PARKERSBURG - The principal at Martin Elementary School will be returning to work this morning after a decision by the Wood County Board of Education to deny an administration proposal to demote her.
In a special meeting held at the board offices Monday evening, the board voted 4-0 to dismiss the recommendation of Wood County Schools Superintendent Pat Law calling for Martin Principal Karen Brady to be demoted to a teaching position. Board member Tad Wilson was absent Monday evening.
In more than two hours of testimony, witnesses detailed the alleged problems Brady was having dealing with getting her observations and evaluations of staff done by the correct time, which was essential in determining the progress of the school and addressing problems.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Attorney Bill Merriman with Martin Elementary School Principal Karen Brady at a special meeting of the Wood County Board of Education Monday evening.
Karen Brunicardi, former director of elementary schools, now retired, said Brady had gotten some done, but it was discovered that she was using an outdated form. Brady had agreed to be retrained on the forms, she added.
An improvement plan was put into place to try to address some of problems the administration felt Brady was having to which Brady did not object, Brunicardi said.
Complaints had been brought against Brady which prompted Law to meet with 20-24 school employees earlier this year.
A retired administrator, Rosemary Stull, was brought in to be a mentor to Brady, a sounding board for her to bounce ideas off of and to be another set of eyes for the administration to see if any of the complaints had any validity.
However, Brady's attorney Bill Merriman said it was difficult for Brady to move forward. She was under instruction to take no retaliatory measures against her staff, but still had to complete evaluations. If she gave a bad evaluation, an argument could be made that she was retaliating, he said.
The names of the staff members were never provided to Brady, officials said, but many felt word might still get back to her.
Merriman said Brady had never been brought before the board in this manner before and has always received good evaluations herself and the work she has done at Martin has improved its standing in the state.
Law said at one point terminating Brady's employment was considered, but since Brady had a long history in the county school system it was decided he would recommend a demotion for Brady and send her back to the classroom as a teacher.
Brady has served as principal at Martin Elementary for about five years. She previously served as an assistant principal at Edison Middle School until 2008.
Witnesses said that completing the observations and evaluations was not specifically spelled out in Brady's improvement plan.
In making his motion to dismiss, board member James Fox said the improvement plan required observations and conferences to be completed.
"The letter calling for demotion cites as the sole reason failure to complete all evaluations which was not a stated condition of the improvement plan," he said. "As a board, we are constrained by the letter of the motion as a charging document which I find is deficient."
When the board adjourned there was a round of applause from Brady's supporters that included her family, friends and others among the 30 people who attended the hearing.
Afterward, Law said he would respect the board's ruling.
"I made a recommendation that the board felt they could not support," he said. "That is their right. I will support the board's decision and move forward from there."
Merriman said the board was attentive and listened to all of the evidence and made the right decision in this case.
Brady said she is looking forward to getting back to work.
"I am really excited to get back to Martin Elementary School," she said. "I can't wait for (this) morning and see the students' faces when they get out of their cars and off their buses.
"I have missed them and I am anxious to get back to work. I am looking forward to finishing some of the great things we have started there."
Law said they will work with Brady to continue to address the concerns that had been brought up.
"Mrs. Brady is the principal there and we will work with her to work out whatever difficulties or whatever issues we would have, just like we would with any other principal," he said.