duPont Manual principal reprimanded over recorded conversation with students

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Former duPont Manual High School Principal Jerry Mayes used terms like “wigger” and “Indian giver” in speaking with staff and at times inappropriately shared personnel information with employees, according to an investigation that resulted in his demotion.

The report, released Wednesday by Jefferson County Public Schools in response to an open records request, details allegations of improper behavior beyond what was revealed in a discretely recorded conversation between Mayes and two black students in his office.

In the October recording, Mayes can be heard making racially insensitive comments, such as comparing his experience as a Protestant in a Catholic community with discrimination faced by minorities, and criticizing the work of Chief Equity Officer John Marshall.

But that wasn’t the first time Mayes had been critical of Marshall. In fact, Marshall told an investigator with the law firm Middleton Reutlinger that Mayes criticized his work weeks prior in a conversation with Central High School Principal Raymond Green.

“Mr. Green reported this to Dr. Marshall,” Mark Fenzel, the investigator, wrote in the report. “Mr. Mayes learned about this and apologized profusely about criticizing him behind his back.”

Other instances in which Mayes reportedly shared personnel information with other staff members include telling a teacher that someone didn’t get a promotion because she “had a meltdown” and “mailed in” her performance on a project; telling the same teacher that another teacher “would not be taking kids on field trips anymore” after a vehicle accident during a field trip; sharing with staff when someone was ill, going through a divorce or performing poorly; saying a teacher was “off her meds” in front of other employees; saying a teacher was “not a good teacher” during a meeting to discuss a job opportunity with three other employees; and using that same teacher in an anecdote in which he said Manual students called her a terrible educator during a 2017 staff meeting.

Mayes denied telling staff when someone was ill, going through a divorce or performing poorly and saying an employee was “off her meds,” but Fenzel concluded that he had inappropriately shared personnel information with staff.

“Mr. Mayes stated that he has learned his lesson from this experience and is making a tremendous effort to control his comments,” Fenzel wrote. “He says that he sometimes says too much in an effort to bond with people, but the incident with the tape has made a huge impression on him.”

Fenzel found that Mayes had also made inappropriate comments during the hiring process, asking whether staff would prefer a male or female teacher as Manual looked to fill an advanced placement teaching position. Mayes did not recall the incident, but several witnesses confirmed it, according to the investigation report.

Mayes also admitted to using inappropriate language on occasion.

Brad Weston, assistant superintendent of elementary schools, told Fenzel that Mayes explained his use of the term “wigger” in the October recording by saying he “had so many African American friends, that his friends called him a ‘wigger,’” according to the report. Others reported that he used the word “at various times during his tenure as principal.”

During a May 29 due process meeting with Weston, Mayes defended his use of the term “wigger” as freedom of speech in a private conversation.

Weston found that Mayes “exhibits a trend of offensive, inappropriate, unprofessional, and racially charged comments” in his due process report. “This unprofessional behavior does not demonstrate professional responsibility or meet professional and ethical expectations of the principal role.”

Mayes also complained about how a black female student dressed for an event at the Youth Performing Arts School, telling an employee that it looked “like a National Geographic photo shoot,” according to the investigation report.

Mayes reportedly called a teacher a “pretty lady” while she and her husband were meeting with him, she in person and her husband by phone, the report says. He also referred to female staff on Manual’s school-based decision making council as “The Women of SBDM,” although two of the three referenced did not take offense, according to the investigation.

“The term ‘wigger’ and ‘Indian Giver’ are clearly unprofessional and should not be used in a school setting,” Fenzel wrote. “The same goes for the ‘National Geographic’ comment.”

The investigation indicates that Mayes has retained legal counsel, but JCPS says he has not contested his demotion. He has until Aug. 3 to challenge the disciplinary action.

Mayes did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

In a letter explaining his demotion Friday, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said Mayes’s $152,637 salary will be frozen for the upcoming school year but cut to $83,739 in the 2019-20 school year to match his reduction in responsibilities.

Mayes was told in a separate letter to report to the supervisor of graphic arts and printing in the district’s materials production office on Monday for his reassigned duties.

Pollio named retired JCPS administrator Kirk Lattimore as Manual’s interim principal on Wednesday as Manual’s school-based decision making council searches for a permanent replacement.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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