With scores of people listening and watching Tuesday evening, Ardmore Board of Education members voted 4-0, with one absent, to stick by board policy and not rescind the resignation of high school principal Kim Holland.
Following the vote, there was a round of “booing,” and someone shouted, “don’t leave!” Others yelled they couldn’t hear, and called for the board to repeat the vote outcome.
Minutes earlier, the audience, comprised of community leaders, teachers, staff and students, granted Ronnie Tipps a standing ovation after he requested the board “rescind Mr. Holland’s resignation and bring Mr. Holland back as principal of Ardmore High School.”
“That is what we want, and that is what we want to see happen for this school,” the Ardmore graduate and former AHS football coach said during his four-minute address to the school board.
“I know, under extraordinary circumstances, that policies can be waived on a case-by-case basis,” Tipps told the board as the designated spokesman for those in support of Holland’s return to the position he has held for the past three years. “Policies can be amended and hard decisions can be made. We submit that this is an extraordinary circumstance.”
Tipps requested to be placed on the board agenda, submitting a letter that came attached with 1,176 signatures on a petition in support of Holland remaining the top administrator at the high school. Tipps petitioned that the school board reject the policy that stipulates all resignations be accepted by the superintendent and are irrevocable.
At the March school board meeting, Superintendent Sonny Bates announced he had accepted the resignation of Holland. Following the news, members of the community rallied behind the principal, who later submitted a letter withdrawing his resignation to Bates and the school board.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Bates told the crowd that all “successful organizations” follow rules and regulations.
“There are extraordinary situations that organizations must face, but there is a process,” Bates said.
Martin Dyer, who serves as the school board’s attorney, instructed the board that members could vote to waive board policy.
“I find nothing that is illegal about waiving the board policy, whether or not it is a good idea is another question,” Dyer counseled the board, prior to the vote. “Sometimes, it is generally not recommended for the reason that, once you open the door to waive policy, you can’t shut the door very easily.”
Bates also read an opinion he sought by Julie Miller, general counsel and director of policy for the Oklahoma State School Board Association.
“Her response was, if the board does not follow the policy, they are changing the policy by action,” Bates said. “It would be hard to go back to the policy if they do allow this resignation to be rescinded. Resignations are either irrevocable or they are not. Can’t have it both ways. This would create a potential legal challenge in the future for arbitrary and capricious behavior. Her recommendation is to follow the process.”
Before a call of action, board President Willie Tiller Jr. addressed the crowd. He applauded those in attendance for their interest and passion.
Tiller stated that Holland had tendered his resignation on Nov. 18, and that there were three school board meetings before the superintendent acted on the resignation. It was on March 21 that the school board and Bates received a request from Holland that his resignation be withdrawn.
Tiller called for Holland, who was not present, to speak.
“It does make sense that whatever is transpiring, that Mr. Holland speak as well for himself,” Tiller said. “There are unresolved matters. He states in his letter of resignation that he resigns for philosophical reasons. That is a bit vague for me.
“My recommendation would be, if he had an issue that needed to be resolved philosophically, personally or professionally, that he had ample opportunity to sit with Mr. Bates and have those things done. I appreciate the passion of this community. I think it is important for participation. But I do understand and do present to all of us that there are two sides to this issue, and the complete story has yet to be told.”
Board member Lori Capshaw made the motion to not rescind the resignation of Holland and not to waive board policy. Board Vice President Lucinda Hull seconded and the motion passed 4-0, with board member Scott Carpenter absent from the meeting. The vote took place in the high school cafeteria after the meeting was moved because of crowd size from its scheduled location in the home economics classroom.
Glen Burns, a local attorney who was involved in the petition efforts, said the purpose of the campaign and support for Holland has been to better Ardmore High School and the students who attend.
“I am obviously disappointed,” Burns said. “The community came out to support Kim Holland, and we followed the process appropriately and how we believed it was to be handled.”
Burns was not the only one dissatisfied with the meeting’s outcome.
“It would have been easy to waive policy for the good of the kids,” Tipps said following the meeting. “It is amazing to see the change of culture and the vision that has come to Ardmore High School because of Mr. Holland. It is amazing the support generated through the kids and the community here tonight.”
As students left the meeting, several told The Ardmoreite seeing Holland leave the school district at the end of June would be hard because he is a committed principal who knows students’ names.
Students said Holland takes the time to participate at school events, come to games and music concerts.
“He works with the students and is so involved,” said junior Stella Enriquez. “He gets to know us personally.”