Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 21, 2013

Principal's demotion hearing to be public

Supporters of Cook not allowed to speak at meeting

Mike James
The Independent

LLOYD — An appeal hearing for demoted Wurtland Elementary School principal Barbara Cook will be open to the public at Cook’s request.

“I have nothing to hide,” said Cook Monday after the Greenup County Board of Education meeting, where a group of her supporters were not permitted to speak to the board.



Cook called the demotion by Superintendent Steve Hall retaliation and punishment for disagreements over school decisions. “Too many things are being decided behind closed doors.”

Her hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. June 10 at the board office in Lloyd.

Cook said she was demoted May 8, just days after filing a grievance against Hall. The grievance followed an April meeting with Hall which she described as “a badgering type meeting.”

Before filing the grievance, Cook said, she sought a meeting with Hall and board attorney James W. Lyon Jr. to discuss what she called harassment and discrimination, but was rebuffed.

Cook said she was given an ultimatum, to retire as principal at the end of December or to be demoted to classroom teacher.

Evaluations for Cook’s past two years, copies of which were provided to The Independent, show Cook meeting all standards. In some areas of her 2013 evaluation the document indicates “growth needed.”

“Last year’s evaluation was perfect ... I fail to see how you go from perfect to demotion,” she said.

Cook said she thinks the demotion was retaliation because she openly disagrees with Hall on some decisions made at Wurtland Elementary.

Hall denied the demotion was retaliatory. “That personnel decision was made prior to Ms. Cook filing the grievance,” he said. Hall declined further comment because Cook’s hearing hasn’t been held yet. “I’m not at liberty to discuss the grounds for the demotion,” he said.

Supporters at the meeting wanted to submit petitions and speak on Cook’s behalf, but Lyon told them they wouldn’t be allowed to.

The petitions and testimonials would be inappropriate because the appeal hearing will be held in front of the board, which would be acting essentially as a jury, he said after the meeting.

Such hearings usually are closed to the public, but the affected employee has the option of opening it, he said.

Supporters brought 353 petition signatures, all of them from current, former and future Wurtland Elementary parents, said April Stephens, who had planned to speak to the board.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.