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Principal’s ruling set for January

The fate of an elementary administrator will likely be decided early next year.

The Brookhaven School District Board of Trustees will meet Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. to hear closing arguments in a case involving former Brookhaven Elementary Principal Shelley Riley, said John Hooks, the Jackson attorney hired to advise the board in its decision.

Hooks met with the five members in a closed-door executive session Tuesday night to introduce himself.

Riley’s hearings began May 1 and required seven separate days and around 50 hours of testimony by numerous BSD teachers and administrators. 

Riley claims she is being unfairly targeted for a handful of disciplinary incidents last year involving interactions with a special needs student and other district employees. She claims male administrators guilty of the same behavior met lesser fates and that her protests over the student’s behavior went ignored.

Superintendent Ray Carlock is recommending the school board decline to renew her contract, saying Riley built a yearlong history of unprofessional behavior and failed to follow district policy regarding management of special-needs students.

The board had 30 days from the delivery of the final transcripts and exhibits Dec. 10 to set up a hearing and determine whether or not Riley’s termination will stand. Hooks said Riley and the board agreed that although it’s past the 30-day window the hearing would be held at the Jan. 22 meeting at the central office.

At the meeting, each side will have 15 minutes to present a closing argument before the board enters into executive session to consider it.

The majority of the testimony during the hearings has been given under questioning from Riley’s attorney, Lisa Ross, who has alleged policy and law violations by the school district in an attempt to show Riley as the victim of an unfair system. Ross’ questioning has led to conflicting testimonies from teachers and their supervisors and alleged violations of special education laws.

Bob Allen, attorney for the school district, has focused solely on the reasons stated in Riley’s non-renewal, chief among them that she allegedly dragged a special needs student down the BES hallway on Jan. 6, 2017, and videoed a another special needs student’s meltdown on Sept. 22, 2017, instead of working to calm him. 

Because Allen represented the district during the hearings, Hooks was hired June 26 to serve as counsel to the board during its deliberations.