A former Hancock County school administrator has filed a whistleblower lawsuit, claiming that her contract wasn’t renewed because she voiced concerns about school board members.
The suit filed May 12 by Susie Jones, the school district’s former curriculum director, names the Hancock County school district and Superintendent Charles Culver as defendants.
An attorney representing the school district declined comment Wednesday, saying he had not seen the lawsuit. A phone message left for Culver was not returned.
The Georgia Board of Education was notified in August 2015 that the Hancock County school district had been placed under review by AdvancED, a school accreditation agency, and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, also known as SACS.
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Poor reviews from AdvancED led to the school district being placed on probationary status — the last step before losing accreditation.
AdvancED findings dating to 2015 include improper board operation and failure to follow good policies on hiring and firing.
In a September 2016 update report, AdvancED wrote, “At this point, the repeated inappropriate behaviors, in violation of policy by the Hancock County Board of Education, have continued and have prevented any effective school improvement processes from being effectively implemented.”
The state Board of Education had been scheduled to meet May 4 to decide whether to recommend that Gov. Nathan Deal dismiss all five members of the Hancock County school board for cause, but the hearing was postponed to Aug. 24, according to an order granting the continuance.
The order shows the accreditation agencies planned to return to Hancock County in May to review the district’s progress
According to the lawsuit:
While still employed by the school district, Jones talked with an AdvancED interview team in May 2015 and talked about violations of the Board of Education’s Board Code of Ethics.
Violations Jones mentioned included board members interfering with the day-to-day operations of the district and one or more members using their office for “personal gain.”
The interview team selected staff from the school district to be interviewed May 12 and May 13, 2015. At the conclusion of the interviews, the team “briefed” Culver and the district on what they’d learned.
On May 14, 2015, Jones was notified that her contract wouldn’t be renewed for the 2015-2016 school year. The following day, she was offered a contract as a teacher for the 2015-2016 school year.
Jones contends she lost wages and suffered emotional trauma, humiliation and distress.
She’s asking that a judge award her compensation for her damages, back wages, attorneys fees and court costs and other relief.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.