Mineola school board, superintendent part ways

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Mineola ISD school board members voted 5-1 to accept the resignation of Superintendent Kim Tunnell at a special called meeting Thursday night.

Board member Jill Quiambao cast the dissenting vote against accepting the resignation while Glenn Dossett, Daniel Louderman, Jay McGough and Jackie Rodieck voted in favor. Dr. Kyle Gully was absent from the meeting.

In her letter, Tunnell stated her resignation would be effective Jan. 31, 2020, or upon her receiving a position at another school district. Tunnell was not present at the meeting.

Tunnell’s letter of resignation read: “This letter is to inform you that I hereby submit my resignation as an employee and superintendent of the Mineola Independent School District, to be effective the earlier of the date upon which I become employed in another school district or at 11:59 p.m. January 31, 2020.

“My resignation as the superintendent and employee of the Mineola Independent School District is tendered, subject to the parties’ of execution of, and in accordance with the terms, conditions and provisions of that certain Full and Final Resignation and Separation Agreement between the Mineola Independent School District and me effective the 22nd day of August, 2019.”

The separation agreement calls for Tunnell to receive a severance pay of $117,771 and the outgoing administrator will be employed by the district until her resignation date as the Special Assistant to the Interim or Acting Superintendent.

There was no public forum and community members asked questions out loud during the meeting, but board President Dr. John Abbott and other board members did not respond.

Tunnell sent this email statement to the Wood County Monitor Monday. “I am proud of the many accomplishments our team has made. MISD has experienced growth and success over the past four and one-half years and has accomplished many of the tasks set forth by the 80-plus staff, community members, and students involved in the Strategic Planning process in April 2016,” Tunnell said. “This plan focused on innovation and preparing students to be well-rounded and successful in life. The adoption of the plan by the school board at that time set the course for the District and has laid a strong foundation for the continued growth of our students and programs. It has been an honor to serve in Mineola ISD.” 

The agenda for the special meeting was posted Monday night. The mood of the more than 70 people in attendance was heavily in favor of Tunnell and did not support accepting the resignation. Residents questioned who called the meeting and why, but their inquiries were met with silence. Many in attendance were visibly upset by how the situation was handled.

As a tearful Quiambao raised her hand to vote in opposition to accepting the resignation, people in the overflow crowd gave her a standing ovation showing their support for her vote. After the meeting, many of those in attendance lingered outside still seeking answers and questioning what they had just witnessed.

Local resident Angie Ruffin, who has children in school in Mineola, spoke out during the meeting and was asked to leave. Ruffin complied, but still wanted to express her feelings after the meeting. “I actually think it is a shame. A lot of our teachers didn’t even know the special session was happening. I interrupted the meeting and that is why I was thrown out. I interrupted the meeting to ask who called this special session and no one answered that,” Ruffin noted. “A lot of teachers will be heartbroken, students will be heartbroken and I absolutely think it’s a shame. I think they (the board) were waiting to see what the STAAR test scores were. The elementary scores were not so good and I think it gave them an excuse to let her go.

“What I love about Dr. Tunnell is she really embodied relationships with the students, the staff and the parents. It’s about relationships. Ask any parent and they will say they could care less about those scores. Those are not measurable standards from one year to the next. Parents like me want the kids to be taught the subject, not the test.”

Warren Brown is the president of the Mineola Foundation and has worked closely with Tunnell to expand the local Career and Technology Education (CTE) program in the district. Brown mentioned he wished the board would see the public reaction and reconsider the action.

Brown also said he felt apathy among the parents in the district led to the resignation and the vote by the board. “I am disappointed that parents do not get more involved in the voting process for school board. This is the result when parents do not get involved in the schools and the process of electing school board representatives and you get people elected who have agendas,” Brown said. “It’s time for the parents in this community to wake up and start to get involved in our schools and with their kids. I hope we are able to keep going forward with the CTE program.”

According to a joint statement by the board and Dr. Tunnell, she has had many successes as head of the district, including test scores in the past three years in the state’s A-F accountability system going from 69 to 85 in overall performance and from 74 to 86 in student achievement.

The CTE program has grown and created new pathways in health and science, welding, industrial maintenance, education, and information technology. She sought and was awarded over $1.7 million in grant funding over the last four years in grant funding from TEA (Texas Education Agency) and other state agencies, including a $267,000 award for welding from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Community engagement grew with a Literacy Partner program and the creation of the Mineola ISD Education Foundation. The MISD Police Department was created and the district has two officers.

Tunnell has been employed at the district since 2015.

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