A specially-called Sunday night school board meeting to discuss Carthage ISD Superintendent John Wink, allegations against a Baker-Koonce Intermediate School teacher and community concerns ended with no action being taken.
The district has called another special meeting Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Carthage ISD administration building to hold a closed session for trustees to consult with their attorney and discuss personnel and the superintendent and his contract.
Sunday’s meeting brought out a crowd of around 50 people — supporters of both Baker-Koonce teacher Janet Reddell and Wink — as the two groups discussed the impact of allegations Wink publicly levied against Reddell while recommending she be fired.
The school board heard about 45 minutes of public comments before it went into closed session for three hours. Just before 11 p.m., the board resumed its public meeting and announced no action would be taken.
But before the closed discussion, school board members heard several comments from community members about Wink’s tenure in the district and his public comments that Reddell admitted to handing out a drug without a proper prescription and using her position to circumvent district protocols to get a particular diagnosis for a child.
Reddell had been placed on administrative leave, and the school board voted in September to wait on the outcome of a state investigation before acting on her employment. Reddell’s attorney, in a statement, said local authorities had concluded no charges would be filed and described the incident surrounding the allegations as an ““off-campus private incident between two friends.”
Reddell’s supporters told school officials that Wink’s very public efforts to fire her were unwarranted. Jennifer Laura, a CISD parent, said a press release issued by Wink “mentioned Janet Reddell’s name no less than three times while he intentionally painted the reputation of a 23-year educator as nothing more than a home drug dealer with a slew of misinformation we now all know to be false.”
“Not once has a retraction been posted to my knowledge,” she said. “Corrections were also not made at the school where Janet works, a school where my children attend. We spent many evenings consoling distraught children who came home from school having been told the misinformation that was spread so ruthlessly about not only a beloved teacher, but also a family friend. I can draw no other conclusion than the purpose of such hostile words were intended to bring a good woman low.”
William Morris told trustees he held no ill will toward Reddell and called Wink a good man. He derided ugly Facebook comments and rumors that had been directed at Wink.
“I’m so glad this decision concerning Ms. Reddell’s actions is not mine to make,” Morris said. “But Mr. Wink is in a position that he must. We must abide by the law and by the policy guidelines laid out by the school board. We simply cannot allow the law to apply to some and not to others.”
Quantaus Kelley, who has worked with Wink on many community events and charitable causes, told trustees Wink was a Christian man who cares about his community.
“He cares about his students. He cares about his teachers. He wants nothing but the best for those students, teachers and his community,” Kelley said. “He understands that if the community’s strong, the school will be strong. And he understands if the school is strong that the community will be strong.”
LaRhonda Dillard told trustees she was not there Sunday to support either Wink or Reddell. She said she was there to point out the wrong that had been committed.
“There was a criminal investigation done,” she said. “There was no wrong found at all. No charges filed, no nothing. Therefore the issue with that teacher is mute. It is null and void and should be treated that way.”
Others spoke of Wink’s management style and his general tenure as superintendent. Michael Best, speaking on behalf of his wife Brandie Best, described to school board members how teachers had more work and demands placed on them to the point where they do not have enough time to teach and accused Wink of creating an environment of toxicity and intimidation.
“Want to know why employees don’t come forward? That will be because anytime they do anything not considered appropriate by the superintendent, such as liking a social media post that he doesn’t agree with, and he shows up in their rooms, at car duty, he calls meetings, etc. pushing petty fear tactics to keep staff submissive and quiet,” Best said.
Rhonda Wright, a former Carthage ISD teacher who came back to the district in September, said she had left because prior to Wink’s tenure there was “dishonesty, back-stabbing, total lack of trust and extreme favoritism” and a lack of professionalism that meant students weren’t the focus.
That has changed, she said, because of Wink’s leadership. She said Wink genuinely wants to hear what teachers have to say and takes the time to listen.
“He has never once appeared rushed or brushed off from what was being said,” she said. “He genuinely listens with open ears and an open heart. He has our backs, and in doing so, he has had to stand up to some things that have been going on way too long. In the process, he has stepped on some toes. But you know what? He’s doing what he was hired to do. Now it’s your turn to have his back.”