The State Commissioner of Education sent Lexington Attorney Mike Wilson to the campus of WKU Thursday to preside over the administrative hearing. The commissioner also gave the attorney the power to make a recommendation once both sides have decided to rest. Thursday morning both districts made their opening statements and each predictably centered around a 2001 contract made by the superintendents at the time. Bowling Green's legal team says Warren County made their recent decision without warning, despite opportunities to do so.
"Mr. Tinius even suggested that the base number of students should be lowered to account for this change. Again, Warren County officials did not indicate any problem with this agreement." said Bowling Green Independent Attorney, Regina Jackson.
Warren County's legal team said their were inconsistencies with the contracts each year the school's agreed on them.
"The first three ,four, to five years the Bowling Green School district approved contracts that said any and all. That came from Bowling Green. It did not reference any document signed in 2001 by two superintendents." refuted Warren County School Attorney, Bart Darrell.
Bowling Green's first two witnesses were a former and current chairman of the board. Each of them believe the 2001 contract is valid and Warren County has breached it.
From the beginning... The 2001 contract signed by both superintendents at the time was the main focus of today's administrative hearing. Witness "Hamp" Moore was brought to the stand and during his testimony he discussed the growth rate factor of the contract. He said beginning in 2008, Warren County agreed to a fixed number of non-resident students who can attend city schools with state funding and ceased to factor in the growth rate. The next witness ,current Bowling Green School Board Chairman Michael Bishop said much of the same.
"I think they modified the agreement. They took out the growth factor. They didn't say we are eliminating the agreement. They let the last number pursuant of calculation that had been breached in 2001 up to 2008. They simply took out the growth factor."
"Mr. Wilson you have been provided copies of the non-resident contracts dating back to 2001 to 2002. You will find that there are two... two contracts in 13 years that specifically allow for a number of students plus a percentage of growth." added Darrell.
Warren County's legal representation argued that the contract for non-resident agreements changed almost every year between the two schools and never mentioned the 2001 agreement. A few times throughout the day the hearing officer did have to step in and mediate between the witnesses and legal representation. Besides a few tense moments, things remained pretty civil.
Jon Lawson also testified. Lawson is the Director of Pupil Personnel for Bowling Green Independent Schools. He remained on the stand for more than an hour. Many questions thrown at him were about numbers within the school system. He revealed that 92% of transfer requests within the system are granted, supporting Bowling Green's action toward school choice. Warren County argued that in 2011 Bowling Green allowed 100 non-contract students to attend their schools without state funding, and that is what is causing there problem now. Warren County lawyers said theoretically if they denied those students in 2011, then they would have the space necessary for the 86 students that are the subject of the hearing.
The hearing didn't stop there. It went on into the afternoon. Then three former Warren County superintendents were called to testify.
Many of the questions brought forth by Bowling Green City Schools' attorney Regina Jackson were related to a 2001 memorandum of agreement between the two school system's superintendents.
Jackson began by asking former Warren County Superintendent Tim Murley how often he would meet with Bowling Green's superintendent to set the number of students in the contract.
"How often did we meet to set the contract?" asked Murley
"Yes," said Jackson.
"Not every year," said Murley.
Jackson asked Murley how he decided the number of non-resident students would be set.
"When I became Superintendent and the first time the contract came up to me, I went to Marilyn who was the D.P.P at the time and told her to look at last year's, and do the exact same thing we did last year," said Murley.
Murley retired in February of this year, and Kathy Goff became the interim superintendent. Jackson asked Murley if he had any discussions with Goff about the contract prior to retiring.
"Did you have any discussions with Kathy Goff about Bowling Green City Schools contract?" asked Jackson.
"I did not." said Murley.
"What about any of the board members?" said Jackson.
"I did not," said Murley.
Jackson asked former Interim Superintendent Kathy Goff the same question.
"Did he discuss with you the non-resident contract with Bowling Green before the 2013 school year?" asked Jackson.
"No ma'am," said Goff.
She went on to say she had no knowledge of the contract prior to making a decision on the contract this year.
"I knew absolutely nothing about it until the evening that our board chair met with Mr. Tinius and Mr. Bishop and Mr. Tinius and Mr. Bishop pulled the document out and showed it to myself and the board chair," said Goff.
Jackson asked Goff to explain how she understood the non-resident cap would be determined.
"With my knowledge of school procedures and laws, I assumed it was with any other county or district we have contracts with, which each year I know the law requires each year we have a contract," said Goff.
More witnesses will testify as the hearing continues tomorrow.
The administrative hearing will resume tomorrow morning at 9 at the WKU Mass Media and Technology Hall.