Jennifer Dew, right, speaks with Madison Consolidated Schools board member Linda laCour before Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Dew and many other residents at the meeting are unhappy with the board’s decision to reassign high school principal Kevin Yancey to another position. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Jennifer Dew, right, speaks with Madison Consolidated Schools board member Linda laCour before Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Dew and many other residents at the meeting are unhappy with the board’s decision to reassign high school principal Kevin Yancey to another position. (Staff photo by Brett Eppley/beppley@madisoncourier.com)
Despite some confusion over the format, Madison School Board President Joyce Imel and the other four board members met with concerned residents during a special public session prior to last night’s regular school board meeting.

Many of the estimated 150 people who filled the conference room appeared to be frustrated – some even angry – that they would not be able to step up to a podium and speak to the board directly. A number of people were wearing black T-shirts with the words “Fire Bolinger” printed in red on the front.

Most of the ire against Superintendent Ginger Studebaker-Bolinger stems from the board’s decision last month to approve her recommendation to reassign Madison Consolidated High School Principal Kevin Yancey to a new administrative position of alumni and community outreach coordinator, and other issues, including the decision to close E.O. Muncie Elementary School.

Before the meeting, the board members were present and people attending were encouraged to line up to speak with them one-on-one from 5:30 p.m. to about 6:25, five minutes before the regular meeting convened.

Imel said she spoke with 17 people. “Several said thank-you and were appreciative. It was very respectful,” she said.

Joe Cline, who took advantage of the chance to speak with board members, said his concern is that recent decisions have “damaged the brand” of Madison Consolidated Schools because of “the inability to get community support for the board and superintendent.”

He said he didn’t feel the transfer is a promotion for Yancey. “A promotion would entail more prestige or more money, and this has neither,” Cline said, adding that it should also require Yancey’s acceptance of the transfer and said the board should “honor his request to stay at the high school.”

Cline said he wants to see evidence that this new position has been successful in other school corporations. “Show me where we’re getting a return on investment for that.”

Stephanie Ginn was more blunt. “Ninety-eight percent of the people can’t stand (Bolinger). If she don’t go, (board members) have been warned they will be harassed any time they step out of the house.”

Imel said that during the session three or more board members could not sit together to hear concerns.

“With three of us together, it’s a quorum and we can’t to do that,” she said, adding that the public comment portion of the regular meeting allows only for comments in regard to agenda items – a procedure she said had been put in place before she became board president.

“We don’t want to change the procedure of speaking about whatever you want to speak about during the meeting,” she said, adding that, by law, issues regarding specific personnel are off limits as topics for public comment. “I’ve lived through, as a principal, people coming to the podium and complaining about a coach or complaining about a teacher before we had this in place, that (public comments) had to be about agenda items. It’s a safeguard for our staff.”

She and board Vice President Carl Glesing said most of the comments were emotional, from people who, in particular, don’t agree with Yancey’s transfer.

“We’re hearing you, but we cannot discuss personnel and all the particulars of these things with constituents,” Imel repeated. “You elected us to do what’s best for students. And with the information that we have, that’s how we base our decisions. Even though, to the public, it doesn’t appear to be, especially in this transfer ... we decided it was in the best interest of the future of Madison High School to do this.”