Posted on 29 March 2014.
”The motion failed.”
Spoken in tones so low most of those in the packed boardroom didn’t realize what had occurred, those words effectively ended Curtis Enis’ tenure as head football coach and athletic director for Alvord ISD.
Enis’ contract was on the school board’s Thursday night agenda along with those of principals, the technology director, counselors, the nurse and teachers. It was tabled at a March 4 meeting after a lengthy closed-door discussion.
Thursday night’s meeting also went behind closed doors for more than an hour. Afterward, the elementary and high school principals’ contracts were renewed. The next item on the agenda was to consider the athletic director’s and technology director’s contracts.
Board member Vic Czerniak asked that the two contracts be considered separately, and the technology director’s contract was quickly extended.
Board member Kevin Wood moved to extend the athletic director’s contract one year, “with the stipulations discussed in closed session.” Those stipulations were not explained, but board member Jeannette Ward seconded Wood’s motion.
Wood, Ward and board president Larry Nivens voted for the motion to extend Enis’ contract. Czerniak, John Schedcik and Jim Looney voted against the motion, leaving it a 3-3 tie.
With one unfilled seat, the board had no means to break the tie – meaning the motion to extend Enis’ contract for another year failed.
Matthew Dunn, who spoke in the closed session after delivering petitions with about 75 signatures calling for Enis’ removal, said most of the audience did not realize what had just happened.
“To be honest with you, one of them turned around and said ‘Who’s on first?’,” Dunn said Friday. “They tabled the last vote, this time it’s a tie – we didn’t know it was over. We just found out this morning.”
Dunn’s petition called for “Curtis Enis to be removed from Alvord ISD’s employment permanently.” He said there were “quite a few” copies that did not get back to him before meeting time.
“I was guessing somewhere around 150 [names],” he said. “I would say 90 percent of the community did not want the athletic director’s contract renewed. Alvord has become the laughingstock of Wise County. We’re just trying to get our community back.”
COMMENT SESSION LIVELY
Dunn started the fireworks in the public comment portion of the meeting, after being cautioned that specific comments about individuals would need to be heard behind closed doors.
“I want to say thank you for the open forum meeting today, to voice our concerns,” he said. “Like the pledge of allegiance we just spoke, the country was founded on honor, morals and hard work. Unfortunately, Alvord ISD lost these traits long ago.
“We have a school board, a superintendent and an [athletic director] who don’t seem to care what the majority of the community thinks when it comes to our children and our school system because a small, yet loyal group seems to alter your decisions.”
At this point, Nivens interrupted Dunn, reminding him that complaints against employees would only be heard in closed session.
“Can I keep going?” Dunn asked.
“Not if you’re going to go that route,” Nivens replied.
“What if I change the route?” Dunn asked, then quickly added, “Bottom line, we don’t want this existing AD to exist. We’ve got issues.”
When Nivens stopped him again, he asked, “What is this open forum about if it’s not about talking about what you’re fixing to vote on?”
“We can hear you in closed session,” Nivens said.
Lisa Barnett spoke in support of the current administration, including the athletic director.
Barnett, a Decatur resident, transferred her children into Alvord ISD several years ago.
“Alvord is exceptional,” she said. “The board, superintendent and the principals have done an outstanding job hiring employees who care about our students.”
She also voiced support for Enis, quoting a scripture which called upon her to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
“I would like to speak for people who cannot be here because they are doing their jobs at this very moment,” she said. “The athletic director has been here for 22 years, and his wife has also dedicated herself to the district for the last 20 years.”
She highlighted successful seasons from the ’90s when Enis was coaching teams that went to the playoffs, but said it was about more than wins.
“I believe [Enis and his wife, Rhonda, a PE teacher] are the kind of role models we should want our children to be taught and coached by,” she said. “They have knowledge and passion for the students, the sports, and for the overall educational growth of our children into citizens who one day will be where we are today.”
The other speaker in the normally-lonely public forum, Sonja Edwards, issued a scathing rebuke of the board and administrators for what she termed an ethical violation after she sent an email to each board member regarding a matter with her child.
“Unfortunately, our email was shared and … less than 48 hours after we pressed ‘send,’ our email had reached all of the coaching staff as well as several community members and school employees,” she said. She blamed “at least one board member” for the breach of confidentiality.
Edwards cited state and district regulations she felt were violated, including the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act prohibiting the disclosure of student information without written consent.
Edwards is a teacher at Alvord Middle School.
“We felt, because of our past experience with a similar issue, that the issues addressed needed to go to the board so that I did not feel belittled or chastised again for asking a question or making a statement that went against the athletic program,” she said. “If the board felt like we did not follow proper procedures, we should have simply been notified and given a suggestion as to which direction we should step next.”
Citing the district’s employee handbook, she concluded, “What you have done is illegal and an injustice, not only to our son, but also to our entire family.”
GROUP TO FOCUS ON ELECTION
Dunn said Enis’ removal is “the first step of a lot of steps,” and his group is now focused on the May 10 election.
Three people – Lex Williams, Tracy Barclay Parker and Lance Thweatt – are seeking the unfilled seat, place 6, which has been vacant since Randy Hamilton resigned from the board last June after serving two years of a three-year term. Ward is seeking re-election to place 7, with one opponent, Charles Neal Matthews.
Dunn said the trustees who supported Enis’ contract renewal were targets for his group.
“We’re going to go to the next few meetings, and we hope to get a massive number of people to vote May 10, trying to get those people off the board,” Dunn said.
Enis coached at Alvord from 1989-2008 – including five years as AD and one as head football coach – then spent a year at Mansfield and two at Saint Jo before returning in 2011 as head football coach and AD. Over the last three seasons, his teams have gone 4-6, 3-7 and 3-7.