Martin Ringstaff, the Cleveland City Schools director who has admitted to sending sexually explicit messages to a woman who is not his wife, can be fired for immorality, according to his contract.
Ringstaff's contract, which the school board extended in February 2015, lists reasons why the board can fire him with cause. Among that list is "conduct unbecoming to a member of the teaching profession." And under that subsection is a second list that includes immorality.
School board Chairwoman Dawn Robinson has not returned multiple calls seeking comment this week, but she and the rest of the system's elected officials are scheduled to meet today at noon to discuss Ringstaff.
Chuck Cagle, an attorney for the school board, said the system's elected officials do not necessarily have to fire Ringstaff for behavior they determine to be immoral.
"The board always has the option about whether they will terminate or not," he said. "If they decide to terminate, that's one of the things that they can consider: Does this conduct rise to the level of immoral conduct?"
On Sunday, an unknown person launched a Twitter account showing screenshots of Facebook messages between Ringstaff and a woman who has not been identified. In the messages, the woman offers to meet him in nothing but a raincoat. Ringstaff tells her he will have sex with her in a parking lot. He also compliments her breasts and sends her an image of his penis.
Ringstaff did not return multiple calls from the Times Free Press, but in a statement Monday he said the messages came from a relationship he had with a woman about a year ago.
"My wife, Heather, and I have worked through these issues and are committed to our family and moving past my mistakes," he said. "With the support of the Cleveland City Schools Board of Education, I am dedicated to serving the students of Cleveland."
Ringstaff and his wife, a math teacher at Cleveland High School, have been married for 14 years. Ringstaff became the school system's director in 2011. After his extension last year, he is under contract through 2019, and he now makes $140,000 per year.
In a media release Monday night, a spokesperson for the school system said the board of education unanimously supports Ringstaff. Legally, however, the school board has not been able to discuss this controversy until today - their first public meeting since the Twitter account exposed Ringstaff's messages.
The author of the Twitter account, who has not revealed his identity, told the Times Free Press that he or she received copies of the messages in question from the husband of the woman who was chatting with Ringstaff.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6476.