Dozens rally during JCPS board meeting for fired Norton Elementa - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Dozens rally during JCPS board meeting for fired Norton Elementary principal Ken Stites

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Parents and community members rally against the district's firing of Norton Elementary School Ken Stites on Tuesday before a school board meeting (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News) Parents and community members rally against the district's firing of Norton Elementary School Ken Stites on Tuesday before a school board meeting (Photo by Toni Konz, WDRB News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Dozens of parents, students and community members gathered before the Jefferson County Board of Education meeting on Tuesday to rally against the district's firing of their longtime principal.

The group, wearing maroon colored T-shirts and signs that read "I Stand With Stites" and chanting their support of Ken Stites as they walked up and down Newburg Road and Bishop Lane, say they are furious with JCPS over its decision to fire him.

During the 7 p.m. meeting, two people addressed the school board on the firing, which happened on May 30 following a district investigation. Stites' termination letter claims he gave false or misleading information on his daughter's student assignment applications.

Ken Rosenbaum, a retired district administrator who volunteers at Norton, told the board that the school is "not broken."

"It does not need to be fixed," he said.

Rosenbaum says he "couldn't help but wonder -- is there a witch hunt going on? Is it because a very outspoken man has offended someone in power?"

Deanna Ferreira, a Norton parent, became emotional when talking about Stites. She noted several other rallies that have occurred since May 30 to support Stites, including one on June 1 that drew more than 150 people.

"It speaks volumes that current and former parents, students and community members have shown up to support Mr. Stites," she said.

By law, the school board is not responsible for the hiring or firing of individual employees of the school district, with the exception of the superintendent. Board members listened to the comments but did not say anything during the meeting about it.

As part of his termination, district officials called into question where Stites children were living, since he owns a home in Indiana. Stites says the district sent a private investigator to an apartment he is renting.

The former principal says his daughters were lawfully living with a relative in Jefferson County, allowing them to attend school in JCPS.

"My daughters were living with a relative who had power of attorney, their education and guardianship," Stites said, adding that his understanding was that this was "perfectly fine."

"The allegations made against him are just basically false," said attorney Will Walsh. "My client has never misrepresented anything to the district." 

In addition to the residency issue, the district also states in its termination letter that allegations were made that Stites had "improperly overstaffed a position at your school and had inappropriately influenced your SBDM council to defund and remove the position from your school completely."

Norton Elementary is one of the district's highest performing schools and was recently asked to submit an application to be recognized as part of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program later this fall, which recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Stites has appealed the district's firing to the state and has asked for a public tribunal to hear his case.

nder state law, any certified public school employee who is terminated, suspended without pay or publicly reprimanded has the right to appeal the superintendent's decision to a tribunal. The panel consists of an active or retired teacher, an administrator and a lay person -- none of whom reside in the county involved in the dispute.

During a tribunal hearing, both sides subpoena witnesses to testify and who are subject to cross-examination by the other side. Each side also introduces exhibits to prove their case.

The tribunal panel then has five days to render a decision with a majority vote. The decision is binding and may be appealed to circuit court by either party.

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