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HSE School board accepts superintendent’s resignation, appoints interim leader

HSE Boards accepts superintendent’s resignation

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hamilton Southeastern Schools board members have accepted the resignation of superintendent Dr. Yvonne Stokes.

The school board unanimously approved the resignation and separation agreement during an emergency meeting at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

“I am grateful to HSE and the Fishers and Noblesville communities for my time here,” Dr. Stokes in a written statement released by the district. “The opportunity to serve as superintendent was one I never took lightly. As this shift in leadership commences, I am committed to supporting the district and feel confident that our staff, students and families will be in capable hands. The future is bright for HSE.”

The school board attorney announced that Dr. Stokes’ attorney approached the district approximately two weeks ago to discuss her resignation.

The district agreed to pay Dr. Stokes the full amount of her salary for this year, the final year of her contract with the district.

Dr. Stokes will also receive payment for unused sick time and has agreed to not sue the district.

Dawn Lang, president of the HSE School Board, said the board’s goal was to strengthen and unite the district.

“I want to express our profound thanks to Dr. Stokes and her leadership during this time,” Lang said in a statement read at the end of the meeting. “This is a crucial time during our district’s history and we are so grateful for her service and dedication to our district.”

Two board members who voted to approve the resignation and separation agreement said they did not agree with the process, but voted yes to respect Dr. Stokes’ wishes to step down.

The HSE board’s work in 2023 has been dominated by contentious discussions about the role of diversity, equity and inclusion in schools, a grant for mental health services, and the non-renewal of several administrator contracts.

One parent at the meeting criticized the role of newly elected board members in the superintendent’s resignation.

“The truth is Dr. Stokes was not wanted by you before you were elected,” Stephanie Hunt said in her comments. “You even shamed her by moving her to the end of the table and essentially silenced her and disrespected her. We saw it. It wasn’t some sly move on your part.”

Board members appointed Matt Kegley, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, as the school district’s interim superintendent. The district also approved a two-year contract extension for Kegley.

Stokes joined the Fishers-based school district in April 2021 after serving as assistant superintendent for Munster schools. She replaced Superintendent Allen Bourff, who retired at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

More than 1,000 community members had signed a petition calling for Bourff to step down after he sent a letter to faculty in February 2021 outlining how to address the Black Lives Matter movement in district classrooms.

At the time of her hiring, Stokes said, “Please don’t fret about academic excellence. We’re here to make sure that our students have academic excellence.”

This story is developing and will be updated as soon as more information is available.