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Newly appointed school board member steps down

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GREENFIELD — The search is on for a fifth Greenfield-Central School Board member – again.

New board members took their oaths of office at the first meeting of the year Monday, but one member was unexpectedly absent from the proceedings.

Willie McKinney, who was appointed last month to replace an outgoing board member, stepped down from the position hours before what would have been his first meeting.

Superintendent Linda Gellert said McKinney called her office Monday afternoon to ask how to vacate the position, then sent a follow-up email stating that “after much thought and unforeseen circumstances,” he had decided to decline the appointment.

He apologized for the inconvenience but offered no further explanation. McKinney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The board had voted to appoint McKinney, an accountant for Kemper CPA in Greenfield, to replace outgoing board member Kent Fisk.

Fisk, who represented District 2, left the board early to take a seat on the Hancock County Council. Fisk had two years remaining in his term as a school board member.

The board had previously met in executive session to pare down a list of five candidates for Fisk’s replacement to three: McKinney, Steve Menser, an electrician; and Brooke Palmer, a teacher-turned-insurance agent.

“We now need to start again,” board President Retta Livengood said.

Livengood told the board Monday night she will contact the previous candidates to see whether they are still interested in serving on the board.

Board member Ray Kerkhof suggested opening the process to any new applicants who might also be interested.

“I would think that those four would be key, but to be very transparent, I think we ought to … give someone an opportunity,” he said.

Applications to represent District 2 are due by 4 p.m. Jan. 25. Resumes should be sent to corporation attorney Dan Strahl’s office at 8 W. Main St., Greenfield.

The state’s Open Door Law allows the school board to meet in executive session to discuss applicants and narrow the list of potential replacements to no fewer than three.

Interviews of the candidates must be done in an open meeting by a governing body, according to Steve Key, legal counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association and an expert on public access laws.

McKinney was interviewed privately by Livengood and board member Dan Leary. Livengood said it didn’t make sense to have the entire board interview the candidate, as she and Leary were the only two members who would serve with him. Kerkhof and Kathy Dowling had not yet taken office, and Fisk and board member Dr. Michael Summers left the board in December.

The board continued regular business Monday with only four board members. Livengood and Leary welcomed Kerkhof and Dowling, who were elected in November.

The board’s first meeting of the year was largely organizational but required an official vote on several things. All votes were approved unanimously. Had there been a tie, the matter would have been continued until the next board meeting, Strahl said.

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