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‘They forced her to resign’: Parents concerned Hamilton Southeastern superintendent resigns

HSE board accepts superintendent’s resignation – News 8 at 5

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Yvonne Stokes, who has a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, came to the Hamilton Southeastern Schools in July of 2021.

The school board that accepted her resignation Wednesday morning is not the same one that hired her. From the comments heard at the meeting, race relations at the school are strained. 

Norma Johnson’s voice cracked with emotion as she approached members of the Hamilton Southeastern School Board on Wednesday.

“(You’re) a bunch of racists. To do what you did to that woman? That is not right. You have made her life miserable ever since she took that position, it is no secret you did not want her here.”  

Johnson added, “I’m upset because of the way they did this to her. It is not right, you know, they forced her to resign, they made it impossible for her to do her job.”  

Stokes came to HSE as the first black woman to lead the district. The board offered her a three-year contract worth at least $180,000 a year, plus $500 a month for a car, retirement contributions, and other typical benefits. 

Four members of the original board were replaced in the last election. The current school board has agreed to pay her full salary along with benefits through July of next year when the contract expires.   

The board’s work this year has been dominated by contentious discussions about the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools, a grant for mental health services, and the nonrenewal of several administrator contracts. 

Fishers resident Stephanie Hunt says the new school board is creating a toxic work environment that is spilling over to the classrooms.  

“(Teachers) are fearful of the policies and procedures this school board has clearly come in with a pre-planned agenda to do and they don’t have a voice in this matter. They have silenced the teachers, they don’t care what the teachers have to say,” Hunt said.

According to School Board President Dawn Lang, Stokes offered her resignation, and the details of the separation agreement were negotiated by lawyers. The agreement forbids either side from talking about why Stokes resigned.

News 8 asked Lang if she would have liked for Stokes to stay, she said, “This is her request, and we are honoring her request as to why she chose to resign. We are moving forward with her legal request and our obligation to the school district to ensure we are setting up our district for success going forward.”

The board named Assistant Superintendent Matt Kegley as the interim superintendent. The board also approved a two-year contract extension for Kegley.

The search for a new superintendent is underway.