Appeal hearing for fired Norton Elementary principal Ken Stites - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Appeal hearing for fired Norton Elementary principal Ken Stites begins Monday

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Norton Elementary School principal Ken Stites was fired from JCPS on May 30. Norton Elementary School principal Ken Stites was fired from JCPS on May 30.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- More than a dozen witnesses are expected to testify in former Norton Elementary School principal Ken Stites' tribunal hearing next week.

At least two of the witnesses -- former Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens and Tom Hudson, the district's former chief business officer -- have been subpoenaed. Other witnesses include other current and former district employees.

The tribunal hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday at the Van Hoose Education Center, 3332 Newburg Road. The whole week has been reserved for the case. The proceedings will be conducted in public at Stites' request.

Both sides could agree to a settlement before Monday, but as of Wednesday afternoon, attorneys for both JCPS and Stites told WDRB News that no settlement has been reached. 

Stites was fired in May by Hargens for conduct unbecoming of a principal, inefficiency, insubordination and neglect of duty.

According to his termination letter, Stites was fired after the district questioned where Stites’ children were living because he owns a home in Indiana. In addition to the residency issue, the district also states in its termination letter that allegations were made that he had "improperly overstaffed a position at (the) school and had inappropriately influenced (the) SBDM council to defund and remove the position from (the) school completely."

Stites and his attorney, Will Walsh, have maintained that he is innocent of all charges. They appealed the firing with the state and requested a public tribunal hearing.

Under 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.

Nancy Hack, an administrator from Grayson County, Thomas Lynch, a teacher from Washington County; and Rick Haltermon, a layperson from Boone County, will make up the tribunal. Michael Head with the Kentucky attorney general's office will serve as the hearing officer in the case.

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.

As the district and Stites prepare to face off on his termination, many in the community have rallied for him, asking for the district to reinstate him.

JCPS Acting Superintendent Marty Pollio has named Tim Hagan the acting principal of Norton Elementary School. Hagan had retired from the district as principal of Hite Elementary in 2015.

The district says Norton’s School-Based Decision Making (SBDM) Council will name a permanent replacement for the school this fall.

WDRB News education reporter Toni Konz will live-tweet from the proceedings each day, you can follow her on Twitter here.

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Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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