Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 11, 2013

Former principal’s demotion upheld

Concerns included Claxon’s absence, timely processing of education plans

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Court of Appeals has upheld the Greenup County Board of Education’s decision to demote a former middle school principal.

In a ruling handed down last month, a three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected Phillip Tracy Claxon’s appeal of a lower court ruling in his civil lawsuit against the board and Superintendent Steve Hall. Special Judge Rebecca Phillips entered an order in Greenup Circuit Court affirming the board’s action in September 2011.

Claxon appealed Phillips’ ruling. The appeals court heard oral arguments in the case in January in the western Kentucky city of Bardwell.

According to the appeals court’s 12-page ruling, Claxon was employed by the district for 22 years, including more than 10 years as an administrator. In May 2009, while Claxon was principal of Wurtland Middle School, he and then-Superintendent Randy Hughes entered into a corrective action plan regarding several areas of Claxon’s performance.

The key areas of concern were Claxon’s excessive absenteeism from work, the maintenance and timely processing of special education referrals and individual education plans and the occurrence of regular site-based council meetings, the ruling states.

The plan required Claxon to contact the superintendent directly if he was going to miss work and for him to miss no more than one day a month, according to the ruling. The document also stated “administrative changes will occur for the 2010-11 school year in the event that the aforementioned corrective actions are not successfully implemented.” Claxon and Hughes both signed off on the plan.

In December 2009, Hughes told Claxon he was being transferred to the district’s central office and promoted to the position of director of district programs, effective in January. However, in April 2010, Hughes informed Claxon of a reduction of responsibility and pay for the next school year. The following month, Claxon told the board he planned to contest the demotion and requested he be provided with the reasons why he was being demoted, the ruling states.

Hughes provided Claxon with seven reasons for his demotion, including extremely poor work attendance, failure to ensure special education documentation and timelines are maintained and failure to have regularly scheduled site-based council meetings.

Claxon’s demotion hearing was  June 14, 2010. At the hearing, Hall, then acting superintendent, testified Claxon had missed 38 1⁄2 days of work between Sept. 1, 2009, and June 17, 2010, including the period between April 26, 2010, and June 9, 2010, for which he was medically excused. However, Claxon still exceeded the one-absence-per-month limit set forth in the corrective action plan, according to the ruling.

The board also heard testimony that WMS was non-compliant in special education in at least two areas where federal rules required 100 percent compliance, the ruling states.

In his appeal Claxon argued  the board’s decision to demote him was not supported by evidence because the grounds given for his demotion were based on events that occurred while he was in his previous position at WMS; that the grounds for his demotion were not provided to him with the specificity required by state law, and that the trial court misinterpreted testimony by Claxon and others given at the demotion hearing. The appeals court rejected all three arguments.

However, while finding the board acted according to law, the judges advised the school district to exercise greater prudence regarding future personnel decisions.

“ ... we would advise against the promotion of an employee when concerns persist which are likely to result in his or her demotion,” the ruling states. “While there may be administrative or policy-based reasons for doing so, such an action only muddies the legal waters and clouds an appellate court’s review with confusion, and even suspicion.”

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • In GOP South, pushback against Obama climate rules

    In the Republican-heavy Southeast, critics said Tuesday that a plan by President Barack Obama’s administration to cut pollution would raise electricity prices, result in job losses and may not significantly curtail the carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

    July 29, 2014

  • AK Steel posts smaller 2Q loss

    AK Steel Holding Corp. (AKS) on Tuesday reported a smaller loss in its second quarter, and topped analysts' expectations.

    July 29, 2014

  • ambulance.jpg UPDATE: Major impact downtown in accident

    A morning accident left an ambulance resting on its side Tuesday morning in front of the Paramount Arts Center on Winchester Avenue.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Jesse Stuart Foundation celebrates 35 years

    The annual Jesse Stuart Foundation Open House from noon to 6 p.m. on Aug. 8 will be a huge celebration.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • 0729hagerman.jpg Hagerman talks law with Rotary

    At Monday’s lunchtime meeting of the Ashland Rotary Club, Boyd County Circuit Court Judge C. David Hagerman summed up current local legal trends — and how cases, courts and criminals have changed during his 20-plus year tenure.
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • POLICE BEAT: Houseguest steals valuables, nabbed at pawn shop

    Fish and houseguests both stink after three days — and much less time when a visitor pockets valuables without permission.
     

    July 28, 2014

  • 0728bank5.jpg Iconic Gate City bank torn down after partial collapse

    This weekend, Catlettsburg’s downtown silhouette lost one of its longest-lived landmarks.
    Demolition workers began to tear down one of the Gate City’s oldest downtown buildings following the former Catlettsburg National Bank’s partial collapse.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • Study shows room for parking improvement

    It has been suggested that the parking layout along Winchester Avenue should change, bringing the city’s main thoroughfare down to two lanes.

    July 28, 2014

  • Anti-smoking tour kicks off in Ashland

    A scan in 2009 that was supposed to show doctors what was causing Deborah Cline’s eye problems by chance revealed the cancer in her lung.
    Two years later, Roger Cline watched his wife die of lung cancer. Deborah Cline was 59 and had never smoked.

    July 28, 2014

  • 0728bank5.jpg Gate City landmark demolished

    The historic Catlettsburg National Bank Building was being taken down after the front dormer window collapsed on Sunday.

    July 28, 2014 4 Photos