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Local News


Student, Parents Criticize Superintendent at Board Meeting

Fri, 19 Oct 2018 10:36:31 CDT


The drama surrounding the Litchfield School Board, Superintendent Debbie Poffinbarger and high school Principal Doug Hoster will continue Monday evening after the board was forced to adjourn Thursday's meeting due to time constraints.

"We're continuing that hearing Monday evening, at 6 p.m. in an attempt to be fair, make sure we're all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and do this the right way," said School Board President Jennifer Reid. She made the announcement at 11 p.m., four hours and sixteen minutes after the board elected to first enter into closed session.

Hoster has been on administrative leave since September 13, following allegations of misconduct. The specific nature of the allegations have not been made public at this time.

Prior to entering into closed session, three people spoke to the board in front of a crowded Panther Gymnasium. One parent, Joyce Towner, criticized the high school for how Hoster and the teaching staff handled a scholarship issue. Another speaker, Valerie Belusko, criticized the board for considering a pay increase for Superintendent Poffinbarger amid the ongoing controversy. However, the most compelling speech came from high school student Alexis Gibson, who challenged the superintendent for her alleged treatment of employees.

"It's important for us to have relationships with our teachers," Gibson said in front of parents, students, teachers and staff. "Teachers feel as if they cannot build a relationship with us because they will receive a target on their backs."

Gibson then accused the superintendent of handling Hoster's investigation in an unethical manner.

"I would also like to bring up how students do not feel comfortable with some of the authorities here today," she said. "Mrs. Poffinbarger sent a half dozen students to her office where they would talk to a lawyer. She never disclosed that this lady was a lawyer, only her name. Mrs. Poffinbarger never discussed talking to a lawyer with the students' parents. They are all minors, and that is required. Not only were they asked to give statements, she showed them to a person who gave a report against Mr. Hoster. These students trusted their superintendent to keep their confidential statements private."

"The person who filed the report said to my friend 'I don't care what Mr. Hoster said. I just want to see how far I can take this,'" Gibson said referring to one of the students who made allegations against the principal.

A number of witnesses were called to testify before the board during their closed session, according to sources familiar with the situation. Due to time constraints, however, not all witnesses were interviewed Thursday. Therefore, the board will hold a special meeting in Panther Gymnasium on Monday beginning at 6 p.m.


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