Michael Nellums said his "reitrement" June 14 as principal of Mills High School was routine and unrelated to the completed investigation of his role in a reported scheme to damage the reputation of a Pulaski County School Board member.
That raised some questions. It's been a busy day in the District, what with Nellums' issues, a School Board member's resignation, a criminal FOI complaint and the pending question of whether state officials will put the hammer down on the district and oust leadership.
An update on some of those questions:
1) The district has confirmed that the letter Nellums sent me last night is his retirement letter.
According to Human Resources, the formal letter Mr. Nellums sent last night is a statement we received that he requested be disseminated to interested parties and is not part of his personnel file. The District does not require letters of resignation on retirement, rather, there is a short form employees complete to state their intent to leave. That form was completed yesterday afternoon by Mr. Nellums, and is a part of his personnel file.
2) To a question about when the Board approved contracts and when they took effect, to gauge Nellums' veracity in saying this was something routine.
Mr. Nellums 2011-2012 contract —and other certified staff contracts— were approved by the Board on April 12, 2011 and have a start date of July 1, 2011. His contract is now null and void given his retirement.
3) Since he doesn't effectively retire until July 1, why not complete the investigation and why not have the superintendent issue a ruling — either clearance or firing — in the case. In short, why not fire him? Or clear him?
With regard to saving the taxpayers two weeks' pay if the superintendent moved forward and just fired Nellums, the costs to the taxpayers would far exceed that amount. Dr. Hopson can only make a recommendation for termination to the Board under the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act. Mr. Nellums would have 30 days after receipt of the superintendent's recommendation to request a hearing before the Board. A hearing would be set within 20 days of his written request. Following the hearing, (in which the District would have to pay for the court reporter, the transcript and for a hearing officer), the Board would have 10 days to decide to either uphold the recommendation, reject it, or modify it. Then, Mr. Nellums could appeal the Board's decision to the circuit court within 75 days of receipt of the Board's decision. The entire process could take months and even years of litigation for a final resolution. So, if Dr. Hopson had reviewed the report and made a recommendation this week as planned, the termination would not be immediate given the due process requirements. This matter would have stretched out long beyond June 30th and would have been costly financially and emotionally for the families of this District. The termination issue became moot upon Nellums submitting his paperwork to leave the District, and it is our hope that the focus can now shift back to educating the students.