On Feb. 13 the Groveport Madison Board of Education accepted an apology from Superintendent Scott McKenzie as well as the resignation of board member Steven Slyh.
Slyh resigned three days after calling for McKenzie’s resignation following a closed board of education meeting on Feb. 10. Slyh had asked for the superintendent’s resignation because of a recent incident involving legal invoices.
According to Slyh, on Feb. 5, McKenzie showed him $4,400 in legal invoices pertaining to the board’s research on whether Slyh could take his seat on the board in December instead of in January. Slyh stated that on Feb. 6 he mentioned the invoices to fellow board members John Kershner and Dr. Naomi Sealey. When Kershner and Sealey asked to see the documents, McKenzie denied he had shown the invoices to Slyh. McKenzie later admitted that he did, indeed, show the invoices to Slyh.
At the board’s Feb. 13 meeting before a crowd of more than 100, McKenzie apologized for misleading the board.
"…I sincerely regret that I mislead Dr. Sealey into thinking that I had not shared the document with Mr. Slyh when in fact I did. I care deeply about the students in this district and wish to continue to participate in my leadership role as superintendent…" said McKenzie.
Sealey stated the board accepted the apology but added, "…it would be a disservice to the community for the board to simply brush this incident under the rug of conflict avoidance. Actions have consequences, we teach our children how essential this is to living with honesty and integrity."
Sealey said McKenzie would be placed on probation for a period of six to 12 months and that she would work closely with the superintendent to ensure he remained focused on tasks such as improving test scores, facilities, and securing finances/grants for the district. She added McKenzie and all district administrators will also receive "integrity training."
Sealey said McKenzie would remain the leader of the district and lauded his past efforts to improve the district.
"Yes, he made an error in judgment, however, who among us is perfect," observed Sealey.
McKenzie, who was named superintendent in 2006 and has been with the district since 1978, received broad support from around the district.
"The GMLEA feels Scott McKenzie is doing an excellent job and has helped the district progress," said Groveport Madison Local Education Association (GMLEA) President Margie Whitis in a Feb. 11 interview. "His decisions are made with the students in mind, which is our goal also. We’d hate to see the district go backwards. We’d rather go forward and to do that we must work together."
Also on Feb. 11, Dan Knode, spokesman for the citizens group Help Our Pupils Excel (HOPE) stated, "I understand that some of the issues brought forward (involving McKenzie) need to be addressed, but they do not at this time constitute such a drastic measure as removing the superintendent. I will be the first to admit that I have not agreed with all of Mr. McKenzie’s ideas, but I feel he has brought the school district together, better than it has been in some time."
Additionally nine different speakers at the Feb. 13 board meeting expressed full support for McKenzie stating he has been a positive force for the district.
Slyh, who was elected last November to fulfill the unexpired term of Patti Froehlich, resigned effective Feb. 13 and in a written statement to the board noted he was not looking to play the "blame game" and was stepping aside for "the good of our district" as he felt his continued service might be a "distraction" for the district.
But Slyh added, "I will not be going away. I will be forming a political action watchdog committee…who will be represented by legal counsel. We will monitor this board and especially the superintendent to make sure they remain legally compliant and that decisions are being made in the best interest of our students…"
The board has 30 days to name Slyh’s replacement.
Kershner nominated Duane Dailey to take the seat, who he noted was the next highest vote getter in last November’s election.
However, board member Nathan Slonaker asked if anyone had asked Dailey if he wanted the job and added the board should review the situation.
"We owe it to the community, not that I have anything against Mr. Dailey, to have a discussion about this," said Slonaker. "We want to make sure we get the best person for the job."
The board will hold a special meeting to discuss filling the vacant seat. A date and time for this meeting have not yet been announced.