Saturday, April 22, 2000

School pact to get 2nd vote

Extension back on agenda

BY Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — The Covington Board of Education will conduct a second vote May 18 on extending the contract of Covington Schools Superintendent James Kemp because the board's attorneys said the original extension vote in December was illegal.

        The board, meeting in closed session Thursday night during a nearly four-hour regular meeting, was advised by legal counsel that the 3-2 vote in December extending Mr. Kemp's contract through June of this year was improperly taken.

        “The vote was not included in the agenda for that meeting,” board member Joe Meyer said Friday,“and no motion was made to amend the agenda for the purpose of the vote.”

        Another issue brought up at the meeting as a reason for holding a new vote was that the original vote took place between a November election, when a new board member was elected, and Jan. 1.

        When the vote came up in December, Mr. Meyer, board member Mike Fitzgerald and board chairman Hensley Jemmott voted to extend Mr. Kemp's contract.

        Board members Col Owen and Jim Vogt indicated they wanted to wait until after Mr. Kemp had received his 1999 evaluation, which the superintendent still has not received.

        “I felt there would be some positive movement in the school system when that vote was taken,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “But I haven't seen anything happening so far.”

        The Covington Independent School District has undergone a scholastic audit and scrutiny from state Education Department officials and the public, and Mr. Kemp's leadership is being questioned by some school board members.

        Mr. Kemp started the Covington job in January 1997. State law requires school boards to conduct annual reviews of their superintendents.

        Mr. Kemp received a review rating of 4.2 out of 5 in 1997 and a 4.5 out of 5 in 1998. His salary was raised to $95,000.

        Weak areas mentioned in the reviews include personnel leadership, handling crisis situations and communicating with the public and parents. Board members expressed a desire to see more training for site-based council members in an effort to retain parents on those committees for a longer period of time.

        Overall, the most recent state test scores were very low in Covington schools, with some individual schools scoring among the lowest in the state. The principals were removed at a middle school and elementary school in the wake of test results.

        Also at Thursday night's board meeting, Mr. Fitzgerald made a motion requesting that the school board publicly apologize for derogatory remarks the superin tendent's secretary made during a recent public hearing, in which she criticized Covington and said parents weren't involved in the schools.

        Mr. Kemp has defended her right to free speech, but some members in the audience wrote letters objecting to her comments.

        “There were things said that, although they may have been misunderstood, hurt a lot of people,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

        But three of the five board members — Mr. Owen, Mr. Vogt and Mr. Jemmott — voted against the apology and the measure failed.


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