Board votes to terminate Bullock Co. H.S. principal - - The News for South Mississippi

Bullock Co. H.S. principal fired, lawyers fire back

Bullock County High School Principal Undrea Johnson Bullock County High School Principal Undrea Johnson

Controversy is brewing in Bullock County after the school board ousted the high school principal and he wasn't there to defend himself.

The principal was terminated after an investigation into disciplinary procedures. Now, his attorneys are fighting back, saying his firing wasn't properly handled and that the investigation's findings have no merit.

The Bullock County Board of Education voted Wednesday night to terminate the contract of Bullock County High School principal Undrea Johnson. The reason for the termination, "neglect of duty and incompetence," according to the school superintendent. 

Johnson was fired during a special meeting that lasted several minutes at the Board of Education office in Union Springs. He'd been on administrative leave since last month. 

Bullock County Superintendent Keith Stewart says he's been investigating due process procedures at the school when students are disciplined - were they given proper notice, were they able to tell their side of the story, were their parents notified, etc.

The superintendent said he made a plan for improving disciplinary procedures at the high school with Johnson but never saw any improvement. Stewart declined to provide information on any specific cases involving students. 

"The board just made a decision based upon the evidence that was presented to them and the school board is committed to being fair to our employees as well as we want to do what's in the best interest of our school system and we really wish to make no further comment at this time," school board member Martin Penn told WSFA after the meeting. 

"Out of respect to Mr. Johnson and the appeal process, I would not like to comment on this any further," added Stewart. 

Principal Johnson and his legal counsel were unable to make it to the hearing Wednesday due to "communication issues." His attorney with the Alabama Education Association, Theron Stokes, said he is very concerned over the way the board handled the proceedings Wednesday night. Johnson was supposed to have the opportunity to fight for his job and give reasons why he should not be terminated. 

"The board terminated Mr. Johnson with full knowledge that his attorneys could not be present and he was entitled to fair representation before the school board. We assume that they did not want to hear what he had to say about the charges brought against him, charges which have no merit. Allegations of incompetence and neglect of duty are not true," Stokes said.

Stokes says there were accusations that Johnson was excessive in his discipline of students.

But during Johnson's tenure as principal of Bullock County High School, student disciplinary cases actually decreased, Stokes told WSFA.

Thomas Coley, union rep for Johnson with the Alabama Department of Education, says Johnson had been trying to turn the high school around and had made strides, but his work has now been cut short, being let go only half way through his three year contract. Coley says Johnson was not given the chance to do the job he was hired to do and that he was "short-changed in midstream due to local politics."

"I think that what's going to come out as we go further is that a lot of things that have been blamed on Mr. Johnson are actually the result of interference by the central office and his ability to properly administer the overall activities at Bullock County High School," Coley said. "He had made good faith efforts to deal with a variety of issues at the school, but quite often his hands were tied from the administration side of things and he is being blamed for things that were really beyond his control."

Johnson's attorney says he will "without a doubt" be appealing his termination. The matter would then be handled by a local circuit court judge who would hear presentations from both sides. 

In the meantime, the assistant principal at Bullock County High School is overseeing the school. 

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