Newly released documents related to Mineola ISD Superintendent Dr. Kim Tunnell shed some light on her sudden resignation, which shocked the community on Thursday night.

Dozens of community members packed the Mineola ISD board room on Thursday for a special called meeting regarding a separation agreement between the district and its superintendent.

As the board voted to approve Tunnell’s resignation, community members demanded answers but were given none. The board refused to comment on the situation.

The separation agreement signed by Tunnell and the board show her resignation effective by either Jan. 31, 2020, or the date she becomes employed in another school district.

The five-page agreement shows Tunnell will be reassigned to the position of assistant to the interim or acting superintendent for the remainder of her employment, and she will be paid her current full salary through the resignation date. She also will be awarded a severance payment of $117,771, which is the equivalent of 10 months salary and benefits.

The district posted an agenda for a special called meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the hiring of an interim superintendent in closed, executive session. The agenda lists an action item in open session for consideration of a professional contract for 2019-20.

Tunnell’s contract was renewed in February 2018 for three years, and was set to expire Aug. 31, 2021.

In the agreement, Tunnell agrees to not sue or bring other legal or administrative action against the district.

While the documents shed light on the nature of the separation, questions remain such as the reasons that prompted the separation, which party initiated the move and when the board asked its legal counsel to draw up the legally binding agreement.

The agreement also includes a clause of “no admission of liability” and a nondisclosure agreement, meaning Tunnell and the district cannot legally discuss the separation agreement. A nondisparagement clause prevents both parties from making disparaging comments, and states the board and employees agree to refrain from making negative comments to potential future employers.

Included in the documents is a letter of recommendation for employment for Tunnell written by board president Dr. John Abbott, as well as a joint statement from the board and Tunnell. Both documents are complimentary of Tunnell’s work in the district, and offer no details about reasons for the separation.

JOINT STATEMENT

Eleven pages of documents were released. The joint statement from the board and Tunnell reads as follows:

Dr. Kim Tunnell has announced her resignation as superintendent of schools for the Mineola Independent School District. An agreement has been reached which allows Dr. Tunnell the ability to pursue other interests and permits the Board to pursue hiring another Superintendent.

The board and Dr. Tunnell have entered into the agreement believing it is in their respective best interests and in the best interests of the district. Prior to the date of her resignation Dr. Tunnell will remain employed in the district as special assistant to the interim or acting superintendent.

On behalf of the entire district, the board of trustees expresses its sincere appreciation to Dr. Tunnell for her efforts while serving as superintendent of this great school district and its wonderful students, parents and administrators, and for the many achievements and accomplishments of the entire district team during Dr. Tunnell’s tenure as superintendent, some of the most notable of which are:

• Raised test scores with district gains as documented in the State A-F Accountability System from 69 to 85 in overall performance the past 3 years and from 74 to 86 in student achievement.

• Expanded CTE programming options available and created new pathways in Health Science, Welding, Industrial Maintenance, Education, and Information Technology.

• Increased dual credit opportunities for almost three times the number of students with triple the number of courses taken.

• Sought after and was awarded over 1.7 million dollars over the past four years in grant funding from TEA and state agencies including the award of a $267,000 in Texas Workforce Commission (JET) grant for welding.

• Increased community engagement with Literacy Partner program and creation of Mineola ISD Education Foundation.

• Established District MISD Police Department and hiring of two district police officers.

Dr. Tunnell thanks the present and past board of trustees for providing her with the opportunity to serve in the Mineola Independent School District. A school district is measured by the commitment of the board, staff and community to its children and their achievements. This District is indeed so committed. Dr. Tunnell would like to express her heartfelt appreciation to the staff and community for their support of the district’s programs and services during her term as superintendent.

Success requires hard work, dedication, leadership and vision. The board and Dr. Tunnell wish to acknowledge and recognize the teachers, principals, administrators, staff, students, parents and patrons who have all contributed to the district’s success.

The board extends its best wishes to Dr. Tunnell in her future endeavors. On its part, the board will soon begin its search for a new superintendent as not to disrupt the district’s operations.

TWITTER: @TMT_Cory

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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