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DOUGLAS EVERETT v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE MERIDIAN MUNICIPAL SEPARATE SCHOOL DISTRICT

JULY 16, 1986

DOUGLAS EVERETT
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE MERIDIAN MUNICIPAL SEPARATE SCHOOL DISTRICT



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, DAN LEE AND ROBERTSON

DAN LEE, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

On August 16, 1982, George D. Cannon, Superintendent of the Meridian Municipal Separate School District, suspended Douglas Everett from his duties as maintenance supervisor for the school district. Everett received notice of this suspension by letter dated August 19, 1982, and the letter informed him that he would be terminated, effective September 16, 1982. The letter also informed Everett that, if he requested a hearing before the Board of Trustees, he would receive more detail concerning the charges brought against him, which resulted in his termination.

Everett did request a hearing before the Board of Trustees. In response to that request, Cannon sent to Everett a letter outlining 15 specific charges which resulted in his termination. On September 10, 1982, Everett requested a continuance of the date set for the hearing because of illness. A hearing was ultimately held before the board of trustees on January 24-26, 1983.

 The board of trustees made specific findings that several of the charges were supported by substantial evidence. The board concluded that: Dr. Cannon had the power to suspend and terminate Dr. Everett, that Dr. Cannon made a proper employment decision in terminating Dr. Everett, that Dr. Everett was recalcitrant and uncooperative, that Dr. Everett was incompetent in the performance of his duties, and that Dr. Everett's actions and non-actions were not in the best interest of the school district.

 Dr. Everett appealed this decision to the Chancery Court of Lauderdale County. The chancery court found that the board's proceedings were conducted under Miss. Code Ann. 37-9-59 (Supp. 1985), which covers the procedure for suspension of a teacher or principal. Since Dr. Everett was not a teacher or principal, he was not covered by the statute. However, the court noted that no objection was made to the procedure at the time of the hearing. The court held that Everett was not entitled to the benefits of the section, but that he was entitled to a hearing because of the holding in Cantrell v. Vickers, 495 F. Supp. 195 (N.D. Miss. 1980). The court held that, since the school board had given Everett a hearing under the statute, Everett was

 entitled to the statutory appeal.

 The chancery court refused to uphold the termination on certain grounds presented by the school board, for the reason that the evidence presented on those grounds concerned events transpiring before the execution of Dr. Everett's latest contract. However, the court found substantial evidence existing for termination on the basis of other charges. The chancery court sustained the decision of the board of trustees, and we affirm that decision.

 FACTS

 In early 1982, the Meridian School District was faced with a budget crunch. In order to alleviate the financial problems, the administration determined that some administrative jobs would have to be eliminated. To effect that elimination, the duties of Pupil Personnel Services were transferred from Dr. Everett to Dr. James Hefter. Dr. Everett was instructed to replace Phillips Garrison, the supervisor of operation and maintenance, who was retiring. On March 23, 1982, Paul Franklin, who was acting superintendent for the school district, sent a letter to Dr. Everett outlining some of his new duties. The letter specifically asked for a schedule from Dr. Everett on his plans to effect some moves of facilities which were to take place over that summer. In response to this memo, Dr. Everett sent a letter to Dr. Franklin. The letter explained Dr. Everett's basic philosophy on education, and stated that "I do not intend to be isolated from the total instructional activities." Franklin immediately responded to Everett's letter, indicating that he was disturbed by the possibility that Everett had not comprehended the description of his new position. The letter reiterated that the job description for the office of supervisor of operation and maintenance was the extent of Everett's duties. Franklin indicated that Everett's new contact would be based upon the duties outlined in the job description, and that if Everett was not comfortable with those duties, he should not renew his contract.

 Problems began to develop almost immediately after Everett's transfer. They revolved around Everett's failure to separate himself from the responsibilities of his old job and his reluctance or inability to perform the functions of his new position. Dr. Cannon, who replaced Paul Franklin as the new superintendent of schools, received numerous complaints from Dr. Everett's associates and subordinates. Specifically, Dr. James Hefter, the new Director of Pupil Personnel Services, reported to Dr. Cannon that Everett

 had never explained to him all of the duties of his new position. Additionally, Dr. Hefter was concerned that some of the records of his office were located in Dr. Everett's new office, or in some locked file cabinets to which Dr. Everett had never provided a key. This problem became particularly acute when information requested by the state Department of Education was unavailable to Dr. Hefter. There was also evidence that Dr. Everett continued to perform some of the functions of Pupil Personnel Services. That evidence consisted of correspondence found in Dr. Everett's office which pertained to the transfer of students.

 Complaints also came to Dr. Cannon regarding Dr. Everett's failure to adequately perform in his new role as supervisor of operation and maintenance. While Everett met twice with Phillips Harrison, the man whom he was replacing, neither of those meetings pertained to his new duties. Indeed, one of Everett's primary duties - the upkeep of grounds around the various schools in the Meridian district - was so poorly managed that several of the schools did not have their grass cut at all until after Everett was terminated. When Everett was instructed to turn in a proposed schedule for pay increases for his employees, he turned in an elaborate plan which evidenced a complete failure to follow instructions. After having the plan returned to him with instructions to redo it, he submitted basically the same plan once again. He was told a second time to redo the plan, whereupon he announced to Dr. Cannon that he was "washing my hands of the whole mess." Everett also had difficulty in working with personnel in his own and in other departments. The supervisor of purchasing encountered difficulty in working with Everett on a specification for a new boiler. An electrician in Everett's department was told by Everett to ignore building code standards in wiring some shops in the school system. Finally, Roscoe Jones, the supervisor of transportation, and Dr. Everett had an argument over the move of some buses into a new site, and Dr. Cannon was forced to mediate between the two men.

 The record reflects a continuous stream of correspondence between Dr. Cannon and Dr. Everett over the summer of 1982, which indicated Dr. Cannon's concern over Dr. Everett's performance of his job. When it became obvious that no improvement in this performance was forthcoming, Cannon suspended ...


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