Cherry gets 2-year extension

By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor

CELINA-Despite some opposition and after much discussion, Clay County school’s director Donnie Cherry received an extension of his contract here at the first school board meeting of the new year by a six to four vote last week.

The topic dominated the board’s December meeting with several different options being discussed, but board members adjourned with no official action being taken.

The matter lead off the meeting here last Thursday night and was again debated among board members.

Russell Cherry began the debate by making a motion to extend Cherry’s contract for two years from the original contract termination date of June 30, 2009, with Connie Dillehay providing the second.

Board member Bill Donaldson opened the discussion by asking why “a contract termination date is set” if an extension was going to be given early.

“Why can’t we wait until June when the contract is over to decide,” Donaldson asked.

In response, board chairman Dickie Roberts explained the practice of extending contracts before the termination date was common.

“That’s the way contracts are usually handled–with extensions granted early if the current director is doing a good job,” Roberts said.  “Besides, if he wasn’t doing a good job, we would need a little time to hire a new one.”

Board member Cherry echoed Roberts statement saying, “Most school districts do it ahead of time.

“This is not an uncommon practice and Clay County is not the only school district in the state doing this.”

David West asked director Cherry what his goals were for the school system and he listed them as “improving test scores, technology, parent involvement, and  maintaining financial stability.”

Cherry said when he started he “stressed to principals the importance of these goals,” and explained “most directors in our area have the same goals” because they are issues affecting all school districts.

West asked Cherry “how he planned to accomplish” the improvement of test scores.

“Professional development is the key,” Cherry said.  “We are sending our principals to training and they will bring back what they learn to the rest of the staff.

“We plan to send them to as many (training opportunities) as we can afford.”

Board member Liz Boles voiced her opinion on Cherry’s accomplishments by saying, “All I can see that you’ve done is hired the new principals.”

Board member Cherry responded by saying he believes all of the new principals “are doing an outstanding job,” crediting director Cherry for his decision to hire them.

Director Cherry then expressed his hope to receive the extension soon.

“I would appreciate the extension now,” he said.  “Next week we will begin planning for the upcoming school year.

“I want to get this behind me and start working on this (plan for next year).”

After some additional discussion from board members Boles, Donaldson, and West, along with responses from board member Cherry, director Cherry, and others, the roll was called by chairman Roberts to put the motion to a vote.

Board members Heather Hammock, Anthony Smith, Annette Smith, Cherry, Dillehay, and Roberts voted yes, with Jerry Eads, West, Donaldson, and Boles voting no.

The motion passed by the six to four vote and the two-year extension was granted through June 30, 2012.

“I appreciate the extension,” Cherry said later in the meeting.  “We will work as hard as we can to provide the best education possible for Clay County.”

See a future HORIZON for more details from this month’s board meeting.