Teacher’s suspension a concern in Humboldt

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January 15, 2013 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — Several residents attended Monday’s Humboldt Board of Education meeting in hopes discussion would be held on the fate of Matt Kerr, agriculture teacher at Humboldt High School who was placed on administrative leave with pay last week.
USD 258 board members may have discussed Kerr, but it was all in executive session, out of the public eye.
Kerr is being investigated by the Allen County Sheriff’s Department for allegations of misconduct.
Bryan Murphy, Allen County sheriff, said the investigation is ongoing. “We still have a long list of witnesses to talk to,” Murphy said this morning, and hoped to have “something concrete” by the end of the week.
What was to be a 30-minute executive session lasted more than an hour and two of the five in the audience, Chris Coronado and Winona English, were summoned individually to discuss the matter with board members.
Coronado is a 2010 graduate of Humboldt High. English has a granddaughter attending HHS.
Toni Schomaker, a mother of four, said she was upset with school administrators for not addressing the situation earlier.
“How come the entire world knew, but no one on the board of education seemed to know,” of Kerr’s alleged indiscretions, Schomaker said. “This has been going on for years. It wasn’t until John Johnson became principal that things are getting out in the open. Before him, everything has been kept under wraps.”
Johnson became interim principal when Principal Craig Smith also was put on administrative leave in the fall of 2011. Johnson was appointed principal at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. Johnson moved up from assistant principal and athletic director. He has been with the district for 13 years.
“We still don’t know the story about Craig Smith,” said Kit Rogers, whose son is a junior at HHS. Smith’s contract was not renewed.
“As a parent, I want to know who is around my children,” said Rogers.
When board members emerged from five consecutively called executive sessions, they had no comment.

IN OTHER NEWS, David Wells, Humboldt Recreation Department Board member, said rec basketball leagues began Saturday. Thirty-one boys in fifth and sixth grades have signed up to be on three teams. The teams play in a rec league in Chanute.
Wells did not know if any girls teams had been formed.
Spring soccer forms have been sent out, he said.
A ladies 3-on-3 basketball league will start on Sunday. Cost is $125 per team. Each team plays two games a Sunday.
Jeb Kaufman, weight room supervisor, has stepped down, Wells said. Jason Bauer, rec department director, will fill in until a replacement can be found. The position is being advertised, Wells said.
Co-ed volleyball has six teams signed up, Wells said. The season lasts four weeks, ending with a tournament.

BOARD MEMBERS approved a bid for $155,300 from Heartland Seating of Shawnee for new spectator seating at the ball diamonds in the new recreation complex. They followed that action with approving the lone bid of $207,641 from Shaw Sports Turf of Dalton, Ga., to lay a synthetic turf on the fields.
A band trip to San Antonio, Texas, was approved, as was a trip to Emmitsburg, Md., for a crisis management seminar in which a school nurse and teachers from the elementary, middle and high school will attend along with a representative of the Humboldt Police Department and perhaps someone from Allen County’s EMS department.
An initiative to have all of the high school’s core classes — English, science, social studies and math — taught from digital textbooks, is in the works, said K.B. Criss, superintendent of schools.
“By next year, we should be there,” he said.
A new 65-passenger school bus was approved for purchase. Members agreed to pay $87,793 to Midwest Bus Sales, Bonner Springs. It is a Thomas Built bus. Helping defray the cost is a $26,000 clean air grant, Criss said, secured by Sunny Shreeve, director of the district’s after-school program.
The board accepted three resignations, that of Sheila Fitzmaurice, a paraprofessional in the elementary school library; David Ciccone as counselor at the elementary and middle schools; and Stacey Wiatrac as senior sponsor.
Paula Kovacic was hired as new senior sponsor.
Don Hauser, who represents the board on the ANW Cooperative, said it had recently purchased two 18- passenger buses, one cargo van and one eight-passenger van.
Kay Bolt, elementary and middle school principal, said overall, 58 percent of elementary students and 90 percent of middle school students made the honor roll for the second quarter.
Johnson reported 70 percent of freshmen through seniors made the honor roll for the second quarter.
Supt. Criss reported the district had received a favorable audit “with no recommended changes.”

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