EDITOR’S NOTE: During the past three months, The Ardmoreite has conducted a series of interviews to identify some of the issues that exist within Ardmore City Schools. This week, a series of articles will focus on some of the issues based on interviews with former and current administration, school board members, former teachers, and concerned citizens.
With the passing of a $31 million bond issue May 14, 2013, Ardmore City Schools appeared to have great momentum with community support. The school acquired additional funding through a sales tax revenue vote and was able to pass a significant bond issue with 64.5 percent of the vote.
“We are very, very proud of the faith the community has in Ardmore City Schools,” Superintendent Sonny Bates said at the time. “We will do everything in our power to live up to their expectations.”
School Board President Willie Tiller also added praise for the community.
“I’m excited to be a citizen of the great city of Ardmore,” Tiller said. “I am proud to represent my constituents on the school board. The citizens have given confidence to improve our facilities, invest in our academic prowess and prepare our children for the future.”
Times appear to have changed.
Based on letters to the editor which have been published in The Ardmoreite as well as increased attendance at recent school board meetings, the confidence the community has in the district has eroded. The resignation of high school principal Kim Holland and his subsequent request to rescind it because of public support has served as a linchpin for a sizeable number of school supporters to question the board and administration. A petition with more than 1,000 signatures was presented to the school in support of Holland remaining as high school principal.
The questions for the school board and administration are simple, but complex. Do they have the desire to fulfill their mission of working in partnership with parents and the community, and do they have the ability?
Initial indications based on Tiller’s behavior would indicate no on both counts.
In the past three months, Tiller has been non-responsive to both the community and The Ardmoreite. For the past two months, The Ardmoreite has placed numerous phone calls to his home phone, work phone and, recently, cell phone to no avail.
The attempts to contact Tiller stem from a need for information regarding alleged breaches of the board’s code of ethics. Numerous sources have indicated Tiller has consistently overstepped his authority as a board member to directly interfere with school issues..
Holland recently went on the record to provide confirmation as part of an interview to discuss his reasons for resigning last fall.
According to Holland, Tiller interceded on behalf of a student athlete on the girls basketball team. Tiller, who is reported to be a close friend of the student’s mother, made a request for the student to have a particular number for the upcoming season. Holland said he was not involved in the issue, but had knowledge of what took place.
“Willie called Mr. Bates, who contacted Coach (Doug) Wendel,” Holland said. “Coach said the number had already been assigned.”
Holland said Wendel, ACS athletic director, was overridden in the matter and the number was reassigned based on Tiller’s request.
“We did know Mr. Tiller was very critical of Coach Kevin Kelly (the girls coach), and tried to undermine him. Coach Kelly had come in and rebuilt the program. Coach decided to take another job, and we lost a teacher who was very good in the classroom,” Holland said.
Wendel declined to comment on the situation. School board member Scott Carpenter said he did not know of any specific issues regarding Tiller.
In an incident involving vandalism at the end of the school year, the same parent used Tiller’s name as leverage to try to avoid making reparation.
“The mother asked her (daughter) why she admitted to it,” Holland said.
The woman said she was not paying anything, and would talk to her friend Mr. Tiller. Holland said the students that were involved in the vandalism had their diplomas held back until restitution was paid or services were performed in lieu of payment.
In another incident, Holland said Tiller directly approached him regarding a disciplinary action resulting from a fight.
“Two kids were in a scuffle in the cafeteria,” Holland said. “One of the students was held back by an officer, escaped his grasp and kicked the other student in the head. As a result, the offending student who kicked the other in the head was sent to Second Chance Academy, and both were punished.
“We like both boys. They can be suspended for a semester plus a semester, but we think that is a bad idea. Tiller came to me and tried to place the blame on the victim.”
Holland said Tiller approached the student’s mother and asked her to go to the board on the issue. The board heard the matter and upheld the previous decision.”
It has also reportedly not been uncommon for teachers and coaches to be approached directly by Tiller.
“I know Mr. Tiller went on the football field in the fall and got onto a couple of football coaches for wearing sunglasses,” Holland said.
Holland said he told the coaches he believed it was good practice to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes and, in any event, they did not answer directly to Tiller.
“I told them Mr. Tiller was not their supervisor,” he said.
Bates, in a previous interview, outlined the duties of a board member and said he served as the intermediary for board members and school officials. He said he was not aware of every incident.
“You do know that board members are board members only on Tuesday or the evening of the board meetings, so if they approach a teacher about their child, I guess it would be about that,” Bates said.
None of the listed incidents involved a child of Tiller.
In the Monday edition of The Ardmoreite, a former teacher describes his experiences with administration.