It’s no secret the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation and the Noble Foundation have taken an interest in the status of Ardmore High School Principal Kim Holland.
When a petition including more than 1,200 signatures was presented to the Ardmore City Schools Board of Education, letters from both foundations were included encouraging the school board to accept the rescission of Holland’s resignation and reinstate him as the high school principal.
The school board chose not to change school board policy which states, “any resignation received by the superintendent is irrevocable.” Because of the policy, Holland has since gone through the process of re-interviewing for the job.
But a letter from BOE President Willie Tiller to the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation infers it is a foregone conclusion Holland will not be rehired — at least as far as Tiller is concerned.
Larry Pulliam, executive director of the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation, provided the letter after Tiller ignored an open record request by The Ardmoreite. In the letter, Tiller writes, “Please be assured that the Board of Education and the administration are committed to providing strong and effective leadership at the
high school. I am confident that the person selected to replace Mr. Holland will possess the character traits necessary to continue and build on the previous successes, while also addressing the areas that have been cause for concern. I am sure you understand the law and district policy prohibit me from discussing specifics of these concerns.”
The letter is dated April 3, which was prior to Holland’s interview.
Pulliam says the letter has been distributed to board members, and there has been no feedback. Speaking on his own behalf, Pulliam expresses disappointment not only with Tiller’s stance on the issue, but other issues of concern raised by the foundation.
“I think that anyone who reads the letter recognizes Mr. Tiller has totally ignored our concerns,” he says. “It appears it is a foregone conclusion to replace Mr. Holland with his comment.”
Pulliam also spoke specifically to a statement Tiller made regarding the role of the principal within school systems.
“Because the building principal is typically the ‘face’ of a school, principals often get too much blame for problems at a school and too much credit for a school’s success,” Tiller wrote. “As you are well aware, a successful school, like any other complex organization, requires a team of dedicated and hard-working professionals. We are fortunate to have such employees at the high school, and the positives you mentioned in your letter are the result of the combined work of all these people, not just one individual.”
Pulliam questions Tiller’s judgment in downplaying the role of the principal and the leadership provided within the role.
“His remarks, saying a principal is merely the face of a school, demonstrates his lack of knowledge of how a school operates,” Pulliam contends. “A principal is the face, the heart and the backbone of a school site. They provide the direction and leadership for the school site they are responsible for.”
During the past 17 years, the foundation has made grants of more than $4.5 million to benefit Ardmore City Schools, the most recent grant funds the schools’ nurses for three years and the school resource officers for six years.
While Tiller’s letter refers to the board of education and the administration, Superintendent Sonny Bates and board members Scott Carpenter, Lori Capshaw and Linda Schroder have distanced themselves from the declaration Holland will be replaced. When asked if there was a consensus or recommendation on his part to replace Holland, Bates said no. He also said, “That is totally from Mr. Tiller.”
Carpenter said he has spoken with the four other members of the board, which includes Lucinda Hull, and confirmed Tiller was speaking of his own volition.
“He was not speaking for the board,” Carpenter said. “I was able to get hold of all four board members.”
Carpenter also said no one knew Tiller had planned to write the letter nor did they have any input — which Schroder confirmed on her personal behalf.
“I have never heard of this letter nor have I seen it. I would have to direct you to Mr. Bates for comment,” she said.
Capshaw also said no decision has been made regarding Holland, despite the implication in Tiller’s letter.
“First of all, we can’t even go there,” she said. “The only thing we ever talk about is what is listed on the agenda, and no one has talked about anything else.”
Both Tiller and Hull failed to respond to multiple requests to speak on the record to The Ardmoreite. Tiller and Bates were scheduled to meet with The Ardmoreite May 22, and canceled because of a conflict. Bates did meet with The Ardmoreite on Thursday, while Tiller failed to reschedule the meeting or respond to calls for comments about the letter and questions. He also failed to respond to requests to provide the SOMF letter to The Ardmoreite even though Bates said he had texted Tiller to remind him. When asked if he had seen Tiller, Bates said, “I am in the midst of writing three grants. I have not seen him, let’s just say that.”
Hull also failed to answer the phone or respond to questions regarding the letter.
Holland declined to respond to Tiller’s stance on rehiring in the letter, but did speak on the importance of the foundations for the school, which is facing financial issues because of a Valero protest of its property values.
“We do very much value the foundation and support they have given us,” Holland said. “If I remember correctly, they support the school nurses and school resource officers.
“I don’t think we could do without them, and we very much appreciate the help and support they have given us, and we will do everything we can do to cultivate the relationships with the foundations in the area. We take their concerns very seriously.”
While Tiller responded to the Southern Oklahoma Memorial Foundation, he failed to respond to the Noble Foundation. The foundation supported the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone Project, which provided funds for projects and programs for both Plainview and Ardmore school districts.
Noble Foundation President and CEO Bill Buckner said he was disappointed the foundation did not receive a response, feeling it would have been common courtesy. He also discussed the importance of education for the business community. He said the foundation employs 120 staff members with PhD’s for which education is a critical aspect.
“They look for the best school system and they are well versed in what they want,” he said. “When we have hiccups, it always puts the attention back on quality education in Carter County.
“The feedback I always get is the Ardmore school system continues to suffer in light of the Plainview school system. My hope, and every parent’s expectation, would be the quality of education is the same at both schools.
“It (the foundation letter) was an opportunity to voice our concern on the potential of losing a quality educator who is so well liked by the parents,” Buckner said. “You have to express a concern and hope you get a response. The school board will do what it does and move on, but it is disheartening.”