Bledsoe board member banned from school property after complaint

Bledsoe board member banned from school property after complaint

September 19th, 2018 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News
Staff Photo by Ben Benton/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Jun 8, 2012 - Bledsoe Little Blue Football and Cheerleading organization volunteers Vince Pendergrass, Bryan Simmons and Jim Swafford talk Friday about the work needed to get the now-exposed concrete floor of the old Pikeville Elementary School gymnasium ready for indoor sports practice.

PIKEVILLE, Tenn. — A member of the Bledsoe County Board of Education was publicly censured this week over an ethics violation.

During a four-hour called meeting Monday night, Vince Pendergrass was ordered to stay off of school property and to have no contact with any school employees, staff or students outside of his role as a board member or parent.

The censure stemmed from an August incident involving Pendergrass and a Bledsoe County Middle School football coach, according to Bledsoe County director of schools Jennifer Terry.

Pendergrass "entered the field house and was trying to instruct the coach on what players to play and on what plays to run. The coach had asked him to leave the field house, and [Pendergrass] informed the coach he was a board member — this [information] is from the complaint — and he could be where he wanted to be," Terry said of allegations contained in the complaint about Pendergrass. "The coach asked him repeatedly to leave the field house."

The incident is said to have happened during the Aug. 23 home game with South Pittsburg Middle School, she said. Terry did not name the coach involved.

Pendergrass did not respond to attempts on Wednesday to reach him for comment.

Pendergrass, who attended Monday's called meeting in his official elected capacity, voted along with fellow board members in a 7-0 ruling that he had committed an ethics violation. Pendergrass then voted in favor of his own censuring in a 6-1 vote. The opposing vote was cast by newly elected board member Bron Reece, Terry said.

The approved motion for the censure reads, "The board has ordered Mr. Pendergrass to not come into contact, come about, threaten, harm, call, intimidate or physically or verbally abuse any person employed by or associated with the Bledsoe County School Board of Education. The board orders Mr. Pendergrass not to appear or to be physically present upon any property owned, controlled, leased or being used by any school, school group or school team under the sponsorship of the Bledsoe County Board of Education regardless of the location of the property unless you are attending a board meeting or attending a meeting or conference specifically related to your own child's education. Mr. Pendergrass, if he is contacted by a parent, student or staff, is to direct those calls to the director of schools and not try to resolve the issue individually. Mr. Pendergrass will be allowed to drop off and pick up his students at school and at sporting events."

The censure is effective until June 30, 2019.

Board chairman Vincent Boring said Pendergrass's vote was "commendable," showing he also wanted to move forward.

Boring, for whom Monday's meeting was just the second he has attended as chairman, said some board members and members of the public might have wanted stronger action but "I think our board did great in taking care of the situation."

He said Pendergrass's vote was "commendable," showing he also wanted to move forward.

Pendergrass was first appointed to the school board in 2013 to fulfill the term of a member who died, officials said. He was re-elected to the seat in 2014 and again in the Aug. 2, 2018, general election.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.


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