Former Bath school board chairman appointed to fill in during member's suspension

Naming of Pennington not without dissent

jwarren@herald-leader.comOctober 7, 2011 

The Kentucky Board of Education has named a temporary replacement for suspended Bath County school board member Bill Boyd, but the decision is generating controversy.

The state board on Wednesday selected Vearl Pennington to fill in during Boyd's state-ordered 90-day suspension, which will end in mid-December. Pennington, 72, previously served two full terms and part of another term on the Bath board and had served as its chairman.

But Boyd, who has filed an appeal in Bath Circuit Court seeking to overturn his suspension, said Thursday that he questions the process by which the state selected Pennington.

"They were bound and determined to put him on there," Boyd said. "It was all set up in advance."

Boyd noted, among other things, that the state Department of Education had asked Pennington to apply to become his temporary replacement. Boyd also predicted that Pennington would align himself with supporters of Bath County Superintendent Nancy Hutchinson once he takes Boyd's seat on the board.

But state Education Department spokeswoman Lisa Gross said it wasn't unusual for the department to encourage qualified people to apply to fill school board vacancies. Department officials often look to former board members because of their experience, she said.

Pennington said in a phone interview Thursday that he would work only to benefit students and Bath County Schools.

"Those who know me know that I represent the kids and the citizens, what's best for the youth and the community," he said. "I don't think anybody questions that."

The state Board of Education voted last month to suspend Boyd for 90 days because of a number of alleged violations stemming from ongoing disputes among Bath County board members. Last winter, Boyd and two allies on the Bath board attempted to terminate Hutchinson's contract, but she successfully sued in Bath Circuit Court to block the move.

Pennington said the atmosphere on the board had grown "a whole lot more contentious" since his last term ended three years ago.

"I hope I can ... provide some measure of a calming effect," Pennington said. "But it's a little premature. Until I get involved in the proceedings I really don't know what can be done."

Pennington's first meeting as a board member was a special called session Thursday night.

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397 Ext. 3255.

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