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Parents blast county school board, push for new district leadership

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 11 p.m. — Students’ parents and even some recent employees of the Nelson County Schools made it clear Tuesday night they are aggravated, disappointed and angry about the continued discipline problems not only at Old Kentucky Home Middle School, but across the district — and they want to see things change.

At the top of the list of changes, many of the parents told the board it needs to hire new leadership for the district.

MATT REYNOLDS

Parent Matt Reynolds told the board his online petition calling for the board to forgo renewing Orr’s contract as superintendent has attracted more than 200 signatures. Orr’s contract expires next July, but Reynolds said the renewal process is already taking place and called on parents and the school board to make a change.

Reynolds’ petition had gathered 205 signatures online and he told the board he had another 68 signatures with him on paper.

“I also have countless numbers of teachers who have approached me but are afraid to openly support this due to retaliation from Mr. Orr and his team,” he said.

Reynolds questioned the superintendent’s leadership, noting the high turnover among teachers and principals during his tenure. With the recently announced resignations of Principal Jaime Smith at OKHMS and Principal Shelly Hendricks at NCHS, the district has gone through 37 principals in the seven years Orr has served as superintendent, he said.

Other parents told the board their children at OKH Middle School were suffering from bullying at the school, and that disruptions at school were robbing their children of the quality education they deserve.

Board member Diane Berry listens as parents express their views on recent discipline problems at OKHMS.

Former Horizon Academy instructional assistant Larry Adamson told the board he was let go Monday from his job as an instructional assistant at Horizon Academy after he called the Kentucky State Police last week due to incident that happened to him at the school.

Adamson said he called KSP due to his frustration from not being able to get results from his calls to other agencies.

“Why are we not allowed to call the police?” he asked the board. “Why — when the school is vandalized and the kids abuse us — you say ‘we’re not going to prosecute?’ ”

“The atmosphere that’s been created … doesn’t give us a safe environment to work in, or teach these children in,” he said.

Former district substitute teacher John Peterson said he has seen conditions get worse in the past two or three years at OKHMS.

“And the only thing I can do is to send them to the office? That’s a day at the spa,” he said. “We need new leadership, people, you need to wake up.”

ARTHUR HENDRICKS

Arthur Hendricks, the husband of NCHS Principal Shelley Hendricks who submitted her resignation last week, said he had watched NCHS struggle for three years. Bullying is a problem, but it isn’t the type of bullying most people are familiar with.

“It’s not bullying from the classroom, its bullying from your leaders from within your board of education,” he told the board. “Its from your directors and your superintendent.”

Hendricks told the board they needed to support a change for leadership in the district.

“If you all can’t see that, I hope the community will show you what it takes.”

ORR RESPONDS. During an interview after the meeting, Orr noted that several years ago, some of the same types of school discipline issues mentioned Tuesday night were also discussed about a different district school — Foster Heights Elementary.

“It wasn’t terribly long ago we had the same frustration coming from parents there that we heard tonight,” he said.

Orr credited the school’s principal, Jeremy Hill, for providing leadership and for the ability to understand how to meet the needs of both the staff and the students.

As a result, the culture at Foster Heights changed over time, he said. Hill’s leadership and ability to build collaboration among the staff helped fuel that success.

When asked by parents what the district planned to do moving forward, Orr said the Kentucky Center for School Safety has offered its services to the district. The center will work directly with the individual school or schools.

Orr said he understands parents frustration and concern and he shares those concerns. He and his team will continue to work behind the scenes to empower and support teachers.

As he noted in his letter to OKHMS parents following Monday’s incident involving a student assaulting a teacher, Orr confirmed that two off-duty Bardstown Police Officers will be at the school from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until the last day of classes.

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