When Kevin Karg stood before the Jasper County school board to deliver his analysis of a years-long decline in student performance, he assumed his days as a volunteer in the school district would be numbered.
The next day, Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School principal Karen Parker called Karg into a meeting.
"She claimed she had been receiving multiple calls from concerned parents Monday night and Tuesday morning saying they didn't know who this man was and didn't want him working with their kids," said Karg, a retired businessman and Sun City Hilton Head resident.
He has volunteered at the high school since January, helping students in math classes.
When he reported to volunteer at the school a week after his meeting with Parker, Karg said, she told him that day would be his last.
"She said I was not supporting the school and the district with my report," Karg said. "And I just said I will not apologize for what I'm doing. I wasn't disrespectful, but I wouldn't budge because the district's analysis is not true, and I will not just let that be."
Karg's analysis of the district's results on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards on Sept. 8 came a few weeks after district officials asserted its schools were "as successful, or more so, than the state" because the state's results similarly declined in many test categories.
At the time, some board members disagreed, noting Jasper County students had not only declined but had lagged well behind the state average for some time.
Before Karg made his presentation arguing that point, superintendent Vashti Washington told those attending the meeting that there are many interpretations of the data and that students are much more than a test score.
District spokeswoman Shellie Murdaugh said Friday that Karg's dismissal was unrelated to his presentation. She said it had to do with concerns told to Parker, though Murdaugh would not say what those concerns were.
She also said she could not explain the timing of Karg's dismissal.
"While the district appreciates all of its volunteers, it is important that all are within the schools to be a positive influence on all of the students, faculty and staff at all times," Murdaugh said in a statement.
This situation should not deter other volunteers from wanting to get involved, Murdaugh added, as the district wants parents and the community to be more active in the schools.
Karg said he knows many people who want to get in the schools and help, but are being kept away.
"I worked so hard to get in there and work with these kids to help them," he said. "The purpose of this presentation is getting alarm bells ringing to say, 'Stop, something is wrong and we need help.' "
School board member Debora Butler said she was "disappointed" by the district's original analysis of the PASS data and thought Karg's examination provided the board and public with a more accurate picture.
"We should look at how we can use this data to get our children from where they are, near or at the bottom, to fix it and move forward, which is what I think he did," Butler said. "Instead, we are trying to put a face on the data to make it look good, when it's not."
Butler said she does not know all the information about Karg's dismissal, but that it "certainly looks suspicious." She plans to ask district officials about it at the board's Monday meeting, she added.
"He has volunteered his time and I think he did this with the best intentions," she said. "If he was dismissed because he presented data in a way that the administration didn't approve of, I couldn't support that."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
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