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Board votes 3-2 to extend contract of school leader

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By Thomas Barr

SHEPHERDSVILLE -- It was almost a repeat performance from the past year.

While some of the comments may have changed, the final outcome did not.

By a 3-2 vote, the Bullitt County Public School Board  approved an extension of superintendent Keith Davis' contract through June 30, 2018.

All terms of the contract remain the same. If pay increases are given to staff, Davis would receive the same percentage hike.

The comments were very similar to those heard last year.

"We've been very lucky to have a superintendent like Mr. Davis," said board member Lorraine McLaughlin. "I don't want him to go anywhere."

But board member Roger Hayes, who joined Darrell Coleman in voting against the extension, said 2018 was too far down the road.

While stating that his comments were nothing personal against Davis, Hayes said that such an extension would bind the hands of future school board members.

This fall, two seats will be up for election.

Hayes wished to table the request for another year.

"It is our responsibility to take care of things now," said McLaughlin.

Coleman, also stating that his vote in opposition was not personal, said the contract extension was getting too many years into the future.

He said it was like the superintendent was getting tenure.

Coleman said it also could affect the way teachers teach. And it also appears that the superintendent would not be accountable to the board since termination could only come with Davis committing a felony or opting to leave on his own.

"You're giving him a blank check," said Coleman. "The board has no control."

Dolores Ashby, who along with Tim Wiseheart's position will be on the ballot this fall, said that she has butted heads with Davis. She hoped that all board members felt they could be honest with the superintendent.

In looking at the recent past, Ashby said no one could deny that the district has made remarkable strides in terms of educational indicators.

She created Davis for putting together a great team.

"The team he has put together has made it happen," Ashby said of the strides. "We are a team. Davis is the leader."

By voting against the extension, Ashby said, the board would be sending a message that it was against the leadership team.

Ashby said everyone in the district has worked hard to make improvements and the scores are surpassing many of the surrounding districts.

In the long run, Ashby reminded board members that their decisions should be what is best for the children of Bullitt County.

"He needs that security," Ashby said of extending the contract.

Wiseheart, who as chairman made the deciding vote, said that he also hasn't agreed with Davis all the time. And when there is some difference, Wiseheart said he tells him about it.

"We disagree respectfully," said Wiseheart, citing the board's leadership commitments.

Wiseheart said Davis' past evaluation from the board was not the best in his seven years at the helm. But he was confident that the superintendent understood the board's concerns and would move forward.

He said that the district still has much to do and accomplish. He was confident that Davis was the man to help them reach those goals.

Prior to the final vote, Hayes asked the audience, made up primarily of district administrators and central office staff, to not have a similar reaction to last year, which he termed as distasteful.

With the 3-2 vote to extend the contract, the audience sat quietly for a short period. That was followed by a round of applause.

During the meeting, Davis said that some of the arguments made no sense. The reason for the contract is security and stability.

"Having that stability is a positive," said Davis.

He said that thanks to the hard work of his leadership team and everyone in the schools, the district has made improvements.

While proud of the accomplishments, Davis said that "one doesn't stay where one isn't wanted."

Following the meeting, Davis said he wasn't going to try to dwell on the reason for the two votes in opposition. Instead, he wanted to focus his energy on continuing to do what is best for the students.

"I appreciate the board's vote of confidence and the recognition of the very good work our team has done over the last six and a half years," said Davis. "Stability in the superintendent's position, especially when every performance indicator is moving in the right direction, provides confidence for our principals, teachers and other leaders that we are staying the course of increase student learning and opportunities."

"Together, we have made great progress… and I have no interest in stepping backwards," added Davis.

The bottom line, according to Davis, is that the contract extension is an assurance to the parents and the community that the educational progress has the support of the majority of the board members and it would continue.