Five months after then-Howard County Superintendent John R. O'Rourke recommended the firing of an Oakland Mills High School football coach and teacher, the employment status of Kenneth O. Hovet Jr. is still up in the air, frustrating some parents and students.
"Until we get a resolution on Hovet's employment one way or the other, things will continue to fester at Oakland Mills," said Linda Pieplow, a parent of a recent Oakland Mills graduate. She spoke on behalf of a dozen parents and students at Thursday night's school board meeting.
Dragging out the appeal "diverts us from the real task at hand: returning our school to some state of normalcy," she said.
In November, the school was rocked by a grade-changing scandal that involved the improper changing of a football player's grades to make him eligible. Hovet was placed on administrative leave with pay after the allegations.
Hovet's pay was revoked in January, when results of the investigation were announced. In mid-February, O'Rourke recommended that Hovet be fired from his positions as a teacher, coach and athletic director. Later that month, O'Rourke agreed to a buyout when his contract was not renewed.
Hovet filed an appeal, and the Board of Education put it on a fast-track process. But delays have pushed the appeal back to Aug. 3, when members will hear arguments and deliberate.
Pieplow criticized the board for dragging its feet.
"We pointed out that if you really care about the Oakland Mills community, as you kept saying you do, then you must make the decision regarding Hovet's status a priority," Pieplow said. "You assured us that you would do so."
In response, board Chairman Courtney Watson told the group that the board understands its frustration and that the board's intention was to resolve the matter quickly.
"I hear their frustration, and I don't blame them," Watson said in an interview. "We want to make sure the process is fair and thorough for everyone involved, including Mr. Hovet."
Hovet's appeal had been hampered by scheduling conflicts and legal maneuverings, Watson said. After the school system refused to give Hovet access to 26 documents he requested under the state's Public Information Act, saying they were privileged, Hovet sued and gained access to nearly all of them last month.
"Mr. Hovet agrees that there has been unnecessary delay, especially with the documents not being turned over," said Thomas R. Bundy III, an attorney for Hovet.
Meanwhile, the school system has hired Richard Hendershott to replace Hovet as football coach and athletic director.