Divided Gardner-Edgerton board meets for first time since firing - KCTV5

Divided Gardner-Edgerton board meets for first time since firings

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GARDNER, KS (KCTV) -

The controversy continues to roil the Gardner-Edgerton school community after the abrupt firing of the superintendent and two of his top administrators.

The board met Monday night for the first time since the firings, which came on a 4-3 vote. Some of the dispute was laid bare during the open portion of the meeting, but board members also refused to answer questions. 

Board members then went behind closed doors where they would remain for more than two hours.

Superintendent Bill Gilhaus was fired along with administrators Lana Gerber and Christy Ziegler.

James Repshire, who has been outspoken against the firings, said during Monday night's meeting that Gilhaus oversaw the successful passage of two bond issues.

"Several new facilities were built," he said.

But board member Brad Chandler, who supported the termination, said Gilhaus created a contentious atmosphere.

"The divide that he threw into many people around here, the many staff we lost because of him," Chandler said. "I think that's important thing you need to include that he missed, the atmosphere that he created."

Some parents said they believe the firings were puzzling and concerning. They said board members should explain their actions.

"I'm actually really concerned with what just happened," parent Erin Moore said, who added she was pleased by the firings and she wanted updates. "Obviously everything is still very unclear."

Rep. Bill Sutton, R-Gardner, is seeking a review of the actions by the school board's attorney Joe Hatley. Sutton said Hatley, a private attorney, was verbally combative, condescending and bullying toward the board members who sought to fire the superintendent.

"By all appearances, Mr. Hatley was at the meeting representing the interests of then Superintendent Gilhaus, not the school district at large," Sutton said.

Board members who opposed the firing have indicated Hatley indicated that the meeting wasn't being done in accordance with all required procedures including Kansas' law governing open meetings.

Hatley did not attend Monday night's meeting.

Hatley, a partner at the Kansas City law firm Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, officially resigned March 6 as the board's attorney. His resignation is effective June 4.

In his letter, Hatley said the entire firm was terminating its agreement and would be happy to transition to a different firm before June 4.

Gilhaus has said he didn't receive the due process or procedures outlined in his contract.

There are also calls for legislative reviews after Gilhaus resigned last year and was re-hired two months later. Financial questions have been raised.

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