NEWS HEADLINES

Early fireworks, late action in board meeting

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Alvord school board made some major decisions Thursday night – but the fireworks that erupted at the start of the meeting hung like a cloud of smoke over a string of unanimous votes.

Board member Kevin Wood lit the fuse, accusing board president Vic Czerniak of “egregious violation and betrayal” claiming he overstepped his authority by ordering Superintendent Bill Branum to post an opening for the athletic director’s position on the Internet.

Former head football coach Curtis Enis, whose resignation was accepted this week was relieved of his duties as athletic director in May, while still under contract as a teacher and coach. Wood read a clipping from the May 3 Messenger in which Branum stated he believed it was the board’s intent that he handle those duties himself.

“Nobody on this board had a meeting to authorize the posting of an AD job,” Wood said. “You did it behind our backs.

“You violated the integrity of this board, you usurped your authority as board president, you undermined our authority as elected officials, you compromised the instructional leadership of this district, you embarrassed elected officials by the way you behaved behind our backs, and you violated the public trust,” he said. “If you had any character, you’d resign as board president.”

Czerniak, other board members and the audience of about a dozen – including several football players and their parents – sat in stunned silence as the accusations unfolded.

At one point Czerniak turned to Branum. “Did I order you to?” he asked.

“You asked me to,” Branum said.

Wood said, “I’ve sat through this once, and I’m not going to sit quietly by again and people go behind our backs.”

Finally Czerniak was able to respond as Wood turned around in his chair and faced away from the board table.

Czerniak denied making a statement, although it was unclear what statement he was referring to. The Messenger clipping Wood read did not reference Czerniak, who had not yet been elected to head the board.

He did say that on Tuesday he had gone to Branum’s office and discussed posting the AD job so that when Enis’ resignation did come in, the district might already be receiving applications.

“To kill two birds with one stone, what we needed to do, if we’re going to try and make our program successful, was to go ahead with posting an athletic director with heavy football skills – so that when we do get an opening or a letter of resignation, we could move the athletic director into the head football coach position,” he said.

“As it was, yesterday we received a letter of resignation,” he continued. “But we’ve already lost almost a month trying to find out because we didn’t have a head football coach out there working with the boys on the program. We didn’t know what our situation was.”

He noted that by law, Enis could have waited until July 11 to resign – 45 days prior to the start of classes.

“By the time we would post it, take applications and do interviews, school would already be starting before we had a football coach,” Czerniak said.

“Mr. Branum was never ordered. We came to a mutual agreement,” he said. “My understanding was that he would go ahead and post it, but he was never ordered by anybody to do that.”

Things calmed down for a moment as board member John Schedcik raised a question about the district’s broadband status. Then Wood spoke again.

“And one other thing,” he said, looking at Czerniak. “You may be able to put four votes together to run the former Godley head football coach in here on us – shove it down our throat – but there’ll be a reckoning when you do it.”

This time, Czerniak fired back.

“I don’t know what medication you’re taking, but you need to take another dose, Mr. Woods,” he said. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Wood said he was just warning Czerniak, but Czerniak cautioned him that the allegation was unfounded.

“I’m just telling you …” Wood began.

“You’re not telling me anything,” Czerniak cut him off. “I’m telling you right now, control your attitude. If you’re going to make an allegation, you’d better have something to substantiate it.”

COMPUTERS, GREENHOUSE COMING

After that divisive start, the board got down to business and voted unanimously on a string of instruction-related items.

A 40-minute presentation by Technology Director Charlie Mann led to the purchase of 400 Google Chromebook notebook computers for high school and middle school students.

The lease-purchase is a three-year commitment of more than $150,000. The computers are designed to hold minimal software and data, largely serving as portals to the “cloud” database through the Google Chrome browser.

Mann said the devices are designed specifically for education and are available at a much lower cost than the laptop devices many other school districts have purchased for their students.

The computers will cost $147,600 over three years – with payments of $47,974 a year for three years. A first-year-only cost of $20,591 would upgrade Alvord ISD’s wireless capabilities to handle the influx of devices.

After that, an annual payment in that range should be sufficient to keep the devices upgraded, years into the future.

“A Chromebook is an affordable device that’s made for the schools and used by the schools,” Mann said. “It’s not one of those devices that’s used for anything. It’s very specific.”

Mann said the devices are protected against inappropriate content and emails, photos and video. They are even theft-resistant – once the device is reported stolen, the next time someone powers it up it takes their photo and transmits it back to the base.

The board also approved up to $40,000 to build a greenhouse as requested a few months ago to help the agriculture, horticulture and floral arranging classes. It should be able to be ordered, shipped and assembled for that cost by the time school starts.

OTHER BUSINESS

The board also:

  • entered into a contract with Black Creek Canine Services for drug-sniffing dogs to go through the campuses as needed;
  • approved the Texas Kids First insurance plan, at a cost of $12,148 for the year, to provide insurance that is offered to all 700 students;
  • heard a “very positive” safety/security audit report;
  • approved guidelines for interview committees to help principals in hiring;
  • amended the budget to pay for the greenhouse, the notebook computers, school buses, startup costs for the girls volleyball program and the art program; and
  • approved several personnel moves.

John Shelton, recently hired from Franklin to coach girls basketball, was named girls athletic coordinator.

Jessica Bull, a fourth- grade teacher who just completed her ninth year at Alvord Elementary, was named assistant principal at the school.

Krissi Oden was hired to teach secondary art.

Kathy Jo Nance was transferred from middle school to high school. She holds secondary certification in special ed and health and has taught in Alvord ISD for nine years.

Catherine Kelly was also moved from middle school to high school. She has taught and coached for seven years and for the last two has been Alvord Middle School girls basketball and track coach while assisting with Alvord High School boys cross country and girls track.

Lisa Watkins was transferred from elementary to middle school to teach English/language arts. An educator with 25 years experience, she has taught the last 13 years in Alvord ISD at several levels.

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