Ooltewah High School Principal Mark Bean and Assistant Principal Beverly Hollingsworth have been suspended without pay while school district officials investigate a claim of "unprofessional conduct" between the two.
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith wouldn't comment on the specific allegation against the pair. But he said both were on leave as of Friday morning. The school system started investigating Thursday, he said.
Bean has been the principal at Ooltewah High -- the county's second-largest school -- since 2009. Before that, he worked in administration at East Ridge High and Central High. He started his education career as a teacher and coach at Ooltewah.
Hollingsworth was promoted this year to the assistant principal job. Before that, she served as an English and leadership teacher and oversaw Ooltewah High School's International Baccalaureate program.
Smith said Bean was not responsible for Hollingsworth's promotion. While principals may weigh in on assistant principal selections, the superintendent said such decisions happen in the central office.
"I make those assignments," he said. "Principals don't have that autonomy."
It didn't take long for word of Bean's departure to spread Friday morning. Teachers said students were abuzz all day. News and speculation abounded on Twitter and Facebook.
"It's been a little weird," said a teacher who didn't want to be named. "Classes have gone on as usual. But the kids are just asking a lot of questions, whispering in the halls. It's all still rumor mill."
The superintendent met with teachers in the school's auditorium Friday after school. He told them it was unlikely that Hollingsworth and Bean would return to Ooltewah and that the central office was working on filling the two open administrative positions. For now, Assistant Principal Jim Jarvis is interim principal.
Smith said he encouraged teachers on Friday to prepare for Monday, when 1,600 teenagers would return to the school.
"The important thing now is that all the good things happening at Ooltewah High School continue," he said. "We need to prepare ourselves to show leadership in a tough moment."
At Friday night's Tyner Academy-hosted football game, Ooltewah parents continued the quiet conversation about Bean and Hollingsworth.
In the visitor stands, there were many "I just found out" and "It was the top news today" statements, broken by applause or jeers for on-field action.
Some families still didn't know. George Thomas just returned from Florida. His granddaughter went to Ooltewah, and his grandson went to Tyner.
"This is the first I've heard about it," he said. He played quarterback at Whitwell High School in the 1950s.
Many others simply didn't want to talk to media about it. One Tyner faculty member called Bean and Hollingsworth's situation "very unfortunate," but said he could not comment further on it -- "as a Hamilton County employee," he said.
Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249.