McDonald says she makes decisions ‘by the book’ in best interest of students and staff

Published 9:26 am Friday, March 26, 2021

This is the first in a series of stories about the Danville School District and financial decisions that are being made.

Pleas to the Danville Board of Education asking it to “investigate” what some say are the administration’s “improper practices” involving district employees were heard during Monday night’s board meeting.

During the public comments agenda item, former principal Jane Boyd read a prepared statement saying that the board should be aware that an open records request had been filed. She added, “I’d like to encourage you strongly, as our elected board… to conduct an investigation into the improper practices of this administration because you are not allowed to be involved in personnel decisions, this is the only way that you are going to learn …. the things that are happening in our district, to our employees. Failure to do so will be failure to care. Let me say that again. Your failure to do anything shows that you really don’t care.”

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Former Boyle Magistrate Patty Burke spoke next and said, “There has been shown a total disregard for the Danville community’s feelings. Surely you would want to conduct an investigation so that you will know what’s going on in the Danville schools and know all the facts. You owe this to the taxpayers, faculty, and employees of our school system. You owe that to not be a rubber stamp, but elected to ask questions.”

These comments, and more, have been directed toward the school board and Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald since January, when McDonald notified Danville football coach Clay Clevenger that his coaching contract would not be renewed for the 2021-22 school year. Since then, many people have written letters, held protests, hung signs, and voiced their anger and frustration over Clevenger not returning as head football coach next year.

Additionally, other accusations of lack of diversity among the faculty and fear of job retaliation have also swirled around on social media.

After Monday night’s meeting, Boyd was asked what specific “improper practices” she was referring to in her statement to the board. Boyd referred any questions about her statement to Patsy Clevenger, who is also Clay Clevenger’s mother.

When the same question was asked of Patsy Clevenger, she referred questions to her daughter, Norrie Currens, a Harrodsburg attorney.

In an email, Currens said the “improper practices” that Boyd referred to included that, “Some people have come forward with stories of retaliation and unfair treatment on social media. I have also interviewed several current and former employees of the Danville schools who unfortunately would like to remain anonymous out of fear for their jobs if they speak out. For that reason, I don’t feel like I can betray their confidences by discussing these matters with any particularity. Most have indicated that they would speak with the board if there were assurances that no punitive actions would be taken against them in their employment.”

She added that she was in the process of drafting a complaint concerning Danville Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald, “to the necessary educational state agencies.”

On Thursday, McDonald said eight to 10 open records requests from various people have been filed in the school district that involve “thousands and thousands of pages,” which her office has filled. The office has also paid overtime for an employee to finish the task.

McDonald also said, “I don’t know what they were talking about,” when Boyd and Burke asked the board to investigate her decisions and actions.

“Every decision I make, I make for the students in Danville. Those decisions aren’t always popular, but those decisions are made,” McDonald said.

“Every decision I make, I make with a team. I don’t make personnel decisions without consulting other administration in this district. We make team decisions, whether it is with other directors in central office, or whether it’s with principals, all decisions are made as a team,” McDonald said.

“I talk to my administration before I make decisions. And I make decisions based on the best interest of the students, whether they’re popular decisions or not.”

McDonald added, “I do everything by the book. It is legal and it is what is in the best interest of our students and those decisions are not always popular. But I will still always do what I think, and what the administrative team thinks, is in the best interest of our students and staff as a whole.”

McDonald said decisions such as purchasing the former National College building or renovating the former Jennie Rogers school building for central office, or whether it’s to eliminate an old online program and purchasing a new online program, are always “thoroughly researched” for what is best for the students and staff “as a whole.”

For example, it was going to cost the school district $2 to $3 million to renovate Jennie Rogers. But it cost $820,000 for the National College building, plus $100,000 for roof repairs, painting, and adding one small wall, McDonald said.

“Additionally, the location of the new building next to the high school allowed for additional high school classroom use as well as office space. It also allowed for us to have additional parking for our buses, which allowed us to stop most off-site parking.”

The search for a new Danville High School head football coach is still underway, McDonald said. “I am not involved in the search.”

She added that DHS Principal Thad Elmore organized the search committee, which had received 21 application for the position. Members of the committee are: Elmore; Lisa Fisher, athletic director; Derek Otto, site-based council member; JD Smith, girls soccer and E-sports coach; Tyson Prewitt, middle school football coach; Clint Followell, athletic support staff; Max Ray, diversity and equity council member; Will Stallard, booster club director; Shea Arnold, football parent; and community members, JH Atkins and EG Plummer.

“The committee members were asked if they were willing to serve. Some of those members had volunteered and some were selected because of their ties to Danville athletics and/or football,” McDonald said.

In late January when Clevenger told the public that his contract as head football coach was not going to be renewed, he said, “I had no idea this was coming. … “Superintendent McDonald is the one that presented me with the paper and I asked her, “‘Is there a reason?’ She said ‘Not really, other than that we feel we should go in another direction.’”

McDonald has stated on several occasions that she is not allowed to comment on personnel decisions. But recently she said, “The direction of the football program will be up to the new football coach, the high school principal, and student athletes.”