The Bradley County Board of Education on Wednesday decided not to appeal Chancellor Frank Brown’s decision concerning the firing of Susan Elliot.
The board made the decision to let go of Ms. Elliot over a 2012 domestic assault arrest and varied allegations of misconduct in the classroom. The charges made against Ms. Elliot by the board included neglect of duty, unprofessional conduct, and unfitness to teach.
The domestic abuse charge was never prosecuted, as the accuser recanted his story. Chancellor Brown later overturned her firing, finding that all of the accusations against the teacher to be largely unfounded.
Board Chair Vikki Beaty informed the board that if an appeal is to be made that it must be done by July 10 - just about three weeks away.
Board attorney Chris McCarty opened the meeting with an overview of the case so far and a recommendation that the board not pursue an appeal of the decision, adding while Ms. Elliot should be hired back per the Chancellor's decision, she should not return to Hopewell Elementary.
Attorney McCarty stated that without an appeal, the chancellor's decision is automatic and mandates that Ms. Elliot being rehired as a tenured teacher and receive full back pay for the time period that she was out of work. Mr. McCarty based his recommendation on the chancellor's standard of review.
Mr. McCarty stated that during an appeal the chancellor’s finding receives what is called a presumption of correctness and, while this does not make winning an appeal impossible, it does make it very difficult and possibly very costly to the taxpayers of Bradley County.
Board member Troy Weathers moved to vote to officially approve the chancellor’s decision; Board Member Nicholas Lillios introduced an amendment to the motion, adding that Ms. Elliot should be re-hired without bias.
Mr. Lillios said, “I don’t want to see, because we’ve been through this, this teacher be mistreated by the system when she returns and relegated to the bowels of one of the schools or the back corner of the central office. I think this matter should be put to rest fully.”
Board member Chris Turner stated, “I encourage Mr. McDaniel to be very sensitive to the fact that only are we obligated to teach our kids, but we are also obligated to be a fair and unbiased employer. When you look at this ruling, I interpret it as we didn’t do much correctly if every single element of the case against this teacher was reversed.”
Mr. Turner pointed out that in reading the chancellor’s decision he found that in reviewing Ms. Elliot’s employee evaluations stated that she was a capable and competent teacher and suggested that the district add some more context and tone to their review process. The board voted 5 to 0 in favor of the amended motion. Board members Christy Critchfield and Rodney Dillard were absent.
Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel defended his original stance and recommendation to fire stating that he felt that he made the right decision based on the information presented at the time and his desire to protect the children that attend Bradley County Schools.