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PRAIRIE GROVE -- After a six-hour special meeting Monday night, Prairie Grove School Board unanimously voted to uphold an administration recommendation not to renew Brandy Carte's contract as head softball coach for the 2018-19 school year.

Carte served as assistant softball coach for two years and just finished her first year as head softball coach. She also is a special education teacher for Prairie Grove Elementary School. The hearing pertained only to her role as coach.

Carte requested a closed hearing to appeal the administration's recommendation. She declined to comment on the hearing saying she's still employed by the district.

Board President Shawn Shrum opened the meeting in the high school library and then the room was cleared for the closed hearing.

Carte represented herself with the assistance of Ronnie Flowers, regional director of Arkansas State Teachers Association.

Athletic Director Joey Sorters spoke on behalf of the administration and was accompanied by school attorney Charles Harwell. Assistant Superintendent Pete Joenks also was in the hearing.

Tuesday, Shrum said the meeting adjourned about midnight. The closed hearing lasted more than four hours and then the board went into executive session for about an hour. It returned to public session and voted to support the administration's recommendation.

Shrum said board members did not have any information about the decision not to renew Carte's softball contract until they got to the meeting. There were several pages to read from the administration, along with letters from parents in support of the administration's recommendation, Shrum said.

Carte also spoke to the board and called five witnesses to speak on her behalf.

Shrum declined to speak about specifics because the board hearing dealt with a personnel issue but did say the administration's recommendation stemmed from an incident between Carte and the team during one game during the softball season. Carte was suspended for four games because of the incident, Shrum confirmed.

Shrum said the board knew about the suspension but did not know any details.

Over time, other factors were involved in the board's recommendation, Shrum said.

"Based on the circumstances and what we were presented, we felt this was the best way to move forward for the district," Shrum said.

Parents of three girls either on the softball team or who had graduated were waiting in the school cafeteria to testify on Carte's behalf during the closed hearing. No other parents were there.

One father, Randy Peoples, opposed the recommendation because he said Carte was not given a "fair shot" as a head coach at Prairie Grove.

He said his daughter liked Carte as a coach because she was hard on the team and pushed them to get better.

"Her appeal shows her level of devotion to the program and how she cares for the kids. She's willing to fight and stay and build this program," Peoples said.

"Her honesty and integrity is foremost," said another parent, Darren Bignar. "She's not a person who's just out for herself."

The parents said the administration was holding Carte to a standard that was not the standard expected of other coaches in the district.

"If this is the standard, it needs to be the standard for all coaches," Bignar said.

The Washington County Enterprise-Leader received a telephone call at 4:30 p.m. Monday and email notification at 4:33 p.m. Monday about the special meeting to be held at 6 p.m. the same day. The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act requires notification of special meetings to the media to be at least two hours in advance.

Shrum took the blame Tuesday for the notification not meeting the two-hour requirement. He said he thought the administrative office had contacted the media.

"I'll take the blame for that. I should have made sure of that," Shrum said.

General News on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: School Board Votes Not To Renew Coach's Contract

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