Elmwood reaches settlement agreement with former coach

BLOOMDALE – The Elmwood Local Schools Board of Education has settled a grievance filed by a former employee.

At Monday’s meeting, the board approved a settlement with former volleyball coach Kristine King.

The agreement includes a payment of $4,570 to King and the understanding that she will not apply for any position in the district before Jan. 1, 2024.

That amount was what she would have been paid if she had been awarded the contract for the 2022-23 season, said Superintendent Tony Borton.

“I want to make it clear I was one of the ones that did not renew (her contract),” said board member Jeremie Pennington. “It’s important as we are all sitting here tonight, focusing on the kids and the school board and the five-year planning, to put this to bed and to move on.

“I don’t change my opinion on how I voted earlier, but it’s time for the district and the kids to focus on more important things,” he said.

Both board President Debbie Reynolds and newly elected Vice President Melanie Davis agreed.

At the May 9 board meeting, an attempt to hire King as volleyball coach failed 3-2 with Pennington, Davis and Reynolds voting no.

Reynolds was the only board member to oppose King’s hiring for the 2020 season. After a June meeting and subsequent “no” vote, she said she believes the district needs to go in a new direction.

Pennington said at that time he voted no because “that’s the way I feel it should be with some of the parents’ concerns.”

Those concerns were never verbalized at a public meeting.

The motion to approve the settlement agreement passed 4-0. There are only four board members currently.

The Elmwood Education Association also agreed to the settlement, which included a clause that it also withdraw its grievance filed in August regarding the awarding of the head volleyball coaching position.

The one-time payment to King is a “non-precedent” setting payment based on the employee’s unique and specific circumstances, according to the settlement.

Borton said that this clause means this agreement cannot be used as a precedent for any future grievances.

“This payment … shall not be used as evidence in any grievance arbitration or in any other forum,” it said.

In addition to not applying for any supplemental contract for athletic coaching before 2024, the settlement also stipulates that the board is not obligated to award King a contract if she does apply.

Her employment will continue to be subject to the approval of the board of education.

“The parties agree that this agreement does not constitute an admission of any violation, wrongdoing, liability or fault by any party, any such alleged violation, wrongdoing, liability or fault being expressly denied,” the settlement read.

Davis had been elected vice president Monday to fill the role vacated with the resignation of Brian King, who moved out of the district.

Also at the meeting, the board:

• Approved donations of $3,000 from Cygnet Faith United Methodist Church to the food pantry; and $710 from American Legion Post 338 to the athletic department.

• Approved a world history class trip to the Holocaust Museum in Farmington, Michigan, and an advanced American history class trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, both in May.

• Accepted the resignations of Eric Poffenbaugh as girls golf coach and Allison Arnold as head track and field coach.

• Learned the FFA will be using a grant to bring Kevin Hines to the district to speak to grades 7-12 on Nov. 18. Hines, who is one of the few survivor of a suicide attempt by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, will speak about mental health and suicide prevention.

• Learned the eighth-grade civics class raised $382 to send to the homeless veterans’ group Cardboard2Headboard.

• Learned the seventh-grade volleyball team had an undefeated season and won the NBC championship.