Caldwell County Superintendent Nate Huggins has turned in his letter of retirement in the wake of a plagiarism accusation concerning his farewell article to the Caldwell County High School Class of 2020 that appeared in The Times Leader.
The letter was submitted to the Caldwell County School Board at its meeting Monday. Board Chairman Tim Kennaday read the letter aloud just before the board went into executive session.
“It says, ‘Dear Mr. Tim Kennaday and members of the Caldwell County Board of Education,’ ” he said. “’It is with deep regret and sorrow that I submit this letter of retirement for your consideration. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Caldwell County School District, and I know that what we have accomplished in my two years is something great for all students in the school system.”
“...‘I have truly been blessed to be the superintendent of Caldwell County. The sky is the limit for our students to achieve whatever their attitude and effort allows them to. I will always hold this school district in the highest regard because it is all about kids.’ ”
Huggins requested in the letter that his retirement take effect Sept. 1. The board unanimously accepted the letter of retirement.
Kennaday asked Huggins if he would like to make a statement before the board voted. Huggins spoke about a book titled “It Happens in the Hallway: Impacting School Climate Beyond the Classroom” by Mark Johnson and Sam Stecher.
“It has, ‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with a greater strictness,’ ” he said. “That’s the reason that you’ve got a letter before you today.
“As the top educator in this school district, I’ve got to be in a situation where there’s no question about what’s going on. And I didn’t give credit where I should have given credit to a person that wrote an article, and I’m deeply sorry for that. This is the best action for our school district, for me to retire.”
Huggins admitted in May to copying from a similar farewell article written by Superintendent Ann Levett of Savannah-Chatham County (Ga.) Public Schools. He said the article impressed him, but he did not give Levett credit for authorship.
Huggins said he plans to stay in this area and wanted to continue to support the school district.
Neither Huggins nor Kennaday could be reached for further comment.
Just before the letter was discussed, a public comment was submitted to the board regarding district employee ethics and plagiarism. The board took public comments by phone at the district office.
“It’s from Mr. Edward Mason,” Kennaday said, “and it says, ‘Does the board have any sort of plans to address its policies and code of ethics as defined in the document on the website, 01.53, to ask specific language that will deal with ethical violations such as plagiarism?’ ”
Code 01.53 of the Kentucky School Board Association policies and procedures deals with the Code of Ethics.
Board attorney Mark Wells said he would look into the matter.
The board also approved a Kentucky Comprehensive Literacy grant worth $1 million over four years. It is issued by the Kentucky Department of Education Office of Next Generation Learners and is designed to support schools in improving reading and writing for all learners from birth to grade 12.
“It provides a great platform for all our schools to work with literacy for all the kids that are in dire need of those services,” Huggins said, adding that the salary for the grant manager will come from funding through the grant.
The board also approved reinstating coaches’ stipends for the 2020-21 school year, effective July 1.
Huggins said that he was in a conference call with several other district representatives and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, and all of them said they planned to pay their coaches as if it were a normal year.
“One thing the (KHSAA) commissioner (Julian Tackett) did say was that we’ve got to be prepared to play golf in the fall,” he said. “It’s a spring sport, but because of COVID and social distancing, it’s a lot easier to do that with golf than it would be with football. So, football could be a spring sport this year.
“He just told us to be flexible and be prepared to do that.”