More charges leveled at West Side Elementary principal

John Thompson • Apr 12, 2013 at 9:32 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The controversy in the Elizabethton City School System between Superintendent Ed Alexander and West Side Elementary Principal Doug Mitchell escalated on Friday afternoon when Alexander sent a letter to the members of the Board of Education in which he said “I now feel I must give more detail/evidence to support my recommendation.”

Alexander listed five charges in his letter that he did not address in detail at a April 4 meeting with concerned West Side parents. He said he did not reveal those details at the time because he wanted to shield any innocent individuals, but he now felt he needed to provide the additional information.

Those details included an alleged case of harassment between Mitchell and a West Side teacher that forced her to request a transfer to another school, failure to follow instructions on the proper procedures to rate teachers, attendance problems and shifting responsibilities at staff meetings, inappropriate joking about drugs and his behavior at the April 4 meeting with parents.

Mitchell was reached for a response to Alexander’s charges, but said he had not yet seen the letter to board members and would respond today after he had a chance to read the document.

Alexander’s first charge was the alleged relationship between Mitchell and the female teacher. Alexander said he became aware of the problem at the beginning of this school year after the teacher complained to the administrative staff.

Alexander said the teacher said it began during the 2009-10 school year when Mitchell initiated conversations with her about his personal and marital problems. Some of the conversations allegedly took place in person at the school and others were by telephone. Alexander said the teacher complained that the conversations became more aggressive and the calls more prolonged, lasting 60 to 90 minutes.

Alexander said the teacher was married and told Mitchell she was not interested in establishing a romantic relationship with him.

Because the behavior continued, Alexander said the teacher requested a transfer from West Side for the 2011-12 school year. After that, she said Mitchell made frequent visits to her new school and continued to call her several times a day. Alexander said the teacher finally complained to her new principal and the administration. That led Assistant Superintendent Richard VanHuss to counsel Mitchell. After the counseling, Mitchell stopped visiting her school and making phone calls to her.

Alexander said there was no question Mitchell’s conduct “was inappropriate, unprofessional and a reflection of poor judgment.”

Alexander also discussed a meeting he had with Mitchell in which he discussed the principal’s “attendance problems and shifting of responsibilities” at staff functions. He told Mitchell he had missed two board meetings, a principal’s meeting and the last parent-teacher conference day.

Alexander’s third charge was that Mitchell failed to follow VanHuss’ instructions to all principals to use the iPad and RANDA Tower to complete all teacher observations and to use model lesson plans. He said Mitchell was the only principal who did not comply. He said when Supervisor John Hutchins tried to reconcile the data at the end of the school year, West Side appeared to have over 400 errors because of Mitchell’s noncompliance. He said this caused extra work for Hutchins.

Alexander also complained about a statement Mitchell made at a conference between the parents of a student and the staff. Alexander said that during the meeting, Mitchell said he had back pain and it was a “four-Lortab day.” Alexander said “the remark, even if intended to be some sort of joke, was completely out of place.” He said it was improper for an educator to make light of drug abuse.

Alexander’s final complaints were about Mitchell’s actions at the April 4 meeting. He said Mitchell’s behavior was “appalling.”

Alexander said Mitchell “used” his supporters because he knew the background of Alexander’s eight complaints against him while his supporters did not. “It was obvious that through his conduct and comments he intended to further inflame the situation.” He said Mitchell’s behavior was “simply a further manifestation of the very lack of judgment and sense of propriety that caused me not to recommend him as principal in the first place.”

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