Bradley County Board of Education to rehire dismissed teacher 'without bias'

Bradley County Board of Education to rehire dismissed teacher 'without bias'

June 20th, 2014 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Attorney Chris McCarty advised the Bradley County Board of Education not to appeal a judge's order to rehire teacher Susan Elliot, who was dismissed in 2012.

Photo by Paul Leach/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Bradley County Board of Education has agreed not to appeal a judge's order to rehire a teacher who was dismissed in 2012.

The school board voted 5-0 Wednesday to rehire Susan Elliot "without bias" after legal counsel Chris McCarty recommended the board not appeal the reversal order by Hamilton County Chancellor W. Frank Brown III last week. Brown's decision also calls for the school system to provide back pay to Elliot.

Two board members, Rodney Dillard and Christy Critchfield, were absent from the special meeting.

Brown's order would be given a standard of "presumption of correctness" and would put the board in the position of the underdog if it pursued an appeal, McCarty said.

"Because this case has gone back and forth, because you're talking about taxpayer money, my recommendation ... is I don't think it's worth the money," he said. "It has nothing to do with the facts, nothing to do with the original decision -- just the standard."

Although no action was required by the board if it did not wish to appeal the order, board member Troy Weathers made a motion to reinstate Elliot to "send a signal."

Board member Nicholas Lillios asked that the reinstatement motion include the wording "without bias" to reflect intentions not to relegate Elliot "to the bowels of one of the schools or the back corner of the central office."

The Bradley County Board of Education voted 4-3 in October 2012 to dismiss Elliot for "unprofessional conduct" and "incompetence," with board members Vicki Beaty, Nicholas Lillios and Chris Turner opposing the measure.

Elliot, who served as a teacher at Hopewell Elementary, was suspended in July 2012 after she was arrested on a domestic assault charge filed by a former boyfriend. The boyfriend later recanted, and the charge was dropped.

Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel ordered Bradley County Elementary Supervisor Sheena Newman and Hopewell Principal Tim Riggs to conduct interviews with teachers at the school about Elliot in October.

Elliot did not create lesson plans, refused to teach social studies, shopped online during class and smoked around the school, according to complaints cited in those interviews. The school board voted on her dismissal the day the interviews were conducted.

Brown's decision stated that the reasons given for Elliot's dismissal were flawed and manufactured because the domestic assault charge was dropped and she had received a positive performance evaluation in May 2012.

"I did not make my recommendation to dismiss Ms. Elliot lightly, but I would make it again to ensure our students are provided with only professional and responsible teachers," McDaniel said in a statement released late last week.

Elliot could not be reached Thursday for comment.

However, she has expressed gratitude on her Facebook page: "It is officially over and I have my job back! God is good!"

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.