Grundy County school board postpones coach decision, welcomes new member

Grundy County school board postpones coach decision, welcomes new member

January 24th, 2018 by Rosana Hughes in Breaking News

The Grundy County, Tenn., school board voted Tuesday to again to postpone discussions on hiring a new football coach.

Former head coach Sherman "Casey" Tate was "removed from any and all responsibilities related to the football program" after reports of an attempted aggravated rape on school property on Oct. 11.

Board members decided to postpone hiring discussions until they know who Director of Schools Jessie Kinsey plans to hire.

In December, board members asked Kinsey to narrow a list of roughly 30 applicants down to three and return for discussions about salary.

That is what Kinsey did, but one finalist dropped out, leaving only two candidates. She also did not let the board know who those candidates are, though she has asked the board to approve adding money to the budget line for the coach's salary.

During a workshop meeting, school board chairwoman Phylis Lusk said she knew interviews had taken place with a committee, but not with the board's athletic committee. The committee was made up of central office staff.

School board member Reuben Newsome said candidates also should be reviewed by members of the board, especially before approving a request to add money to the coach's salary.

"I think we need to hold it over until the athletic committee sees who we're going to get," Newsome said.

Lusk asked for a ballpark estimate of how much money the board would be considering to pay the new coach. Kinsey said she thinks it would be about $1,000 per month for the roughly five months left in the school year.

However, she did not explain why more money would need to be added to the budget line for the coach's salary, since former coach Tate was removed from his position early and did not work the entire year.

Kinsey urged the board to make a decision, stating she had hoped to have someone hired by December so that person could start on the first day of school, but "that didn't happen because we didn't know how much we could pay them."

"I think that, based on what I'm hearing from parents and other people within the school, is that they want a decision to be made so that [students] can start practicing," she said.

Board members eventually voted 6-2 to postpone the decision to add the new money for the coach's salary until February's meeting, with the expectation that the athletic committee also will be able to interview candidates.

After the alleged rape in October, former head coach Tate was prohibited from having contact with any of the football players. But he has remained a classroom teacher, and he can have contact with members of the football team if they are students in his classes.

At the time, school board attorney Chuck Cagle said Tate was relieved of his coaching duties because of information investigators learned relating to the field house. Then-assistant coach Greg Brewer took over as interim head coach, but was also relieved of his coaching duties after investigators learned that he also had information relating to the use of the field house.

It was not clear what part either man played, but investigators say that the doors were left unlocked or propped open, allowing the students to enter the morning of the attack.

Nick Meeks was named interim coach for the remainder of last year.

In other school board news, Lebron Coffelt was elected as a member Monday night by the Grundy County Commission and attended his first meeting Tuesday. He was chosen in a 5-3 vote to replace former board member Robert Foster, who resigned on Nov. 21 after 12 years on the board.

In response to his selection, Coffelt said, "This is an opportunity to help improve education and help Grundy County get back on track. I like it."

Foster's resignation came amid growing animosity among members of the school board and Kinsey.

Tensions grew as the district received heightened media attention after the reports of the attempted aggravated rape and the vandalism of a school board member's vehicle in November.

Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady said three people pitched themselves for the position. He did not wish to comment on Coffelt's election, but said via email that "it was the voted will of the commission."

Coffelt will hold office only until the end of the current term. He said he plans on running to fill the seat for the next term, which begins Sept. 1.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.


This story was updated Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, at 11:58 p.m. with more information.