Let's clean out the notebook ... all on one story. But we still had a lot to clean out.My Monday was almost all devoted to the discovery that the Walker County Board of Education had decided to …
Let's clean out the notebook ... all on one story. But we still had a lot to clean out.
My Monday was almost all devoted to the discovery that the Walker County Board of Education had decided to rescind its cancellation of Dr. Tanya Guin's principal contract at Carbon Hill Elementary/Junior High School. (To respond to a question, nothing was said about altering salaries nor benefits in the resolution passed by the board on Nov. 21.)
Due to space, our print subscribers only saw part of the story that we passed along on our website. (And if it looked a little ragged on either end, I apologize, as we had a small after hours staff a little overwhelmed by it all. I want to thank Sports Editor Johnathan Bentley for at least helping clean up the online version, which is still available to read, along with other past stories, and even columns like this, at mountaineagle.com.)
One loose end in the print story referenced the fact that Ken Guin, Tanya Guin's husband, was arrested but it didn't explain much from there. You may recall Ken Guin was arrested for trespassing at the Central Office in April 2017 during a deposition in the case. He was asked to leave for texting with another lawyer helping him with the case, and he demanded to stay to represent his wife as a lawyer. But it was a good example of what a circus it had become, and it just drained people in the county, and certainly the participants.
Indications behind the scenes are looking very good that the state may follow the county's lead and find a way for Tanya Guin to have a soft landing as well. (I can't see how not, if the new board and superintendent have already taken action and made statements that could help her.)
Todd Vick, the board member who represents Carbon Hill and who chaired the meeting, said the board's action might help move along that case.
"Are there some things Dr. Guin did that could result in a little verbal reprimand? Yes, I'm sure there are some things that could be. But as for fireable offense, no I don't think it is so (punishable) that you lose your certificates of teaching or any of that such nature, because there was no money ever missing in this situation. There were some things — give time served and go on. I don't think it will be that big a deal to the state once they start looking into it."
Some may be wondering about the meeting itself, which happened like at 4:30 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving. A majority of the board members, not the superintendent, called the meeting, which was scheduled around Thanksgiving schedules and as the certified election results were not submitted to the state until Friday, Nov. 16. Board members Vonda Beaty and Trent Kennedy, as well as Interim Superintendent of Education (and Superintendent-elect, technically) Joel Hagood, dealt only with write-in votes during the Nov. 6 General Election. (You will recall it was too late to take Tanya Guin's name off the ballot when she ended her candidacy for superintendent as an independent.)
As for the Daily Mountain Eagle, I should note again that we normally don't go to the board's executive sessions when it is only an executive session, as they almost never have action. The nature of the executive session was not mentioned on the notice, which was sent Monday night to the Eagle before the Wednesday afternoon meeting. If we had known it was to conclude the Guin matter, we would have been there. I must say doing it quietly in the late afternoon before Thanksgiving might not have been the best timing for image, as it gives the impression of being quietly handled on a holiday with no expectation the media would show up. That may not have been the intention, but I am sure tongues will wag. It doesn't help we didn't show up, which just makes it look more mysterious than it probably is. They would have been better served to wait five days until Monday.
Vick said there was not much debate during the meeting.
"We we looked at the pros and cons of the whole situation. This was not like this was something where we just jumped into it and made a decision. We felt like we needed her to go back to work," Vick said. After looking at numerous factors, he said he felt the board made the right decision.
"I can lay my head down at night and go to sleep and not think twice about it, because I think we made the right call," he said.
Ken Guin, who was at the meeting representing his wife, noted Hagood said little in the meeting, as the agenda did not have a superintendent's report listed.
"The only person who talked at the meeting was Todd, aside from getting seconds (seconding motions)," he said. "Todd read the resolution in the meeting."
Hagood, who was at the meeting, emphasized in texts Monday the board felt that as Guin has been at home for two years, they felt she should be back at work while the state makes a decision in a certification hearing, as she could be more productive at work rather than sitting at home with an administrative salary.
"The board felt it was time to resolve (the case). They felt it was time to do something in the best interest of the taxpayers while awaiting the State of Alabama's decision," Hagood said.
Ken Guin made clear that the intention will be to end the legal fight between the board and the Guins. ("She would not sue the board of education," he said.) As for what she will do, he noted Hagood and Guin started talking immediately after the meeting and will discuss more on Monday.
"He has several things she is going to work on," Ken Guin said, noting Hagood already had an idea of some of the duties he wanted her to work on. "It's going to be Central Office type of work," Ken Guin said, ruling out working at the Carbon Hill schools as "it would almost be impossible to unravel what has already been done."
Of course, what is standing out to everyone is the $900,000 spent on the whole ordeal by the county school board. Ken Guin pointed out that doesn't even count that money that the Guins spent over the past two years, making me think it would not be uncalled for, especially with the pro bono involved within the family, that made this a $1 million issue in the courts.
I am not going to sit here after two years and start making decisions on who was right and who was wrong; sitting through those hearings last year, it would drive you mad to make a decision. Probably both sides made mistakes. The fact that this has dragged out and led to these costs without a criminal conviction makes me think things got out of hand a long time ago. Something should have been settled by somebody at sometime in some way. Think of what $900,000 could have gone for in school needs, and realize it includes salaries for two years for work not performed.
That indicates to me that egos, hurt feelings, revenge and paranoia somewhere took over some people along the way, and perhaps at times on both sides.
We are glad this is settled. That's not a royal "we;" I feel I can speak for almost all but the most argumentative in the county. The personalities involved will be damaged on both sides forever. We are sad to see this, as we have seen the good in all these people. I know I can speak for many in the county and say, "Let's move on."
As for the future of legal spending by the Walker County Board of Education, Vick may have said it best: "In the near future, we have got to look out — if there is something that needs to be taken care of with any litigation, we need to put our personal thoughts aside and focus and make those best decisions for those kids."
Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle's news editor.