School board hires one coach, extends contracts of two more

The Huntington County Community School Corporation approved the hiring of Heidi Lawson as the girls' head basketball coach for Huntington North High School on Monday evening, May 12, in addition to extending for one year the contracts of the school's head boys' basketball and football coaches.

The decision came after much controversy followed the board's decision to table the issues at their last meeting, Monday, April 28.

The six school board members who were present at the April 28 meeting tabled the issue because of Board President Kevin Patrick's absence.

Patrick stated Monday that his absence was due to the death of a close family friend.

"One of my best friend's father had passed away and I was spending time with him and his family at a viewing down in Warren... so I put my family first.

"Forgive me."

Patrick added that in the seven and a half years he has been board president, he has missed "maybe two or three meetings, and for that I apologize."

He came under fire after his absence, he said, receiving "email and phone calls, full of all kinds of scenarios or rumors - none of which are true."

Some community members accused Patrick of micromanaging the high school's athletic department, he notes. This accusation - among others - was alarming to the board and the corporation's administration.

Patrick read aloud some of the emails he received, following them by saying, "Folks, I can't make this stuff up. I just can't do it."

He explained why the hiring of Lawson as the new girls' basketball coach was tabled,
"It was tabled for a couple of reasons. There was some discrepancy when we looked at the level of pay associated with the head coaching position, and so we wanted to get it correct.

"Additionally... it (the recommendation) doesn't say what kind of a period we are looking to hire her for."

In the two weeks since the last meeting, those questions were cleared up, says Patrick.

"We waited two weeks. But at the end of the day, by waiting two weeks Lawson will make $1,270 more than what was on the last presentation two weeks ago."

She was hired under a three-year contract for the position, with a unanimous vote by the board of trustees.

Before adding a one-year extension to the contracts for boys' head basketball coach Rob Irwin and head football coach Trent Fine, Patrick publicly addressed the issue.

"I personally would have no problem committing to a longer period for Coach Irwin, but (HNHS Athletic Director Michael Gasaway) didn't ask," Patrick said.

"To be clear it is not the board limiting (the contract extension) ... it could be perhaps (Gasaway) or Coach Irwin."

The additional year was unanimously approved by the board of trustees, extending both coaches' contracts until June 30, 2016.

Due to the backlash received from the community, the board has requested to hold a "work session" to discuss exactly how athletic contracts are recommended to the board and to allow transparency to the public on the process.

Patrick closed the discussion by addressing the community members responsible for "starting the rumors," saying, "Shame on you for what you have done to this community, these coaches and this board."

In other business, the board also hired Trinda Goings as the Huntington North High School head volleyball coach; Mark DuBois, as Northwest Elementary School principal; and Tiffaney Drummond, as the career and technical education director at Huntington North High School.

Student handbook changes were also approved for the 2014-15 school year. Changes include updates to restrictions on dress code, attendance and bullying policies; Huntington North High School dance regulations; food and drink restrictions at HNHS and a ban on vapor pens, e-cigarettes and hookah pens.

New textbooks for HNHS foreign language classes were proposed for purchase, as well as for English/language arts text books for grades six through 12. The board will revisit the proposal after a second reading at their next meeting, Wednesday, May 28.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Jon Bennett requested permission to begin work on facility updates, including an update to the HCCSC buildings' heating, ventilation and air conditioning software, and an expansion to Lancaster Elementary School's parking lot. The board requested to hear prices on all proposed updates before Bennett moved forward with the projects. Smaller projects include updating lighting in the HNHS auditorium, updating the sound system at Kriegbaum Field and replacing antiquated phone systems corporation wide.
Finally, a donation of an electronic school sign for Roanoke Elementary School was accepted. It is a double-sided full-color LED display sign.