Garrard County school board member Larry Woods tried to influence personnel decisions in the school district, “violating his oath of office and overstepping his authority as a school board member,” according to a Kentucky Office of Education Accountability report.
Woods, in an interview Wednesday, denied the allegations contained in a Feb. 23 OEA report.
“I feel like this is something that is totally out of proportion here,” Woods told the Herald-Leader. “The allegation was that I was trying to influence hiring, which is not what I’m doing. What I was passing along was what people were saying in the community, and asking those questions as a board member.”
“I have no intent to influence hiring,” he said. Woods, a retired educator who had been a superintendent in other counties, said he was well aware of the law. He said he wasn’t trying to be “unlawful.”
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The OEA report said that under state law, issues related to personnel, including constituent complaints, must be handled by the superintendent. “A board member must stay out of personnel decisions,” it said.
The report said that in 2013, Woods requested that the high school consider someone employed in the Danville Independent school district for an open basketball coach position. The report said, “Mr. Woods made his favorite known and told the principal to give him a good look. Mr. Woods indicated to the principal that he needed to hire a local person. Mr. Woods also reportedly complained to the Garrard County High School principal after he hired a candidate who was not from Garrard County for school counselor. Mr. Woods wanted the school to select a Garrard County resident for the position.”
Woods said he was just “passing the word along” from a resident.
After an account clerk/benefits position was filled in 2015, the OEA report said, Woods emailed then-Superintendent Paul Mullins saying, “There are many unhappy people on this hire. ... I am only a messenger.”
Again, Woods told the Herald-Leader, he was passing along community concerns. Woods said the employee did a good job.
The report said Woods complained about part-time administrator positions. It said Woods told investigators that he received constituent complaints about cutting seven teachers in the 2016-17 budget while the school district employed part-time administrators. Woods said he thought the purpose of having an assistant superintendent was to replace the need for part-time administrative positions, the report said.
The OEA report said that Woods was an experienced administrator who had received training on the duties of a board member but who had “continuously questioned the choices school staff made regarding personnel decisions and attempted to recommend individuals be hired in the schools and district.”
“I represent the community,” Woods told the Herald-Leader. “These are things the community people were saying to me. I have no agenda on personnel. I’m very aware of the law. I thought I was doing a good service and then all of a sudden I’m getting allegations.”
The report said Woods “shall desist” from any further interference in personnel in the school district and shall by May 31 obtain six hours of training from the Kentucky Department of Education on the subject of board member and superintendent responsibilities and duties.
Woods said he would comply with the OEA’s decisions.