens called for the vote, and the motion passed, 4-3.

Prior to the vote, Branum pointed out that a district is required to give notice to an employee whose contract is being non-renewed. The employee then has 15 days to respond and can request a hearing before the board.

“We have a motion and a second,” Nivens said. “But I would reiterate that our attorney said this is not in the best interest of the district to pursue it in this manner. But we have a motion to not renew the contract of the athletic director.”

After the vote, Nivens looked at the superintendent.

“Anything else, Mr. Branum?” he asked.

“Well, yeah,” Branum replied. “We need to go into closed session because you guys have got to say why you’re doing it. The employee’s got to have notice and an opportunity to respond.”

After the two-hour-and-24-minute closed session, the board opened the doors at 7:35.

It was Czerniak who quickly moved to “rescind the motion to not renew the contract of the athletic director.”

Wood followed with a motion to table the agenda item until the board’s next meeting.

Both measures were approved unanimously, without discussion.

Several board members stayed around to explain their action to Matthew Dunn, who had brought petitions calling for Enis’ dismissal to the previous meeting and had served as a spokesman for those seeking the coach’s ouster.

“The motion was made, the motion was seconded,” he said. “It was voted on. You called the vote, the vote was done. How’d it get rescinded?”

“It was voted on again,” Nivens said.

Czerniak explained that “there was a motion to rescind the previous motion.”

“So when are they going to re-vote on this? When are we going to get this renewal thing ironed out? When do you plan on putting it back on the agenda?” Dunn asked.

Nivens noted the agenda for the next meeting had not been set but said it would “probably” be on that one.

“The next meeting will be the fourth Thursday of the month?” Dunn asked. “OK, here we go again.”

RESIGNED BOARD MEMBER RETURNS TO BREAK THE TIE

The special called meeting, which started at 5 p.m., was the first one since last June to have seven members present.

Place 6 trustee Randy Hamilton, who resigned from the board June 3, 2013, was back in attendance and there was no debate over his presence.

An earlier communication indicated Hamilton could still exercise the duties of his office because no replacement was ever named. It cited the Texas Constitution, article 16, section 17 which states that “all officers within this State shall continue to perform the duties of their offices until their successors shall be duly qualified.”

A 1996 Attorney General opinion backed that up, stating, “an officer whose resignation has been effected but whose successor has not been appointed retains the position as a ‘de jure’ officer.”

Hamilton’s return is only until the May 10 election, as his place is on the ballot along with that of Place 7 trustee Jeannette Ward.

Lance Thweatt, Lex Williams and Tracy Parker are seeking Place 6, although Williams announced last week that he wishes to withdraw and throw his support to Thweatt.

Charles Matthews is contesting Ward’s run for re-election.

Hamilton’s return promised to break a stalemate in the controversy over the contract of Alvord ISD athletic director and head football coach Curtis Enis. At its March 27 meeting, the board deadlocked 3-3 on a proposed renewal of Enis’ contract.

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