The Field Board of Education president said Superintendent Beth Coleman will resign from her job when her contract ends in July.
Board president Terry Kettering released a brief statement Friday indicating Coleman's intent to step down. Rumors that Kettering and Board of Education members Allyson Westover and Donna Karg planned to vote not to renew her contract have been swirling in the community for months.
"Attorney Sue Gragel is Mrs. Coleman's personal attorney," the statement reads. "On January 24, 2013, Attorney Gragel notified counsel for the Board of Education that Mrs. Coleman would not seek renewal of her Superintendent's contract and that she would submit her resignation as Superintendent, effective at the end of the current contract. Her current contract expires on July 31, 2013. Mrs. Coleman holds continuing contract status as a teacher in the District and retains this status."
It's unclear when the resignation will be tendered, but Kettering said it could come as soon as the board's regularly scheduled meeting on Monday. As of Friday, the issue did not appear on the board's agenda. However, the board is required by law to make a decision on Coleman's contract by March 1.
If her resignation is indeed tendered, she would be the fourth superintendent since 2001 to leave the district.
When asked if it means that Coleman, who was a middle school principal and assistant superintendent before she became superintendent in 2010, would go back to teaching, Kettering said, "That's her decision."
Coleman previously declined comment for this story but when contacted for follow up questions regarding her future plans, a message stated that her mailbox was full and could not accept new messages.
Kettering said he was unable to say anything beyond the statement, citing a gag order in Coleman's resignation.
Board members Laura May and Larry Stewart, who have publicly supported Coleman, say they have been left in the dark about Coleman's employment status and other school board business.
The blind side
May said that "one person cannot run the board, that's a violation of sunshine law" and said she often does not find out about decisions until after the fact.
"I'm just tired of not knowing what's going on when I'm a board member," she said. "It's very, very frustrating to sit here and know this is happening after the fact and I know nothing of what went on. I have no voice in it. I had no voice in any of this ... It's just beyond frustrating that my voice as a publicly elected official has been taken away."
Stewart also said the board often makes decisions without involving himself and May.
"It's like they already have the decision made and then we go into executive session and there's really no discussion," he said. "We discuss it, but it's like they already have their mind made up, and what we say doesn't really matter."
Acknowledging that he cannot reveal discussions held in executive session, Stewart said when he is asked by the public what Coleman's fate is, "I just say it doesn't look good."
"If she really did something wrong or was doing a bad job, I'd say OK let's talk about it, but they never come up with anything like that, even when Laura and I ask them," he said.
Levy and open enrollment
The change in leadership comes at a time when the district is trying to pass an operating levy, which has been defeated three times in recent history. The 5-mill issue will be on the May ballot.
At a recent meeting of the district's levy committee, parent Debbie Yeich said she is concerned about how Coleman's departure would affect the levy campaign.
Coleman is a graduate of Field and has children and other family members who live in the district. Her husband has been a baseball coach for Field.
"You want to know the truth?" levy chairwoman Erin Roberts said. "I think it's going to hurt us."
Several people at the meeting also expressed concern about parents using open enrollment to transfer their children to surrounding districts, giving them no stake in the levy's passage.
May said her phone rang "off the hook" after news of Coleman's potential resignation surfaced on Facebook.
"I have had more people tell me that they are taking their kids from the school if Mrs. Coleman is not superintendent, and they are absolutely voting no for the levy," she said. "These are supporters who have always supported the school, but they no longer support they school and they are looking to move their kids elsewhere."
Stewart expressed similar concerns.
"I'm just really frustrated that all this stuff kind of happens and then they're getting rid of the superintendent, who I thought did a good job, and we're trying to get this levy passed," he said. "I don't know why they're doing it."
Westover said she is concerned about the levy, but hopes voters don't focus on Coleman's fate.
"Yes I am always concerned about the passage of our levy," she said. "It is my hope that the community votes their conscience when it comes to the future of our children, and not use personal grievances when voting for the future of Field schools. The levy should not be about the personnel of our school, it is about our students."
Stewart, however, said people need to know the details.
"We're talking about the school district and the kids and the community, and there's got to be a point where people have to know what's going on for their own sake," he said. "I just wish people knew that and would just stand up and say, 'enough is enough. We've got to take care of this.'"
May said she has been complaining about alleged violations of Ohio's open meetings law for months, but "nobody will believe me."
In June, she said, the board added items to the agenda of a special meeting, which she said is a violation because the law states that the reasons for a meeting must be posted. The previous July, she said, the board received a letter from a Portage County assistant prosecutor to "stop violating the sunshine law" for not being specific enough about the reasons for an executive session.
"I just want to stop breaking the law, do what a board member is supposed to do and do what we're supposed to do for these kids, and we have missed that," she said.
Kettering would not respond to the allegations "except to say we didn't do it" and questioned why a formal complaint wasn't filed.
"There were things said out of executive session that shouldn't have been said," he said, declining specifics. "I don't want to lower myself to that level."
When the board hired attorney John Britton to consult, Britton allegedly met with Coleman and advised her to take another job, citing the board's intention not to renew her contract.
May said she only found out later that the board paid Britton for his services. Previously, she thought his services were covered under the district's legal consortium with the Portage County Educational Service Center. And the full board never authorized him to meet with Coleman.
"I didn't know about that John Britton crap until it hit me in the face," she said.
Kettering, meanwhile, alluded that there is more to the story, but would not be specific about his personal opinion.
"There's things the public don't know on both sides, and that's part of the problem," he said.
Coleman stands to be the fourth superintendent since 2001 to leave the district.
Timm Mackley, who succeeded long-time Superintendent Patricia Bateman, left in 2001 after about two years. He was succeeded by David Redd, who left in 2008 to take another job. David Brobeck succeeded him, and Coleman, who was principal of the district's middle school, was named assistant superintendent.
In 2010, Brobeck, who had clashed with the board over the creation of the Falcon Academy, resigned, and Coleman was named superintendent.
Long-time treasurer Catherine Rouse also resigned in 2010 to become treasurer of Streetsboro City Schools.
There was a large turnout for the levy committee meeting this week, with many residents stating that they'd heard of the meeting, and Coleman's fate, on social media.
"It's a personal vendetta and they finally succeeded," Yeich said after the levy committee meeting.
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