Contract renewed: 3-2 vote overturns previous decision, Sprinkles to stay

Photo by Emily Baker Knox Schools Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles hugs members of the crowd after the vote.
Photo by Emily Baker
Knox Schools Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles hugs members of the crowd after the vote.

It was absolute pandemonium in the Knox School Board Annex as the board voted 3-2 in favor of rescinding the March 15 and March 22 actions to cancel the superintendent’s contract and renew Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles’ contract for another four years.

The audience waited anxiously as each of the board members were asked to cast their vote. When all the votes were cast, the crowd exploded with excitement.

The board’s two no votes – Merrill Smith and Peggy Gray – came as no surprise to anyone, as they continued to hold their ground. Gray and Smith, along with former board member Dexter Smith, shocked the community when the three voted in an early afternoon special called meeting on March 10 to cancel the superintendent’s contract.

Photo by Bobbie Poynter Knox Circuit Judge Gregory A. Lay swears in Dr. Thomas Ashburn as the new school board member representing District 4.
Photo by Bobbie Poynter
Knox Circuit Judge Gregory A. Lay swears in Dr. Thomas
Ashburn as the new school board member representing District 4.

Since the canceling of his contract, which would have ended June 30, Superintendent Sprinkles has received much outpouring of support from the schools and the community. In the days following the board’s decision, more than 100 community members held a march protesting the decision, followed by a rally in support of their superintendent. Students skipped school and held roadside protests in front of the school board annex.

With the resignation of Dexter Smith on April 22, the community has anxiously awaited the appointment of a new board member by Kentucky’s Commissioner of Education. The wait was finally over when on June 9 Dr. Tom Ashburn was appointed to the board. Dr. Ashburn’s official swearing in ceremony was held at the beginning of the evening’s board meeting.

“I’m going to look at what’s put in front of me and make decisions that I feel will help the kids the teachers succeed,” said Dr. Ashburn. “There are different personalities on this school board. You hope to try to work together with them. My focus will be that the decisions we make are the best for the students.”

Immediately following the vote to renew the superintendent’s contract, the board voted in Gordon Hinkle as the new board chairman.

I’m glad that we’re able to put this behind us now,” said Chairman Hinkle. “Let’s continue to move the district forward. He’s got a good four-year contract. Let’s let him be the superintendent and not interfere with him as has happened in the past. That’s the reason you hired him, so let him do his job. “I’m happy, and by the showing of the crowd here tonight, they’re happy. That’s the important thing.”

Kelly Sprinkles could barely hold back the tears as family, friends and students rushed to congratulate him on the decision.

“I feel relieved, but more than that I feel thankful,” said Superintendent Sprinkles. The support of all of these people has kept me going. I’m humbled, but I’m excited about what’s next for Knox County Schools. I see nothing but great things.”

Board Member Charles Merida was relieved to see issue was done and over with.

“I’m more than happy because these kids were getting cheated,” said Merida. “It’s a shame that someone would come into this boardroom with political ideas and use them in here. Everyone’s politics should be left outside the door. This is no place for it. This room is for our children.”

Beverly Hensley, a teacher at Jesse D. Lay Elementary, was thrilled at the outcome of the superintendent’s contract vote.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “This is exactly what the parents and students and teachers of Knox County have been wanting and have fought for. We felt really good about what we felt the outcome of tonight’s decision would be, but of course, you never know until the votes have been tallied. Right now we’re all ecstatic.”