Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tonganoxie high school, middle school principals resign

March 21, 2007

Separate agreements spell out the terms under which Tonganoxie High School principal Tatia Shelton and Tonganoxie Middle School assistant principal Darren Neas will resign their posts but continue being paid through June 30.

The agreements, which as of Tuesday had not been signed by Shelton or Neas, are "an effort to settle any differences ... in an amicable and expeditious manner while acting in the best interests of both parties."

The five-page documents delineate that the two administrators will be allowed to finish out the contract year while on paid leave of absence. Shelton's contracted salary for the 2006-2007 school year is $77,543. Neas' salary is $68,299.

In return, the agreements stipulate that Shelton and Neas can't sue the school district.

At an emotionally charged school board meeting Friday night that Shelton and Neas did not attend, the board voted 6-0 to accept their resignations.

Their resignations follow suspensions assigned to the two earlier this month.

School district officials, as well as Shelton and Neas, would not say why the two were put on three-day suspensions March 8.

The board lifted the suspension March 12. However, Shelton and Neas still did not return to work on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, and spring break began on Thursday.

In a phone interview after Friday's board meeting, Shelton said it was time for her to leave.

"I just think, the situation as it was, just created a situation where I didn't feel like I would be able to effectively continue in this position," Shelton said. "For my family's sake I'm just ready to move on."

In an earlier interview with The Mirror, Shelton said a high school administrator was a visible position and she often felt as if she had a target on her back. She also said earlier she felt her personal life was being attacked.

However, Shelton said despite her resignation, she had no animosity toward the school district.

"I have a deep respect for the board of education and the Tonganoxie school district," said Shelton, who became principal in summer 2004.

During Shelton's tenure with the district, the high school's average ACT test scores rose from 21 to 23 and THS made steady gains on state assessment tests. She initiated programs, such as freshman orientation, senior projects and an academic eligibility policy for students involved in school-sponsored activities.

Neas, who had worked for the school district since 1999 and has been assistant principal of the middle school since 2001, said he had enjoyed his time here.

"There is no evidence to suggest that I have not performed the duties required and represented the school professionally and diligently," Neas said.

However, he added, "Recent events make it difficult for me to maintain the stature necessary to effectively carry out my duties. I hold no malice toward anyone and regret having to make this decision."

Immediately following Friday's school board meeting, board president Kay Smith issued this written statement, "Classroom teachers are the backbone of this district. Teachers have the ability to shut the classroom door and close out all the chaos. It is time to put closure on this situation and to turn the focus of this school back to the business of education."

In other action, the board approved one-year contracts for Superintendent Richard Erickson, acting grade school principal Tammie George, middle school principal Steve Woolf and high school assistant principal Brent Smith.

Moore said Brent Smith would fill in as acting high school principal during the remainder of the school year. He won't be the only acting principal in the district.

George, who is acting grade school principal, is filling in for former principal Jerry Daskoski, who resigned in December when faced with the possibility of losing his license related to a 2005 Wichita shoplifting charge. Daskoski fulfilled his terms of a diversion agreement and was not convicted of a crime.

However, the state board of education voted in January to revoke his administrator's license.

And that's not all the possible turnovers in district administrative positions. Middle school principal Steve Woolf, whose annual contract board members approved Friday, announced earlier last week he had applied to become Kansas' Commissioner of Education.

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