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Some of the people Roger Morris moved into other jobs this summer have been reinstated.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
STUART — Embattled Patrick County Schools Superintendent Roger Morris is no longer leading the school system, and some educators moved during a series of controversial reassignments in June were reinstated to their former posts.
The latter came after a hastily called, 2 1⁄2 hour school board meeting that was conducted largely behind closed doors. Before a crowd of 40 in cramped boardroom, school board members spoke briefly before moving quickly into closed session, citing personnel and consultation with legal counsel regarding pending litigation.
While the board met, the crowd outside the school system’s administrative office grew. About 60 people waited outside, some setting up lawn chairs to sit.
After the meeting, school board Chairman Ronnie Terry said Morris is on paid medical leave, which started Monday and would conclude Sept. 6. He did not comment on why Morris was on leave. He said Dean Gilbert, the system’s assistant superintendent, is serving in his place.
Morris has been dogged in recent months by complaints he retaliated against teachers helping a state investigation. The Virginia Department of Education investigation found that several high school students were awarded diplomas and credits they didn’t earn.
Last month negotiations to shorten Morris’ contract started after a group from the school system brought their concerns to the Virginia Board of Education. Morris has said he did not agree with most of the statements made to the board.
His recently extended contract was due to expire in 2015, but officials were eyeing the end of next school year as the end of his tenure.
Terry said Thursday that those terms had not yet been finalized and changes would likely wait until Morris was no longer on medical leave. He did not comment further.
The issues in Patrick County have reached a fever pitch in recent months and many frustrated citizens were in attendance hoping for resolution Thursday.
Before the state investigation, a move to reduce incentive payments to teachers who had retired early riled former educators. Last year, the then-chairman of the county’s board of supervisors called for the superintendent to go and the superintendent sued him for defamation, seeking $10.35 million.
Terry said four of the teachers who had filed complaints against the system after being reassigned were reinstated to their former positions. The changes go into effect Monday. The new school year started Wednesday.
The move was a step in the right direction for some citizens, who applauded after the vote at Thursday’s meeting, but there’s still marked frustration for those who live in the rural county of 18,700.
Karen Wood, former director of instruction, was among those who transferred and complained, citing retaliation, but was not was not reinstated. Her new post moved her to an offsite building to handle primarily the system’s adult education.
“It has little to do with looking at curriculum and instruction,” she said of her current job. “There doesn’t seem to be any logical or justifiable reason this occurred.”
After the meeting she said she doesn’t know what her next step will be.
“Disappointed doesn’t describe it,” she said.
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