Groveport Madison school board in turmoil


Groveport Madison Board of Education President Dr. Naomi Sealey has asked board member John Kershner to resign following allegations that he engaged in telephone harassment of the district’s transportation coordinator Jodi Coleman.

"I’ve asked for his (Kershner’s) resignation," said Sealey on Sept. 28. "His behavior is inappropriate and is hurting the district."

In an interview Sept. 29, Kershner denied the allegations and said he had no intention of resigning.

"It’s totally baseless," said Kershner.

Official statements

•In an official statement Oct. 1, Sealey said, "…Board of Education member, John Kershner made repeated calls to Jodi Coleman, an employee of Petermann, Ltd., at her place of employment, as well as to her cell phone, regarding her decision not to become an employee of the Groveport Madison Schools. After she refused to take Kershner’s calls, he went over to her house to try to talk to her, prompting Petermann to provide security and surveillance at her home since that incident. I talked to Ms. Coleman the next day to offer my apology and to let her know that Mr. Kershner’s actions were not indicative of the entire board. I also talked to Mr. Kershner and he stated that he did nothing wrong…"

•Jeffrey Mackey, an attorney for Groveport Madison Local Schools said, in a different official statement Oct. 1, "Based on my investigation of the allegation made by Jodi Coleman against John Kershner, I conclude that Mr. Kershner did nothing criminal. I agree with the Columbus Police Department that no further action is necessary. My investigation included talking to Mr. Kershner and reviewing the Columbus Police preliminary investigation report and having a three way conversation with the Columbus Police Department and the reporting officer. According to the reporting officer there were no threats or intimidation reported by Ms. Coleman and the police department took no further action other than taking Ms. Coleman’s report."

Coleman’s viewpoint

On Oct. 1, Coleman alleged that Kershner called her "relentlessly" after she verbally declined a job offer from the school district. It prompted her to file a police report with the Columbus Division of Police on Sept. 25. The report notes, "…listed suspect has been harassing her by calling her phone multiple times within the past two weeks." However, the police report does not name the "suspect."

On Sept. 26 attorneys Frost, Brown & Todd, who represent the district’s bus contractor Petermann, sent a letter to Groveport Madison Local Schools’ attorneys James Burnes and Jeffrey Mackey. The letter alleged, "Coleman advises that John Kershner has called her on her cell phone several times to confront her about her refusal to leave her position at Petermann."

On July 3, the board unanimously voted to hire Coleman at an annual salary of $43,046 to serve as the district’s coordinator of student transportation. She had been handling those duties as an employee of Petermann.

Board member Nathan Slonaker at that time stated, "She will now be a district employee. We’ll be able to communicate directly with her, which we think will encourage more efficient bus routing and flexibility."

But, on Sept. 25, Coleman sent a letter to Groveport Madison Superintendent Scott McKenzie declining the job offer from the district because she decided to stay with Petermann.

"I felt that the timing was not right with the start up of school being so close," said Coleman on Oct. 1 of the job offer. "My main priority was to ensure that there was a smooth start up for the students, parents, community, administration, drivers, and monitors. It was agreed upon by Petermann and (school administration)."


She said the phone calls from Kershner then escalated. On Sept. 25, Coleman said Kershner appeared at her home, which she said "took her by surprise" because his visit was unannounced. She felt it was inappropriate to speak to Kershner considering the circumstances and instructed her son to say she was not home. She said she felt alarmed by the situation which led to her filing the police report.

The Frost, Brown & Todd letter requested that Kershner have no further direct communications with Coleman. The letter also indicated Petermann will provide security for Coleman.

In an interview Sept. 29, Mike Settle of Petermann said Coleman indicated she felt "threatened."

"We offered the security and she accepted," said Settle.

Sealey’s viewpoint

Sealey further commented in her Oct. 1 statement that, in her opinion, "Mr. Kershner’s actions in trying to contact her (Coleman) regarding her decision not to be employed by Groveport Madison, as well as going to her home, have gone far beyond the limits of a board member.  It is a board member’s duty to be cognizant of his/her actions and behavior in the community."

She said this led to her calling for Kershner’s resignation "due to his inappropriate actions/behavior as a member of the Groveport Madison School Board."


"This matter has gone beyond being a personal issue," continued Sealey, "but rather it has to do with a board member acting on his own volition and doing so on more than one occasion. It is my opinion that this is what you get when you don’t use good judgment. The board agreed that all communication with Petermann would go through attorney Mackey’s office and Mr. Kershner’s behavior breached this agreement when he took these actions."

She said board policy states that all powers of the board lie in its action as a group; individual members exercise their authority over district affairs only as they vote to take action at a legal meeting of the board. An individual board member acts on behalf of the board only when, by vote, the board has delegated authority to him/her [Adoption date:  Oct.12, 2005].


"I am certain that no such vote was taken and he (Kershner) did not have authority to keep pursuing Ms. Coleman by calling her and going to her home," said Sealey. "I am hopeful that Mr. Kershner will listen to his conscience and do what is right. I believe that the right thing for him to do (for the sake of our district and the levy) is to offer his resignation. But, of course, that is entirely his choice."

Kershner’s viewpoint

In an interview Sept. 29, Kershner said he has known the Coleman family for years, been to their house before, and attends the same church with them.

"I have no desire to disturb her (Coleman). It was not unusual for me to visit their house," said Kershner. "It’s not telephone harassment. I was not asked to not call. In fact, there was supposed to be a meeting with her (Coleman) on Sept. 26."

At around 5 p.m. Sept. 25 Kershner sent the following e-mail to Coleman: "Hi Jodi, I understand. Please don’t be afraid to talk to me, I could never be mad at you. I’m sure you have been under a lot of pressure. I would have really appreciated a chance to talk with you more. Sincerely, John."

"I reached out to her in concern. My efforts to reach her were to simply let her know everything is okay," said Kershner. "I went to her house, talked to her adult son, and left a message that he please let his mom know that, even though things did not work out for the district, I can never be mad at her."

Kershner said most board members had assumed Coleman was already on the job with the district when they found out in late September that she had turned the position down. His goal was to find out why.

Kershner suggested that the situation stems from the ongoing undisclosed legal dispute between the district and Petermann.

"I believe, once the undisclosed legal dispute is made public, people will better understand the situation," said Kershner.

"I’m not resigning. These are unfounded allegations arising out of pending litigation with a contractor," continued Kershner. "This is what you face when you don’t go along with the board president (Sealey) and the district administration. I know I’m the most vocal and assertive board member and I intend to do what’s right."

Kershner alleged that it is Sealey’s actions that are inappropriate, citing that the board agreed a few weeks ago to work through their attorneys regarding issues with Petermann. He believes Sealey has stepped beyond that boundary with her call for his resignation.

"Why is Naomi Sealey creating such turbulence now, especially when the district is trying to pass a levy in November?" asked Kershner.

Slonaker’s viewpoint

In a statement released Oct. 1, Groveport Madison board member Nathan Slonaker said he believes Kershner "did nothing inappropriate towards Jodi Coleman in either his capacity as board member or family friend. These allegations are grossly exaggerated and used by certain individuals who have an interest in seeing Mr. Kershner publicly humiliated."

Slonaker stated he finds it "very odd that Ms. Coleman waited four hours to call the police on Sept. 25. If she had really felt threatened, wouldn’t this have occurred during the few minutes Mr. Kershner was at her house? It begs the question of who spoke to Ms. Coleman in between that time and encouraged her take the action she took. Ms. Coleman at no point before this incident, indicated to any board member or the superintendent that she did not wish to speak to Mr. Kershner or that she felt threatened by him."  

Slonaker further stated he believes Sealey "acted irresponsibly when she asked for Mr. Kershner’s resignation without first fully investigating facts, consulting with the attorney, or consulting with a single board member. She provided a knee-jerk reaction in a potentially serious situation and not the thoughtful, informed leadership of which she is capable."

Dailey’s viewpoint

Board member Duane Dailey said, on Oct. 1, "I am concerned with the board president’s (Sealey) lack of support for a board member and that she even asked for his resignation over a non-issue."


In reference to a letter to the editor from Sealey published in the Sept. 15 Southeast Messenger where she alluded to Coleman still being on Petermann’s payroll and where she wrote Coleman, "…will stay there if I have any say so about that," Dailey commented, "I also believe Dr. Sealey is in denial of her support for the hiring of Jodi Coleman and perhaps forgetting the unanimous decision of the board to hire her."


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