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Principal Fighting To Keep Her Job

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Kerry Newman Contesting Termination Of Her Contract

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

Glenwood Community High School Principal Kerry Newman said she hand delivered the necessary paperwork to the Glenwood Community School District’s central office Monday to appeal the Glenwood Board of Education’s recommendation to terminate her contract.

Newman has been the subject of an investigation by school district superintendent  Devin Embray since being placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 18.

Embray relayed the findings of his investigation during a Feb. 6 special meeting with the school board. In a closed-door meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 12,  the board voted unanimously to terminate Newman’s contract.

According to wording of the board’s motion, the reasons given for Newman’s termination include, “inappropriate relationship with a district employee, unprofessional conduct, poor judgment, inappropriate use / misuse of district resources and (being a) poor and ineffective role model.”

Newman had five days to contest the termination.

All questions seeking comment after the meeting were directed to board president Theresa Romens.

Romens said the motion “speaks for itself” but declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation or the evidence the board looked at in making their decision during the nearly two-hour meeting.
“We’re moving forward. Now it’s all in Mrs. Newman’s hands,” Romens added.

Newman said she learned of most of the allegations listed in the Notice of Consideration of Termination of Administrator’s Contract for the first time in the closed session.

She has denied all the allegations in that motion.

“I’m fighting the allegations. But I will own up to what I did,” Newman said.

Newman said during the Feb. 12 meeting, the board and the board’s attorney, Brett Nitzschke, made reference to an investigative report she was not aware of. When Newman’s attorney, Richard Gaumer requested a copy, he was told the report was a draft and denied a copy.

“This has really been frustrating for me,” Newman said. “I expected in that meeting to see a report, look at findings and specific information. We were told there was only a ‘draft’ at that time. So that’s confusing and frustrating for me.”

Now that Newman has formally contested termination of her contract, a “law officer” will be assigned to hear her case. Newman said there is no definitive timeline on the appeal.  Getting a hearing date could take as long as 30 days.

Newman realizes her hearing will be open to the public, meaning Embray’s findings and the contents of the investigative report could be released for public scrutiny, but she said she has no choice if she hopes to clear her name.

Both Embray and Newman have declined repeated requests to discuss the specifics of what prompted the leave of absence or the investigation.

What is known is that on Jan. 18,  Newman met with Embray and the superintendent confronted her with what Newman dubbed a “particular allegation.” Newman would not discuss specifics but did say the matter concerned her “personal life.”

“I talked candidly with him and provided truthful information,” Newman said of her meeting with Embray. “I feel strongly that the school was not impacted and learning was not hurt and I did nothing illegal.”

Embray placed Newman on leave after the meeting, confiscated her cell phone and blocked her from accessing her email and her office.

“I get it, I understand he (Embray) had to look into it, but I didn’t think I’d have to leave the work place,” she said. “Because nothing I have been accused of has any impact on the workplace, the kids, the district, learning or anything. But I’ll take a leap of faith and respect the process.”

More than 30 days later, Newman is still not back to work and continues to collect her salary. Newman is scheduled to make $101,200 this year. On a 365-day calendar, that breaks down to about $277 per day. Her compensation for the time on paid leave has now surpassed $9,000.

Newman said she has received several calls and letters of support from the community, including parents of students in what she has admitted has been a difficult time for her and her family.

“I have to say there have been some really great people stepping up,” Newman said. “We had some of our close friends over after the meeting and we told them exactly what happened and where we were at. There were a lot of tears and a lot of support and we’re moving forward.”

Glenwood district administrators are given performance reviews once every three years. Newman was last evaluated during the 2010-2011 school year by Embray and given an “exemplary” review, according to Newman.

“He (Embray) can review that timeline and evaluate my performance at any time but he hasn’t done that,” Newman said.

Newman hopes to be back to work soon.

“I told the board the only motivation for my coming back to work is to support the teaching and learning at the high school,” she said. “I reached out to the school to provide specific information and data because I care about learning and the students.”