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CAB Board Reelects Knott President by Narrow Margin
July 15, 2009 - What a difference a year can make.
In July 2008, Kevin Knott was made president of the Charles A. Beard School Board by the unanimous support of his fellow board members. Last week, an unopposed Knott barely held on to the presidency by a 4-3 vote, failing to get the support of a trio who had voted him the year before.
So, what has changed? Why did board members Steve Dalton, Mark Fort and Tim Wehr vote against Knott’s bid to serve a second year as board president, particularly when there was no one running against him?
During the board’s July 7 organizational meeting, Dalton, Fort and Wehr offered no comments explaining why they voted against Knott. Speaking to The Banner in the days that followed the meeting, however, they offered similar reasons for withholding their support.
According to all three, one of their main reasons for not supporting Knott is they felt he had not kept his word to constituents who were opposed to a proposed plan to close Kennard Elementary as a cost-saving measure. They said Knott’s vote in early June to spend $1.1 million on improvements at Knightstown Intermediate School was not consistent with his pledge to look at all options before making any decision about whether to close any of CAB’s schools. Making that large of an investment in KIS, Dalton, Fort and Wehr said, would effectively take the intermediate school off the table as a potential target of closure.
Dalton said after Knott voted with Beatty and board members Leah Kopp and Tom Schaetzle to spend $1.1 million fixing up KIS, he heard from many of his constituents. “They felt that, in many regards, after making a commitment to study (KIS) and then immediately breaking that promise, that Kevin wasn’t honest about how he handled the whole situation,” Dalton said, adding that he agreed.
When members of the public asked Knott during a meeting to explain how he could vote to spend that much on KIS without acknowledging that closing KIS was no longer an option, Dalton said Knott didn’t answer. “When people raised that to him, he was dismissive and rude and unaccountable,” he said.
Fort said he also felt Knott’s vote to spend the money at KIS -- funds that CAB is getting through refinancing debt on Knightstown High School -- broke his promise to look at all options. “I sure didn’t like it where he flat out told the Kennard people we would look at everything,” he said, “and then, three weeks later, it was forgotten.” Wehr said he felt Knott’s lack of forthrightness also went beyond breaking his word to the Kennard supporters. He said that there had been a few times where he had spoken with Knott about an issue prior to a meeting, and that Knott had told him he was going to do one thing, then did something else.
“I don’t care for that,” Wehr said. “If he’s got a good substantial reason or something that I’ve missed and brings it to my attention ... that’s fine. But, if you commit to me and tell me you’re going to do something, that’s what I expect, and in return, I’d do the same thing.”
Another big concern that Dalton, Fort and Wehr all expressed had to do with the manner in which Knott has chaired some of the board’s meetings. All three said they felt that Knott had purposely limited discussion and debate on important issues.
“We’ve had several situations where I felt that Kevin attempted to shut down debate, shut down public participation when it didn’t benefit his cause,” Dalton said. “And I’ve been more and more uncomfortable with the way that he’s been chairing the meetings.”
Dalton said several members of the KHS Athletic Boosters had sat through a meeting that lasted more than three hours, hoping for a chance to speak during the time allowed for public comments at the end of the meeting. While Knott heard comments from a handful of people, Dalton said more had wanted to speak.
“These are people that sat through an entire meeting and waited to get on the record,” Dalton said. “And after sitting through a long, exhausting meeting to be heard, (Knott) tried to limit that. ... That, I think, is unfair and an abuse of power.”
Dalton, Fort and Wehr also said they felt Knott had unjustly tried to stop debate when the board was preparing to vote on how it would allocate the money it would be getting from refinancing the KHS debt. In this instance, they said Knott called for a vote on his own motion to approve spending $1.1 million at KIS and about $900,000 on athletic facilities at KHS before board members had finished discussing the issue.
“The idea was to get everybody’s input, and I don’t think that was done,” Wehr said with respect to the how the refinancing funds will be spent. “... I still don’t think we’ve had much conversation or discussion at this point about what is actually going to be done.” Wehr said he is hopeful that there will be furthter discussion about how the refinancing funds get used, saying there are still at least a few board members who want to keep their promises to look at all options.
When The Banner spoke with Knott earlier this week, he seemed untroubled by the fact that Dalton, Fort and Wehr, did not support him for president this year.
“I really haven’t spent much time focusing on that because I really think the overall picture is, regardless, to move forward,” Knott said. “And, actually, this is something that I think is very important. There are seven members seated on the school board, so it’s not to focus on me or whoever would serve as the president of the board; it’s doing the overall work, and that’s why I got involved and wanted to get involved and elected to the school board.”
Despite losing the support of three board members who had helped elect him board president just a year ago, Knott said he doesn’t believe there is an irreparable rift between him and Dalton, Fort and Wehr.
“I think you have to stand back and look at the whole picture,” Knott said. “Certainly, nothing is personalized. You just review the issues, you make policy decisions and you move forward, and I think that those are characteristics of someone you want to look for to serve on the school board.”
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