HOXIE — A public hearing Monday night resulted in the Hoxie School Board voting to reinstate Dr. Lori McKenzie to her position as high school principal after having been placed on administrative leave.
A list of 20 incidents or issues was presented to the board by the Superintendent Kelly Gillham, who had submitted a recommendation that McKenzie’s contract not be renewed for the upcoming school year.
Among the bulleted list, which was part of a more in-depth document, Gillham said that McKenzie failed to:
Follow the bullying policy.
Update the student handbook regarding dress code.
Communicate with her when there was an incident between an administrator and officials at an athletic event.
Follow a directive to have all students return to in-person learning following spring break.
Gillham also listed issues with prom, face mask policy implementation and employee schedule assignment, noting that her general reasons for calling for the non-renewal were “insubordination and lack of communication.”
McKenzie’s lawyer addressed the board stating that even if they believed all 20 on the list to be completely true as presented, the fact that the principal had not been written up or disciplined in any way made it so the board should consider if her dismissal was fair.
McKenzie also gave testimony, stating that she wanted to continue in her role as high school principal.
“I can step over this, and we can move on,” she said. “I love this job. I love these kids, and I love this school, and I want to continue to work here at Hoxie School.”
After a three-hour hearing, the board went into executive session, which lasted about an hour and a half, and returned with a decision to reinstate McKenzie with the understanding that Gillham is her direct supervisor. The board also stated that anything that could negatively impact the district should be reported to Gillham immediately and that communication between administrators is crucial.
A large crowd of supporters was on hand in support of McKenzie, and three current employees of the district spoke to the board recommending maintaining her as the high school principal.
High School Counselor Donna Pinkston spoke about McKenzie’s ability to both encourage the students and discipline them when needed.
“Our students need her back in her position,” she said. “She cares about them like we all care about them.”
High school English teachers Laura Wright and Dedra Riggs also spoke to the board, and several community support letters were presented, as well.
Wright told board members that McKenzie encourages growth in both the students and the faculty.
“She is truly an asset to this school district,” she said. “Her removal would be a disservice to our district and its patrons.”
McKenzie’s lawyer addressed the crowd prior to the board announcing its decision, reporting that an agreement had been reached and encouraging everyone to move forward. He also praised the community for being involved in the process.
“It is remarkable and extraordinary that you have a community like this that is involved,” he said.