Former WC principal denied reinstatement Rodney Smith claims lies, retaliation

Published 11:29 am Friday, January 27, 2012

Despite claims of retaliation and lies, Rodney Smith was denied his request Thursday night for reinstatement as principal of Warren Central High School.

In a closed session following a three-hour meeting of the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees, members voted 4-0, with one abstention, for Smith to continue in his reclassified position as “administrator on assignment.”

Smith, who was suspended from his post Nov. 10 and in December moved to the district office, addressed the board in open session during its monthly business meeting.

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He was prevented from identifying specific individuals, but said he was the target of retaliation and lies after he filed a complaint against a district employee.

A written statement released by Smith identified the employee as the “Assistant Superintendent.” Two individuals hold that title in the VWSD — Paula Johnson, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; and Debra Hullum, assistant superintendent for operations.

“On Oct. 23,…I wrote a letter to the superintendent in order to follow board policy governing grievances and mainly to provide written documentation showing concerns that I had with the assistant superintendent and her intimidating and unprofessional manner, including her frequent threats of termination of my employment…,” Smith wrote. “Two and a half weeks later… I was summoned to (her) office where she presented me with a memorandum accusing me of failing to perform my duties as principal and false accusations concerning my behavior.”

Smith, who cited Warren Central’s gains in test scores and state ratings from Academic Watch to Successful in support of his performance, said he requested a hearing, which was provided, and submitted written responses to the allegations.

He did not specify the nature or character of the accusations, but said the district did not obtain written documentation of them.

He also chastised trustees for a telephone poll vote taken to appoint an interim principal to the WCHS post and accused them of making up their minds on his employment status before they heard the facts.

An agenda item trustees unanimously approved Thursday night ratified that Dec. 20 poll, which called for former Vicksburg High School assistant principal and coach Jamie Creel to remain the interim principal of WCHS until the end of the school year. A 4-1 vote was recorded — District 3 Trustee Jim Stirgus Jr. dissenting — and District 2 Trustee Zelmarine Murphy requested that the position be advertised for the 2012-13 school year, according to Thursday night’s agenda item.

Trustees listened without comment or reaction as Smith read his statement. District 4 Trustee Joe Loviza abstained in the vote on Smith, who could not be reached for comment after the meeting or this morning.

Board attorney Briggs Hopson said he could not comment on Smith’s potential avenues of appeal.

The business meeting included presentations by a state Department of Education team charged with helping two district schools improve their accountability ratings — Vicksburg Junior High and Warren Central Intermediate — or face becoming charter schools, and by the principals of those schools, Dr. Michael Winters and Tonya Magee,

Winters and Magee summarized the findings of the state team and explained the teaching strategies and materials being used to implement the recommendations, particularly with regard to small group, differentiated instruction of students with differing learning styles and abilities and increasing rigor.