Former superintendent files suit against school district, alleges unfair treatment, improper testing, more
LUCEDALE, Miss. (WLOX) - The former superintendent of the George County School District has filed a complaint against the district alleging she was forced out of her position after suffering unfair treatment at the hands of the school board. She also alleges improper actions surrounding mandatory testing, as well as financial impropriety.
The complaint, filed by former superintendent Pam Touchard, comes 18 months after her employment with the district ended.
As WLOX reported in August 2019, an anonymous letter was mailed to the district threatening to release pictures of Touchard and an employee with the Mississippi Department of Education at Lucedale City Park if Touchard didn’t resign.
Just four months later, Touchard resigned from her position.
Initially elected to the job by the voters of George County, Touchard was superintendent from Jan. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2019. It would be the last election for that position. In 2016, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a state law giving school boards the power to appoint school superintendents after January 1, 2019.
In the May 16, 2021 filing, Touchard claims the school board lowered her salary and prevented her from fulfilling her job duties. According to the complaint, that was done after Touchard began investigating improper actions she believed were happening at the high school level involving mandatory state testing and allegations of financial impropriety.
It started right after she was elected to the position, claims the complaint, saying the board voted to lower her salary in 2015, keeping it that way until she left the position in 2019. However, when a new superintendent was selected by the board in 2020, the salary was raised once again, said Touchard.
The board also made the decision to hire an assistant superintendent, a position Touchard says did not exist before she was elected. She alleges in her complaint that the position was tasked with monitoring activities at the high school, which Touchard said was done to keep her from performing her job duties concerning discipline, accounting, and monitoring of daily activities.
After an assistant superintendent was brought in, Touchard reports that she became suspicious and began investigating rumors she heard regarding state testing.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, George County High School had an exceptional graduation rate, which was obtained by students passing state tests mandated by the Mississippi Department of Education. After receiving concerns from within the school about how some of those tests were being administered, Touchard says she began to investigate the testing procedures.
Soon after, the complaint states that Touchard discovered high-performing students had been “recruited, propositioned or forced through authoritarian demands of the High School administration” to take the required tests for some students who did not perform well on tests. Touchard alleges that this was done in order for the lower-performing students to be able to walk at graduation.
Touchard reported her suspicions to the Mississippi Department of Education in November 2020, and an investigation was opened that is still ongoing.
The complaint says Touchard also became concerned about financial dealings within the district that she believed “were missing cash funds, fraudulent invoices and possible prohibited acts to provide services.”
Touchard left the George County School District in December 2019. Since then, she says she has been banned from all school premises and been denied employment in any capacity after applying for jobs within the district. She also alleges that her reputation in the community has been tarnished as a result of the George County School Board.
Citing constitutional First Amendment violations, as well as negligence, malice and conspiracy, Touchard is asking that she be granted a jury trial to plead her case in the hopes of being awarded an unspecified amount of damages for emotional damages, financial loss, and attorney fees.
While the George County School District has not officially been served with any legal documents related to this case, WLOX News Now reached out to Board Attorney April McDonald for reaction.
She said, “I have read the allegations and the district completely denies all of the allegations in the complaint. They deny that the former superintendent is entitled to any relief whatsoever. Without getting too much into the facts I will just say that they are baseless.”
To read the complaint filed by Touchard in full, click here.
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