|April 26, 2012||TPSD School Board meeting 04.26.12||no comments|
|April 10, 2012||TPSD School Board meeting 04.10.12||1 comments|
|March 27, 2012||TPSD School Board meeting 03.27.12||no comments|
|March 06, 2012||TPSD School Board meeting 03.06.12||2 comments|
|February 14, 2012||Calvin Ellis hearing 02.14.12||6 comments|
|February 13, 2012||Calvin Ellis hearing 02.13.12||no comments|
|February 03, 2012||Lee County reading fair winners||no comments|
|February 03, 2012||Calvin Ellis hearing 02.03.12||17 comments|
|February 02, 2012||Calvin Ellis hearing 02.02.12||11 comments|
|February 01, 2012||Calvin Ellis hearing 02.01.12||9 comments|
School board meeting is about to begin.
Jeff Norwood, expected to be named Tupelo High School's boys basketball coach, is at today's meeting. His hiring would be pending board approval. The Daily Journal's Gene Phelps is also here to cover that.
Board member Rob Hudson is not currently present, but is expected to be on his way.
Interim Superintendent David Meadows said there are a few changes to the agenda. The board will review its policy on technology resources and responsible access. Changes to the policy will be made to include changes that were made to the federal Children's Internet Protection Act.
He would also like to give the board an opportunity to study its summer school policy because it has not had a summer school in so long. The district is proposing
Meadows said that the board will recommend the employment of a school graduation coach/ head boys basketball coach for 2012-13 school year. He said that the person to be recommended will be coming back home to Tupelo.
Meadows said that Glenda Scott will retire as of June 30. She is the district's curriculum director.
School board president Eddie Prather said the board will change its second July board meeting from July 24 to July 31.
Rob Hudson just entered the meeting.
The board approved the agenda.
The board approved the minutes from several board meetings. It includes four special-called meetings related to Calvin Ellis hearing.
Meadows is now speaking about the technology resources and responsible access policy. It includes the changes mandadated by CIPA (Child's Internet Protection Act). This is a first reading of the policy.
Meadows said district must include phrasing that technology protection measures are in place and are used for all Internet access. Meadows notes that the district has a very strong filter that keys on language and particular combination of language. He said that the filter is so strong that sometimes it keeps out good emails.
The policy also requires Internet safety training to be provided to minors.
Deputy Supt. Diana Ezell has been working with technology director Brenda Meriweather and the technology staff on the new policy, Meadows said.
Ezell said the district will have a curriculum on acceptable use of the laptops and other technology.
"We have a lot of systems in place to protect our children and we want to continue to do that," she said.
Ezell said they are also working on cyber bullying and that THS Principal Jason Harris has been working with the attorney general to bring a cyber bullying program to the school.
Board approves consent agenda.
Pam Traylor made the student transfer report, and the board approved it
Personnel Director Jim Turner is now presenting the personnel report. It includes two retirements, six resignations, 24 summer curriculum teacher leaders and two literacy team members. Under classified, it includes one new full-time security position and several others.
The substitute pool is now up to 195 individuals.
Turner said there are 3.5 licensed positions to be filled and 19 classified positions that are vacant.
Currently, the recruiting season has ended until October, Turner said. Since January, he has interviewed 161 applicants from throughout MS and LA. Approx. 25 of those applicants were minorities, he said. He said they acquired many secondary math, biology and special education candidates and that it is unusual to have an abundance of those.
Turner said that as of April 13, 10 individuals have given written requests to retire and nine who have said they will resign at the end of the school year.
Hudson asks about exit interviews. Turner said that everyone who resigns is given an exit interview form and asked to send it back.
Meadows welcomes new assistant superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon to the school board meeting. Dillon has been working at principal at Pearl High School.
Board approves the personnel report.
David Meadows now will make two recommendations
Meadows : "Ms. SCott, I can't tell you how much the district appreciates what yu ahve done during your time here. From the time you started as an administrative intern on to your time at Rankin, we truly appreciate your leadership. WE truly appreciate your leadership with the curriculum department. When I came to Tupelo, the things that Ms. Scott has done in the last 2 or 3 years with the curriculum department ahve been phenomenal. The summer work last summer served as a platform for the teaching and learing that have gone on in our district.
Words can not express it.
"I would ask that the board consider approving resignation of Glenda Scott effective June 30 to retire."
Prather: "I hate to entertain the motion for this, but I guess there comes a time for it."
Board accepts Scott's retirmement.
Meadow now makes another recommendation. "To welcome number 10 back home." He refers to Norwoods three state championships
AFter an extensive serach, I am bringing forward Mr. Jeff Norwood on behlf of Dr. Loden who parcitipated in interivew process and community members who ehlped us with the search, I am pleased to recommend Mr. Norwood today.
He brings not only a wealth of coaching experience in teh college ranks. I am also excited because I was on campus of USM up until 1995, so we almost corssed paths.
One of the things I consider a hgihlght, during Mr. Norwood's tenure there, in spring of 2003, USM recognized its boys basketball team for 100 pecent graduation rate. Isn't that wonderful? Cna you imagine the role model that MR. Norwood will be for our young women and men at Tupelo High School and particularly the men that he will be working with on the basketball court"
He is recommending Norwood as school graduation coach. Says it is a position that Dr. Loden has worked with before and that the board is getting a job description of that position. HE will work directly with middle and high school students encouraging them to stay in school and graduate.
Meadows is also recommending him as head boys basketball coach at Tupelo Hgih School.
The board approves the creation of the graduation coach position.
The board approves Norwood as head basketball coach.
Norwood is now making remarks to the board and those at the meeting.
Norwood: "I want to say thanks to the board and Dr Porter and MR. Harris. It is truly a blessing. THis whole process made me realzie I did have some dreams. I never could remember anything I was dreaming about. WHen I started pursuing this position I remembered going to the state tournament and playing against Gulfport High School (thought they would win). We played Gulfport the next day and it didn't unfold the way we expected. I thought I was in good condition. THose guys ran me to death. I always said if I had my own team, I would like them to take the court like Gulfport did.
There was a dream becasue I dreamed about having the same thing here. What makes me most happy is that it didnt even start about basketball it started with my pursuit of my faith and beleiving it was time to come back. (Said his brother Alex started asking him to try to come back and coach several years ago). It took a little maturity to grow up and realize it was time for me to serve and come back here...I've talked to a bunch of friends here in town and they are excited about teh basketball coach part. I'm excited that what really moved me was the graduation coach part. I was an average student and I didn't have hte ditection or foucs and I enver thought about going to college. I know there are so many students who can do it, but they jsut don't have that focus.
I know tehre are a large number that are so naive about if they can go out and do it and we ahve to reach out and go sit down and talk to them. I want you to know that I am here and ready to do that.
I know we will win basketball games becase Tupelo has always won in every sport.
My dad served as the first minority on the Tupelp Public SChool Districty board. I always wondered how I could measure up in this community and I am proud ot have the change to do just that.
AS each day got closer for this day to come, I got a little more excited. I tried to be cool about it, but I am very happy to be here.
I wnat to end by saying thank you agian. The main card is my mom is here in Tupelo and she still can fish...I am thankful. Let's go."
School board accepts claims docket and financial statements.
Finance director Linda Pannell also presents the cash flow statement
Prather asks when MAEP will be approved.
Meadows said the last update he has had is that they anticipate doing that right at the beginning of May, next week. That was as of this morning.
Diana Ezell is now making a presentation about extended school year.
The district will offer extended school year programs at Joyner (K-2), Pierce Street (3-5), Tupelo Middle School (6-8) and the Filmore Center (HSAA, Structure Day and School Aged Mother program). THere will also be one summer school program on the high school campus. It will be for 9th to 12th and will be tuition.
The district will also develop an afternoon program for students with dyslexic characteristics. They are still in the stages of developing that.
Rob Hudson asks when the district last did a program like this. Ezell said three years, but two summers ago. They've had two summers without it.
Extended school year is designed for studnets in danger of repeating or students in tier program who are receiving academic supports and need those supports during the summer.
Hudson asks if it will be mandatory.
Ezell: For K-2, teachers will recommend students. In order for them to be promoted they will have to attend. If they chose not to, they will be retained in that program for the following year.
Hudson: How will we measure its effectiveness.
Ezell each grade level will choose a beginning and an end assessment. They will also have assessments results from teachers to show which skills students mastered during the school year and which ones need extra help. Ezell said there will also be tests given during the school year to measure the progess of those students.
Ezell said the assistant principals who are working during this time will not be under their contract and that the district will need to pay them extra for this.
Ezell said the projections are about 500 students. 95 for 9-12 extedned day. She is not sure about summer school. She said they have also opened it up for school districts around them that need to repeat a course for carnegie unit.
They will not offer subject areas they will be taking for the first time but they can take classes they have failed. She said the hope is that it will repare them for the state test retest in August.
Meadows said the district budgeted for this last spring.
Ezell: "This is part of our dropout prevention strategy helping those students who need extra supports outside of the school year."
Ezell said this part of several summer programs: Opportunity camp, summer school, extended year, extedned school for special education students, adding a dyslexia program and a camp for ELL and homeless students.
On dyselxia program, Ezell said that three teachers in the district are dyslexia therapists and they will be planning that. They hope to have a K-2 group and a 3-5 group and if there is a need for more, "I hope to serve the students who really need it."
Wheeler: How will you determine need for me?
Ezell said those students who ahve been diagnosed with dyslexia or show characteristics, we need to identify those. Will need to see how many can come becuase those students will need to provide their own transportation.
Wheeler: Recommendation will come from the teachers? Ezell: yes.
Board approves motion to add extended school year this summer.
Board also approves offering summer school to students at Tupelo High School.
Board votes to move its July meeting from July 17 to July 31 because of a scheduling conflict.
The budget meeting will also be moved from the 17th to the 31st.
Prather is referring to future agenda items. He is asking about board retreat to state goals. At the May meeting, they will discuss agenda for the retreat.
Retreat will be June 12-13. They are still working on a location. They will discuss superitendent evaluation process and procedures for the school board to monitor itself.
Prather said National School Board Association will host a conference in Mississippi this year. It will be held on the Coast. It comes every seven or eight years, he said.
Rob Hudson said he would like Mr. Turner to think about the best way to provide us feedback from exit interviews. Maybe he can give feedback on his ideas. Maybe what percentage of people fill them out and what that content looks like. It might give us ideas of what we are doing well and what we can address to improve retention. Hudson said it might also show ways they can increase feedback.
Hudson: "Often people say everything is fine, but sometimes they don't. If we are not getting feedback, there might be other districts who are getting better feedback through other methods."
The Tupelo School Board meeting has begun.
Kenneth Wheeler was just sworn in as a new board member. After the swearing in, Wheeler recognized his family, which is in attendance, and thanked Sally Gray of Parents for Public Schools for her support. He recognizes incomming superintendent Gearl Loden, who is in attendance.
The board adds a line to the personnel report, which is the recommendation of an assistant superintendent.
The board will go through the agenda at this meeting, the noon meeting. It will vote during the 5 p.m. meeting at Lawhon Elementary.
David Meadows is speaking about component 4 of his "Moving Forward Together Plan." He said that at a meeting last week of Tupelo High School staff, he asked the school to become part of the first Council of Excellence. It would be a group of various constiuents to research various issues "of how we can support and help Dr. Loden as he builds this community of excellence." It would have students, teachers, parents, community members, administrators, etc.
Meadows is also share information from listening sessions with various constituencies. Board members met in groups of two with various community members. Administrators were present for some of those meetings.
Meadows is presenting a summary of some of the main ideas that emerged in those meetings.
He said one topic was safety and security. He said one group said the district should analyze its bomb threat procedure. Someone also mentioned the need to look at filters for the MacBooks.
Other categories that stood out to Meadows:
Building more trust: including exit interviews of families and employees and to continue to work toward outreach opportunities.
Academics: To strenghten foundational basis on which PK-5 schools are built. To focus on children without overemphasizing testing. State testing was mentioned several times. Along with that also came the importance of communicating the value of that testing.
Discipline appeared on several pieces of information supplied to Meadows with standpoint of consistency. It includes where does Postive Behavior Support System fit in. Several people noted that the district has decreased the number of assistant teachers in K-6 grades. Meadows said that came up several times.
Miscellaneous: Textbooks. Concern for maintenance of our buildings.
Meadows said communication appeared numerous times and making communication more than a one-way street. "Set up a system that would make communication have an easier route to travel from the hearers and the sharers."
Accountability that administration asks the board creates and make sure we always have job descriptions.
One of the things that came out repeatedly under academic achievement was the achievement gap. We need to be transparent about the achivement gap and we need to be working dilligently and consistently to focus on the achievement gap until it is eliminated.
Another thing that came up was alternative schools. There is a need to continue to evaluate that.
Meadows said he will continue to work on getting a thorough list completed. He said the district met to begin putting in a strucutre to establish a vehicle for councils of excellence. They will also meet with community to get input on the makeup of those councils, how they should be made up.
Beth Stone: Once we establish the councils, what happens with the information at that point?
Meadows: We proabaly want to ask the groups themselves, to the point of do we need an outside facilitator. In my opinion, the answer would be yes, but we need to ask the groups.
Meadows said the district would want to get the list (of what had been discussed). He would like to turn the list over to Dr. Loden and the school board. A next step may be to return to the council and ask them to break up into subgroups and have them be a part of identifying each part of an issue. For example, maybe a subgroup to work on discipline or on achievement gap.
Meadows said the subgroups would need to come back to the Council of Excellenace as a whole and share their research, discussion and points of action and how the district can move forward together. He said that one action will be, if there is a list of 5 or 6 issues, the larger council of excellence should provide input on priorities. "Establish a priority against which the district can measure itself in terms of moving forward in that particular area."
Wheeler asks about Positive Behavior Support System.
Meadows said it is a program that was adopted a couple of years ago. He said it would need to fall under the area of discipline but that it might need to be pulled out of there for more study of itself.
Heyer: We don't want people to think this is the end of our communication because we are moving on to the next phase. We want to keep that communication open.
Heyer said there may be some community members may not want to sit down with two board mebers but may want to email or call. She said there needs to be a way for those people to express their concerns and for the board to provide feedback.
Meadows said they need to use every avenue of communication. "We need to make sure it is not a one-way street and that it is not a street that becomes blocked."
Heyer said some people may be more comfortable with a phone call or email. Meadows agreed and said that the district needs to communicate that.
Hudson said he wants to make sure that the board will continue to monitor progress in these areas. He said they must avoid the temptation to take one issue, work on it and then move on to the next.
Stone said that some of this can be incldued into board goals. However, she said, some of them may not rise to that level and that board must also pay attention to those.
Prather said that he thinks it is good to break it down to the school level and to give elementary parents
Hudson: The board doenst know everything. This is a great opportunity for the board to know everything. All of that information will be shared with the board, and it gives us the ability to ask the right questions, the more that we know.
Several principals are presenting what they learned from their visits to High Performing and Star schools in Mississippi. The principals were to visit those schools to learn things they can take to the district.
Rob Hudson: There is a lot of good information gathered, do we know what things were so impressive that we will go back to our discipline and try to implement.
Assistant superintendent Fred Hill said he has heard from several formal and informal conversations some things they want to bring to the district. One example is a Study Island, a computer program that third- to fifth-grade schools have since added.
Prather asks about the dual-enrollment courses.
Talina Knight (of Tupelo High School): Each school was on AB block. She said that Northwest Rankin is looking to add 36 hours of college credit. It saves students a lot of money in the long run.
She said one thing that stood out at the high schools she visited was that they had a reading specialist who worked with students who were struggling in reading.
Denisce Salter of the School-Aged-Mother program said her visit to Pontotoc High School showed they did a good job with differentiated instruction. She said that is a key to closing the achievement gap because they are able to help students with their individual needs. Subject area teachers were able to get together to develop lesson plans that would help students in their class with respect to their individual needs and individual learning styles.
Hill thanks the board and Meadows for giving administrators this opportunity to visit high performing and star schools. He said it has been very helpful and that he thinks this is something the principals will continue to do if allowed.
Finance director Linda Pannel said that tax collections for operations and debt are above normal for this time of year.
Julie Hinds and T.J. Higgins will make a presentation on the district's security cameras.
Hinds said they have looked at the cameras that were put in seven years ago and they have a proposal for additional cameras they would like to add.
They would like full coverage of hallways, coverage of cafeteria serving lines and the small cafeteria and coverage of the stairweels in the ninth-grade building.
She said they met with high school administrators, asked them to list what they'd like to see covered. She said this list represents the top priorities.
They propose six exterior cameras. That would cover several areas and capture license plates as cars enter and exit campus.
They have seven cameras that they would like to relocate or adjust angles.
Total cost for the new cameras would be $64,890. That would include a new server and an upgrade of two servers. The servers would allow for longer storage.
The new camera would also allow for a greater range.
Kenneth Wheeler asked a couple of technical questions about the kind of cameras that would be used. He said the question is whether you want more clarity or more information. He said the question is the mission of the camera.
Higgins said for inside hallway cameras, they want clarity, they want to be able to recognize person's face.
On parking lots, Hinds said they currently have relative good cameras but they are focused on one area. They would like to put computers in both guard shacks so that when security officers have down time, they could monitre those cameras.
Wheeler asks about day-night cameras, which go to black-and-white at night. He said that helps see images in the dark. He said that would help and that it doesn't cost any extra.
Prather asks about the timeline. Julie Hinds said they can try to get an answer on that for tonight.
Hudson asks where the cost fits in on the budget. Meadows said there is a seperate line item on that and they had planned to upgrade security cameras. He said they had a portion of that money in this year's budget and with Dr. Loden's permission, they could also include it in next year's budget.
Wheeler makes a recommendation about the network and the ability for administrators to view the images from their computers.
Diana Ezell is making a presentation on projected enrollment for next year. The projection for K-12 would be 7,219 students. Pre-K would add about 275 more. There is also data for each school and grade level. Ezell said that Meadows worked on the projections and that in the past, his projections have proven to be accurate.
The report also contains projections for special education and for gifted. She said the district would like to add two teacher units for gifted. Right now the district's ratio is 45-1 for gifted. She said the state prefers 40-1 but has given district's flexibility becuase of budget cuts.
Pam Traylor is presenting the student transfer report.
Jim Turner is presenting the personnel report. It includes two retirements and one resignation for licensed staff. For classified staff, two new hires, two resignations, a change of status, a retirement.
Now have 195 individuals in the substitute pool.
Turner said he's just returned from recruiting for the district. There are three remaining trips. They have spoken with 111 applicants, 26 percent were minoritiy. That is currently five applicants for every open position, plus the applicants through the district website.
As of April 2, there are 12 licensed staff position and 23 non-licensed staff positions listed.
The board will go into temporary executive session to look at licensed staff for the next school year.
The board has just come out of executive session. Prather said that no action was taken in executive session.
Rob Hudson will present the claims docket tonight.
Julie Hinds is making a presentation about bids for uniforms for maintenance and transportation mechanics. Low bid is G&K Services.
AEE President Brent Waldrop said the organization will fund 17 grants totalling $67,000. It will reveal the names of the grant recipients at its annual banquet on April 19 at Thomas Street Elementary.
Board is discussing future agenda topics.
Prather said that with the process of having dialogue with community members, he'd like to have some structure with it, perhaps rotating two board members available at a certain time and day of the week. He'd like to find a way of doing that without having to change someone's schedule at the last minute.
Heyer said that the board used to set up at Kroger at set hours.
Board will adjourn. It will meet again at Lawhon Elementary at 5 p.m.
Board meeting has begun. The board will discuss the agenda at this meeting and will vote at tonight's meeting, at 5 p.m. at Joyner Elementary.
Four board members are preset: Amy Heyer, Eddie Prather, Beth Stone and Rob Hudson. Lee Tucker's term has expired and he has not yet been replaced.
Interim Superintendent David Meadows is making a presentation on part 4 of his "Moving Forward Together" plan. It involves communication between the district and the community. Meadows said it may be good to reformalize that goal.
The four parts of his "Moving Forward Together Plan" released over the summer include:
• Recommit to safe, healty schools
• Reconfirm highly qualified teachers and administrators were frontline instructional leaders
• Reesatblish focus on student achievement and academic excellence
• Re-communicate the eight recommendations of the curriculum audit.
Meadows said that focus on this recommendation could help the community "unite behind our new superintendent."
Meadows said that the school board agreed to meet in groups of two with various community members and that administrators were present for some of those meetings (if the constituent desired them to be there).
Meadows: "I would like to recommend that we build on that...By April 10, I would hope we could collect, compile and share the common themes."
Meadows said that some of the themes that he found include: improved student discipline (expectation and students being in a relationship that is fair, firm and consistent), improved academic achievement, an increased focus on teamwork (if silos exist, tear down those silos, be willing to focus on students, instructional leaders and support and resources), do whatever we need to do in terms of restoring trust and confidence (Meadows: "I spoke earlier in the year on trust. I recall saying trust must be built one person at a time, and trust can't be given, it must be earned."), create a culture of personal and collective accountability (understanding there are multiple customers, primary customer being student but also closely related to parent and communty; Meadows said always be thoughtful of customer service and respect to customer), how we overemphasize testing especially with younger students, what about technology (things need to be looked at and addressed), what are we doing with textbooks.
(Parenthesis note Meadow's ellaboration on each point).
He hopes that board members could also share some things that they saw.
"That would hopefully serve as the chasis for this vehicle that we can hopefully provide together to give Dr. Loden and our school board a broad look about what our stakeholders tell us about the Tupelo Public School District and for each stakeholder to feel like he or she has had opportunity to tell us their opinion."
Meadows calls for a Council of Excellence in each school to be able to discuss and resolve school-specific and district-specific issues.
By April 10, Meadows, recommends board to think of all of the various stakeholder teams that have a hold on the Tupelo Public School District.
Meadows: "Let the stakeholder groups come forward with the representatives they think need to be available."
Includes parents, teachers, etc. He said for stakeholder groups to come forward and say who should be represented.
Meadows said they should consider using an outside facilitator to serve the Council of Excellence concept. That facilitator should be used to help with the process.
Meadows would like to announce that process by April 10.
He said he would like there to be a report by May 22 with broad constituent input on the issues and opportunities.
Rob Hudson said he thinks it is a great opportunity to involve the stakeholders. He said the stakeholders can help with the integrity of the process by noting whom they think would be needed in their group (such as an outside facilitator).
Eddie Prather said the board's meetings with community members was helpful and that the board looks forward to giving Meadows a report from those meetings.
THS Principal Jason Harris is giving a report on the transition to block scheduling. He said that the master schedule is nearly complete and they have been able to work in athletics and other extra-curriculars.
He said that department chairs have had a lot of input into the scheduling, discussing placement and configuration. For instance, they will look at some AP science classes being year-long two-credit classes leading to AP exam in the spring.
Harris said the Kagan training has been a defining moment for the high school. It included four days of trainers going into the classroom and observing every teacher for 20 minutes. He said that teachers called it the best training they had received in years.
The block scheduling committee will be hosting Q-and-A sessions. One will be on Monday at the High School. They will also host sessions at St. James Catholic Church and at Haven Acres.
Harris said that TMS Principal Kristy Luse has communicated the information with the eighth-graders (next year's freshmen).
Harris said there are many different versions of block. He said the high school will use a tweaked version that will accomodate athletics and extra curriculars (he said that athletics and activities make Tupelo High School great). He said they made add a Zero-period for remediation.
Harris said that the teachers are ready to start implementing the block schedule.
Eddie Prather asks about the logistics of students making scheduling changes. Harris said that in the past, they will come anyway and see and make sure their schedule is right. He said they are also looking at data on placement of students and making sure they are set up for success and not failure, looking at how they have scored on MCT tests.
Harris said that on the block when there are students who are struggling, you can build supports for them.
Next item is the consent agenda. Includes charter bus service for field trips, rental service for school facilities and donations.
Pam Traylor presents student transfer report. Includes 11 in-district transfers and admission of two non-resident tuition students.
Jim Turner presents personnel report.
Turner said he just returned from a recruiting trip to Alcorn State University and that he has also gone on such trips to University of Memphis and to Delta State University. From those three trips, there are 32 applications interested in Tupelo Schools. Of those, Turner said, one third are highly-qualified minority applicants. Turner said he has provided their names to the district's principals.
Linda Pannell is presenting the financial statements. She then presented the cash flow statements.
Pam Traylor is presenting student discipline report.
Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill will make a presentation about options for the district's alternative programs.
Hill wants to explain how Ombudsman program came to be and to provide some data. March 30 is the deadline for determining whether or not to move on.
Hill said that during the summer of 2010, the district went into a contract with Ombudsman. The program was designed to serve both academic and disciplinary students. Started with 30 studnets and grew. The school began focusing more on discipline than on academics so they saw a need for transitioning program. They had 60 spots but added an extra 30 spots in the spring of 2011.
Ombudsman said their focus was more on academics, so the district revised its alternative programs. It needed a plan to seperate high school students for discipline and academic. It added the HSAA Academy upper level for students who were behind in the upper grades. The Structure Day Program was added for studnets with discipline problems.
The began the year with spots for 90 students at Ombudsman. Enrollment was down, so in January they reduced that to serve 60 students.
Ombudsman was wrapped in the HSAA Upper Grades program. Designed for students who were two or more years behind cohort. Designed for students to remain in the program for one successful year. The primary method of instruction is the A computer program.
Hill said that what makes the Ombudsman program unique is that students can forgo seat hours to receive Carnegie units (credit). Students can get as many as 12 credits in a year, while students at the high school can only get 7 or 8. Students can work at their own pace. They can graduate with traditional graduation requirement or with district option (which the school board approved earlier in the year).
At the beginning of the year, 78 students at THS were identified as behind 2 or more years behind. 37 students are currently enrolled. 70 studnets were identified to attend. 15 never enrolled (a lot of them were 19 or older). 8 enrolled in other programs (2 in school age mother, 3 in structure day, etc.), 9 transfer out of district, 9 dropeed out, 1 elected to enroll in THS, 1 completed graduation requirements midyear, 9 transferred from Structured Day Program into Ombudsman program, 1 Tupelo Middle School student advanced to being a THS student.
In the Ombudsman program, an average of 4 credits have been received. Hill said that number will go up with 7 weeks left.
2 students can graduate with 26 credits. And 10 can potentially graduate with 21 credits (if they meet testing requirements).
Potential enrollment for 2012-12 is 88. 20 are willing to return. 68 studnets may be 2 years behind cohorts.
Hill is looking at a cost comparision.
Based on 60 students, Ombudsman contract is $483,000. Staff would include director, 5 teachers, part-time counselor and secretary.
Hill said that if the district were to staff it themselves. Salaries would be $498,315, plus $23,600 for A program and money for computers (didn't get that total). Total would be $581,115.
Hill said if the district would compare it to what Ombudsman actually has there. (fewer staff and no security officer), cost would by $453,988.
Hill said his recommendation is to provide a notice of non-renewal to Ombudsman to meet the March 30 deadline.
Hill said the district is already paying extra to fund security at Ombudsman.
Hill said that the district decided last summer to no longer off the Ombudsman diploma.
Prather said that at one time, we thought the student could graduate from there and not count as a dropout from us. Hill said that no longer is an option. Meadows said that now all students must pass the state test to be able to graduate.
Hill said that junior colleges were not accepting the Ombudsman program. Hill said that they decided that students in Ombudsman program needed to graduate with TPSD diplomas so there was no question whether they could use that degree to go on to college.
Heyer said that if the district does not go with Ombudsman, it would get back control over the program and autonomy. She said that when the program didn't meet Tupelo's standards, the district couldn't do anything about it.
Fred Hill said the cost comparision that compares apples to apples is the $453,988 for the district to run it compared to $483,000 for Ombudsman. The other cost comparision ($581,115) includes costs that the district is already paying in addition to the $483,000 it pays to Ombudsman.
Prather asks Hill how, besides cost, he defines success of the Ombudsman program.
Hill: It is always good when students walk away from there with diplomas in their hand, and it if they stayed at Tupelo High School, they wouldn't have had that opportunity (not because of a problem with THS but because of extra opportunities provided by Ombudsman).
Hill said the program should continue, whether they go forward with Ombudsman or not.
Diana Ezell is making a presentation about the Summer Opportunity Camp. It will be in June at Lawndale. She said there are a lot of offerings, including music and art. It will start June 4 and end June 29. Cost is $80 per camp and $60 for any additional camps.
Prather asks about how many kids participate.
Ezell said that last year, they had to add classes. There are spots for 300 students (15 per class).
Ezell said there will also be camps at the high school. She said it is the first time they are offering camps up to 12th grade.
Evet Topp is presenting the Career-Technical Center Local Plan update. It includes the new digital media technology program.
Board will discuss future agenda topics.
David Meadows said that in the minutes are: an update on Moving Forward Together (done today), an update on video security cameras at THS (Meadows said he'd like to add to that report, cameras at Tupelo Middle and at Church Street...He said updating those will include a large expenditure of funds because it will include new servers....Meadows said the update was built into this year's budget with anticipation of doing it over two years).
Meadows said the district has taken the imput from schools on the points where it needs additional cameras.
Meadows said the board has also requested a listing of academic competitive teams to which students can become members. He said the district has had tremendous success: four teams moving to national competitions (bridge buildings, math teams). He said they reestablished academic decathlon team and that THS hosted its first debate.
Meadows said the board also wants a grant summary at the end of the year and an extra-curricular report.
Prather said the board has talked about a work session. They may pick dates at the next meeting.
Board considers a temporary executive session to consider a personnel issue and a possible student matter.
Only three board members are present, Rob Hudson, Eddie Prather and Beth Stone. Amy Heyer had a family issue and Lee Tucker is out of town. Three board members is a quorum.
The board selected its officers for the upcoming year. The one-year terms are always chosen in March by the TPSD board. Eddie Prather was elected as board president, with Beth Stone as vice president and Rob Hudson as secretary. That follows the normal rotation, where board members rotate from secretary to vice president to president.
Prather, Stone and Kenneth Griswald are now making a presentation about a visit they made to the Cullman, Ala., school district to look at technology there. Prather and Stone said they saw from that meeting that Tupelo is ahead of the curve on a lot of things.
Cullman also has a one-to-one laptop initiative. The distirct started its roll out in 2006 and has seen its test scores increase since then.
Culman phased-in its plan for 1-to-1….Started with teacher laptop with 7-8 th grade and added technology in classrooms….followed with students the next year….added one grade level each year.
They used leases. Classroom set for each grade level at the elementary school. The Middle School is most similar to Tupelo’s 1-to-1, but they have Dell PCs not Apple. At the high school, they started taking them home but then they decided to go to classroom sets.
Board support, they right people on the bus and making sure you have the right people on the bus.
The principal talked about the importance of community involvement and support. Also key were faculty buy-in and making sure there was equity in all facilities.
They had to consider wireless issues, what to do with textbooks, collection at the end of the year. Griswald said it is a lot of the same issues Tupelo has faced.
Griswald said there was a reduction in discipline incidents each year after the laptop roll-out.
One of Cullman’s bumps was stolen or damaged laptops. They had less than 10 stolen and not many with major damage, Griswald said. One reason, Griswald said, is they don’t send them home at the high school and at the middle school they gave them a case. Even when it is open on the desk, it remains in the case. The case keeps the lid of the laptop from opening too much, which was a problem that Tupelo has seen a lot.
The superintendent found Twitter to be a valuable cummincation tool during the tornado last year. This year, she has encouraged teachers to get professional Twitter accounts to communicate with parents in real-time, let them know what students are learning.
Rob Hudson asks about what Tupelo is doing to gather feedback of what is working and not working. Griswald said they have had surveys and that lines of communication are open. He said they have had meetings with groups of parents and teacher-advisory councils where these issues were discussed. Mary Ann Plascencia said there hadn't been a formal process but they've piloted some things. For instance, they piloted a student-response system at the high school and they are getting honest feedback from the teachers. She said they have collected a lot informally from what they've heard from teachers and parents throughout the last two years. Griswald said there has also been an opportunity for teachers to give feeback on Haiku, and they've used that feeedback to guide future training.
Griswald said that a key takeaway was that each building was deciding what professional development was needed. Central office supported that, but the schools were empowered to determine what they needed.
Prather said that Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. also joined them on the trip and that he was really interested in hearing more about the community's feelings about Cullman's laptop initiatives.
Several principals will now make a presentation on visits they made to various Star and High Performing schools to study what they were doing.
Fred Hill said several groups have gone but that he has chosen these four groups to make presentations today. He said the groups were asked to look at things those schools were doing that helped them to become star and high performing schools. He said he wanted them to see districts whose students were more disadvantaged than Tupelo's but who were performing better.
Eddie Prather asked about New Albany Elementary, which gives students assessments each week and uses those to guide instruction. He asks Parkway Principal Anna Guntharp and Lawhon Principal Christy Carrol, who visited NAES, if they are doing something similar. Guntharp said that Parkway and Thomas Street teachers have been getting together to write such assessments. Carrol said that Lawhon is also giving weekly assessments.
Beth Stone asked about Pontotoc Elementary, which had larger class sizes that Tupelo but uses a teacher and an assistant teacher in each classroom. Renee Price, a teacher at Carver who visited PES, said that the teachers there seem to like that and that Tupelo teacehrs would also like that. She said that having that extra body helps.
Prather asks about Clinton, which has similar demographics to Tupelo. Ken McGaha, assistant principal at Tupelo Middle who visited Clinton, said the biggest thing they noticed was the internal support in the buildings of a competitive environment. They were supportive of each other and competitive with each other, as well. He said there was a lot of community support. He said there wasn't a lot of teachnology, it was just teaching. He said they made sure each teacher had what they needed and that teachers handled discipline issues in their classroom.
Prather asks Milam Principal Travis Beard, who visited Tunica, about discipline there. Beard said they didn't see problems there. Prather asks how they handle it at Milam. Beard said that they use a step-by-step process where they start handling discipline closest to where the issue occurs. He said teachers handle it first and work with the parents before going to the office. He said the biggest problem is when things happen in the hallways. He said that Tunica uses a similar process.
Travis Beard said that several of the schools have added Study Island program as a result of these visits.
He said another strategy Milam began using was UNRAVEL, which can be used in math and reading. They saw it in Tunica.
Beard: "I think we will see from the visits, there have been changes in our schools this year."
Prather: We are building the budget and if some of those programs need to be put in the budget, we need to know soon.
Diana Ezell is making a presentation about the digital transition plan. She said they are working to go from paper to digital resources. One thing is they are working to get a smart board/promethean board or some sort of document projector in every classroom. They if they want to add different online programs, they will need ways for students to be able to get on line, possibly adding iPads. The area that is most barren is third- to fifth-grade and Mr. Meadows is working to get resources to those grades, Ezell said.
She said they will also have to begin replacing some equipment. The first student laptops (senior class of 2009-10) will be three years old in Decemeber. Also, lightbulbs on the smart boards will need to be replaced soon.
They have also added bandwidth.
Key will be to make sure that teaching and learning is driving technology and not the other way around, she said.
Ezell said 60 classrooms at the high school don't have interactive boards and 57 don't have them at 3-5. Milam, Middle School, K-2 and pre-K are all fully equipped with interactive boards.
Rob Hudson asks for more detailied information about projected costs for replacing technology. Ezell said the cost will be higher for August 2013 when the computers first given to sixth- to 11 th -grade students become three years old.
Ezell said they are working to wake the roll-out more efficient. She said they are going to need to get the laptops to students more quickly, especially if they are going to online textbooks.
Prather: When we got to digital texts, a lot of parents will want their children to come home with a textbook and we will need to educate our parents about that.
Finance director Linda Pannell is presenting a chart on assessed valuation and ad valorem collection through the years. She said that assessed valuation was growing in the early 2000s but has really levelled out in 2009 and hasn't increased since then. The school distirct has requested the maximum 55 mils, so it can't request any more. "We are really living on a fixed income," she said. Personal property has shown a small decline since then. Public utilities has declined every year since 2006 and 2007 with a small exception in 2009 and 2010. Automobiles has declined since 2008 and 2009.
The collection history goes back to 2004-05. Ad valorem collections for operations. For February of 2012, collections were over $13 million, that will be largest month and it will taper from there. Collections grew a little in January, then February and March and then gegan to taper down. She said that through the years, January and February and March tend to be the months when they get most revenue from local sources. It fluctuates which of those three months in which most of the collection comes.
The next presentation is about tutoring at Tupelo High School and the Decemeber subject area test re-test. Lea Johnson said it is looking at data of students who retook the test in September and those who did so in December. In September, 31 percent who were tutored passed the test, compared to 10 percent who weren't tutored. Out of the others who didn't pass it, 37 percent of the tutored students got through in December versus eight percent who were not tutored. She said she thinks the tutoring is helping and helping a lot for students who need to re-test. The question, she said, is what do we do for students who are at-risk who are in the classroom now. She said we are working on that, but we need to but a lot more emphasis on that.
Prather said the emphasis needs to be on getting students to pass the test the first time, and Johnson said she agrees. Meadows notes THS Principal Jason Harris' change in the way counseling is structured so that students keep the same counselors each year instead of getting a new one in every grade.
Stone asks about efforts being made to reach those studnets who are not currently being tutored to get them to use the tutoring services.
Johnson said there is also a large need for parents to help proctor during the upcoming state tests. She said that 800 parents are needed.
Griswald is now making a presentation about the summer curriculum writing project. He said last year's project was very helpful and they want to build on it again this year. He said they have been gathering feedback about what worked and didn't work from this past project. This year's project will also need to focus on common core, he said.
Griswald said they will soon meet with a core group to shape how this year's project will look. There will be a full-day presentation on May 29 with training from leaders. "We want to make sure the time is well spent and the product is the best product we can use." Goal will be to finish by the end of July so that teachers and principals will have more time to look at them.
They will revise all pacing guides and curriculum guides in state tested areas and K-2 english and math from last year. They will also revise pacing guides to address gaps.
They will pace for Common Core in grades 3-8 and will develop pacing guides for science and social studies for all grades K-8.
They will also revise the pacing guides for tested subjects at THS to fit the new block schedule.
They will incorporate technology and arts integration in all of their work.
There will be 75-100 certified staff. It will include project leads (curriculum department), curriculum team leaders (lead teachers; 20-25 certified staff paid $21 an hour), curriculum team writers (50-60 certified staff, pay of $18 an hour), curriculum team editors (10-15 certified staff, paid $18 an hour).
Applications were sent to all certified staff for team leaders. Received great candidates and they have been notified. Their work beings tomorrow. Applications will soon be sent for curriculum team writers and edtiors.
No one person will work more than 120 hours. Griswald said the project will probably take less time than last year because it will build on that work.
Estimated cost for staff will be $215,000. Materials and supplies will be $1,000 and printing cost will be $25,000. Total cost is estimated at $241,000.
Work will be done at Church Street and Parkway schools.
Stone said she likes the emphasis on building guides for social stuides and science. Griswald said that was based on feedback. Stone said she also likes the integration of technology and the arts.
Griswald said he hopes they have established the culture that this kind of feedback is valued.
The board is now considering the consent agenda. It includes some contracts, overnight and out of state field trips, grants. The board approves the consent agenda.
Board accepts the student transfer report, made by Pamela Traylor. They also approve the readmission of a student.
Jim Turner makes personnel report. It includes two new temporary staff positions. On classified section, there are seven new individuals. Several were added to substitute pool, brings pool to 193. Turner said the recruitment circuit has started. They have visited Memphis and Delta State Universities in order to try to select highly-qualified teachers earlier. They are forwarding information of those who have expressed interest in the district to all principals so they can begin the process early.
Board approves personnel report.
Linda Pannell presents the financial report and board accepts it. Board accepts the claims docket. The board also accepts the cash flow statements. Pannell said that although the fund balance is high now, the district will need it to get through the lean months until this time next year.
Fred Hill will present a second-reading of policy IHDB-E for GED programs. It would bring the district's policy in line with the state's policy. Students no longer have to be two years behind cohorts, but only one year behind when they reach ninth grade. The student must be approved by the superintendent to be in the GED program. The student also must be able to read at the eighth-grade level. Students would participate in a second ceremony for completion near the time of the district's normal graduation.
The board accepts the changes to the policy.
Pamela Traylor requests the board to ratify an administrative recommendation on a student discipline issue. The board accepts the reccomendation.
Under new business, several things must be approved for the first March meeting.
The board must reappoint legal counsel for the school board. Meadows recommends they reappoint Mitchell McNutt and Sams. The board approves the recommendation, appointing Mitchell, McNutt and Sams as legal counsel.
Meadows recommends that the board approves that Central Office remains the place to post special board meetings and meeting changes. The Hancock Center is a secondary location. Patrice Tate is designated as the person responsible for doing that. Board approves.
Meadows recommends that the board approves Tate to serve as recording secretary. Board approves.
The board also approves the process for authorization of district signatures, for district financial accounts. The board reaffirmed its existing policy.
The board appoints Beth Stone and Rob Hudson to a committee to study the 2011-12 audit.
On future agenda topics, Meadows said that Rob Hudson has requested an update on security cameras. He said they are preparing to bring an update soon. Meadows asks the board to consider, early in the year the district operated on the plan Moving Forward Together. It had four components: safe schools, recongizing teachers and principals as instructional leaders, improve academic performance and develop an avenue for community to address concerns. Meadows said he has identified things from those sessions. He asks that the board allows the superintendent to identify the common themes from the meetings with the community and that Meadows would present a plan to formalize those listening sessions and present them to a larger audience.
Perhaps they would be called "Councils of Excellence." They would allow students, teachers, parents and community members to give feedback. Meadows said that new superintendent Gearl Loden has expressed an interest in this.
Meadows said this would put the fourth-component of "Moving Forward Together" into action. He said that if the board approves the individual school processes, to formalize the sessions, it would be helpful.
Hudson said that the listening sessions have been a good first step and he's gotten a lot of feedback that said thanks for reaching out, but what is next.
Prather said that it should be reflected in the minutes that the board moved forward with this process.
Board votes to direct Meadows to begin the process of moving forward with the process of collecting information from those sessions and determing a plan for buidling upon that.
Hudson asks for an update on block scheduling and what will happen with sports teams.
Meeting is adjourned at 2:33 p.m.
Last update at 11:06 a.m.
(NOTE: LIVE TESTIMONY HAS BEEN COMPLETED)
The tenth day of testimony from the Calvin Ellis personnel hearing will begin shortly.
One note left over from yesterday. The witness who turned in testimony via affadavit was Whitney Williams. He is president of the schoocer booster club. His testimony stated that Tupelo school administrators had not accompanied the Tupelo High School soccer team on its over night and out of town trips in past years. One of the contentions made against Ellis during this hearing is that he did not have school administrators with him on an out of town trip to Birmingham last year, in violation of district policy.
Williams gave his testimony via affadavit because of his busy schedule. He said he is available for cross examination if the district chooses to call him.
Calvin Ellis has taken the witness stand and we will begin shortly.
Jim Keith begins the cross examination.
Keith refers to the embarrassment Ellis said he felt as a result of his dismissal. He said that when Jim Turner and David Meadows met with you on Oct. 28 did they tell you that you had a right to a hearing that could be public or private.
Ellis said no.
Are you testifying here today that neither of them told you that you had the right to a private hearing?
Ellis: They told me it was a public hearing and they highly encouraged me to resign.
You recall nothing about them telling you that it could be private?
Ellis: There was none of that discussed.
KeithL You never asked for it to be closed?
Ellis: I never knew beforehand that it could be a closed hearing.
Ellis said after the condoms and bananas had been discussed he asked Compton if he could have a closed hearing. He was told that at that time he could, but after that the damage had been done.
Keith asks Ellis about him having the charges published in the newspaper. Ellis said that is correct.
Keith asked if the district had publicized the charges other than that. Ellis said that it hadn't.
Keith refers to a four-hour meeting that Ellis had with David Meadows after Ellis was placed on leave. Keith said that Ellis used that meeting to make charges against other employees rather than talk about charges against him.
Ellis said that meeting was called because he was unsure why he was placed on leave. He said he didn’t know the true reason why he was placed on leave.
Keith: You spoke for a majority of that time from a document that is exhibit 2 and was 10 pages long.
Ellis said that is correct, he spoke from that document.
Keith said the 10-pages in that document were complaints against other individuals but was not about the Friday night incident.
Ellis said it was documentation he had been keeping throughout the year. He said he had talked to Jason Harris about it on Oct. 5 but he hadn’t previously spoken to district officials about it.
Keith said Meadows told Ellis he would investigate the charges Ellis had made. Ellis had another meeting with district officials for about an hour and a half.
Keith asked if Ellis provided a written response to district officials after his termination.
Ellis said he didn’t. He said when he was told about his termination, he was not told he could provide a written response. He was told he could have a hearing and that it would be public. If he knew he could provide a written response and it would make a difference, he said he would have done that.
Butts objects by saying he made a response as Ellis’ attorney.
Keith: You didn’t provide a written or an oral response.
Ellis: I tried to provide an oral response (at that meeting) but was not allowed.
Keith refers to the curfew law.
Keith asks if any parent gave Ellis permission to take their kids to Walmart. Ellis said the parents gave him permission to have the students at his house but they did not give specific permission to go to Walmart.
Keith asks about permission to go to the Whitwell house and to go on a pranking event. Ellis gives similar answers. He said they gave permission to go to his house and he took that as permission to encompass all of those acitivities.
Keith: What permission did they give you Mr. Ellis.
Ellis: There is no specific permission. But you heard the testimony of those parents that it was OK for them to go with me to Walmart.
Keith: You called parents of kids to give you retroactive permission?
Ellis said no. He said he sent an email from his attorney to the parents asking if he had their permission to be with the kids.
Keith: That was done last week, that was not done prior to the event.
Ellis said yes. He said it was a social event and they did not have permission for anything.
Keith: Are you testifying you did not call any parents or students last week about this issue.
Ellis: I did not call any student about this issue.
Keith: Did you call parents
Ellis: I emailed parents.
Keith: Did you call a parent
Ellis: I don’t remember
Keith: Did you try to call a student who refused to take your call?
Keith refer to the curfew law. When a minor accompanied by an adult or accompanied by (a person designated by the parent, is with a student for a designated period of time). Keith asks if there was a designated period of time. Ellis said there was no parent that gave him specific permission to accompany the students to Walmart.
Keith: If you look at exemption 2, that doesn’t really apply to you does it?
Ellis: I think it does.
Keith: You testified that when the boys went to prank the girls house, you stayed in the car. You also remember that the mother said she thought you were supervising them.
I did not want to participate in the prank. I was not supervising them doing the prank. I was supervising them around the town, making sure they weren’t loud, I told them not to be loud in the neighborhood. I wasn’t watching them do the prank.
Keith: Do you know that the boys cleaned up the mess after they left the Whitwell home?
Ellis: They used shaving cream and the Vaseline that was on the cars. I need to clarify one thing, the bananas were smeared on….
Keith objects saying that he can’t go into yesterday’s testimony.
Compton said he can’t do that unless it is related to a question that was asked, Butts can address it on redirect.
Ellis said the question was related to the mess. He said the bananas were smeared on the window. He said the condoms were picked up because he made them pick them up.
Keith: You testified yesterday it was not necessary for you to get permission to arrange the songs for the Wave Connection show.
Ellis: I don’t think that was my testimony. I understand that as an arranger, I needed to get permission.
Keith: Was your testimony yesterday, there was no reason for you to have obtained permission for the arrangements prior to going forward with the performance…..When you said, ‘Now I know that I didn’t even need to do what I was trying to do.’ You had three different categories of songs: Steve Anderson with contracts, yourself and then some other arrangers. I want to know what you meant by your statement when you said it wasn’t necessary to have gotten permissions I was trying to get.
Ellis: Many of the songs we were trying to perform were done by arrangers without a contract for hire. Several of those songs could have been performed. I did say I was responsible for the songs I had arranged. The Steve Anderson songs I was trying to get permission for those.
Keith: Are you saying it wasn’t necessary to postpone the performance.
Ellis said he doesn’t think it was necessary because many of those songs had been arranged by other arrangers. He knows he needed to get permissions. He said there should have and could have been a show but there was not.
Ellis said I remember her saying it was a good idea to get permission.
Keith: She said it is necessary to obtain permission for every customized version of a copyright work that you disseminate?
Ellis said yes.
Keith: she said that making a customized arrangement and disseminating it without permission could be a civil matter
Ellis said yes.
Keith said that she also said that reproduction and dissemination of an unauthorized work could be a felony.
Ellis said that she also said that most publishers don’t want to do that if you are seeking permission.
Keith: Your own expert while saying it is in best interest of publishers to work with those who are seeking copyrights….When she said reproduction and dissemination of an unauthorized work could be a felony, that was the same thing Mark Greenburg told you.
Ellis said that her testimony and his statement were different.
Ellis is given a copy of DeSalvo’s testimony. Keith reads where it says that it can be a felony if a certain dollar amount is met and a certain number of copies are disseminating.
Keith: You don’t disagree with what your expert said?
Ellis said no, he doesn’t disagree.
Keith asks if the witness said that it can be a violation to disseminate songs for which proper permission hadn't been obtained.
Ellis said yes.
Keith said that for any songs you arranged, you would need to get permission.
Ellis: She also stated that any arranger can go back and fix that. At the time I didn’t know I needed permission for any arrangement I did, but I know that and I can fix it.
Keith: That is assuming that the rights holder agrees to fix that, there is no assurance?
Ellis said yes, but she also said that at no time is the district liable.
Keith said that we will go back to that, that is not exactly what she said.
Keith refers Ellis to contract with Steve Anderson. He said that for the songs arranged by Ellis, it was the duty of him on behalf of Tupelo High School (because he signed for THS). She said it was duty of you on behalf of Tupelo High School to submit one copy of the score to the attention of the copyright department for approval of the music and copyright permission.
Keith: You never did that for these three songs did you?
Ellis said he thinks Terri Stewart did that.
Keith: By the time you postponed the show, you hadn’t done that.
Ellis: said no. He said that Terri Stewart sent the check. (He said that she sent the copy of the score but that she had done so after the show was postponed)
I remember Ms. Ramona testified this is just the formality Hal Leonard uses to do its business. The boosters paid for this. It says Tupelo High School licensee, but you can get licenses without Tupelo High School. The boosters paid for this, but it doesn’t make Tupelo High School liable.
Keith: Nowhere on this document is the booster club. It says Tupelo High School.
Keith: As of the day you postponed the performance, you had not done what paragraph 5 said.
Ellis: Technically no, I had not.
Keith: Not technically, you hadn’t done it.
Ellis: No, but I thought when we sent the check off on Sept. 8, we were good to go.
Keith: Are you saying that even if you had never received a signed contract from Cherry Lane music, it would have been OK to go ahead with the performance of these three songs.
Ellis: I do for one reason. Steve Anderson submitted his, I call it an invoice. Did we enter into a contract for hire with him, I’m not sure we did that. In that case, it would have been OK to go forward.
Keith: I am just talking about this contract. Are you saying it would have been OK to go forward despite what paragraph 5 said.
Butts objects, saying Ellis is not a lawyer. Keith said that Ellis testified yesterday that he know understands the law.
Compton, can you answer about your understanding.
Ellis: I understand that the show could have gone on. The fact of the matter is we mailed a check. At some point, these songs were given to the copyright company as asked for in number 5. Absolutely we could have gone on with the show.
Keith: AS of Sept. 29, if you hadn’t performed paragraph 5, is it your understanding it would still be OK to go forward with the show with those three songs.
Keith: You remember (your expert testified she would not advise going ahead with the show without following the details of this contract).
Butts objects saying are we talking about disseminating to the students are a performance, there is a difference.
Keith said he is asking if Ellis remembers DeSalvo saying she would not advise disseminating to her students without (following the contract)
Ellis said yes
Keith asks and Ellis said he did disseminate it to the students and choreographers over the summer. Ellis said that is the way he had always done it and this is the first time he had dealt with this. He said that DeSalvo said he could retroactively go back and get the permissions and that is what he was trying to do.
Keith: You disseminated the music that had been arranged prior to the execution of the Hal Leonard contract?
Ellis said yes
Keith: You also understand now that that is a violation of copyright law.
Ellis: It was a violation of copyright law on my behalf and I can go back and make sure permissions were granted.
Keith: Assuming the rights holder would grant that permission?
Ellis: Yes, assuming the rights holder would cooperate, but she said it is in the best interest of the rights holder to cooperate.
Keith: That also assumes the rights holder agrees not to sue you? (going back and getting retroactive permission assumes that)
Keith: You testified when you went to Hal Leonard website in April, you knew you had to pay to get permission to those songs. Ellis said yes. Keith said you didn’t sign a contract with Steve Anderson until Septmeber. Ellis said yes but he has something he sends out to directors with what songs he will do. It appears to be a contract for hire, but it was not signed by both parties.
Keith: You went online to obtain the contracts for permission to arrange for the Steve Anderson songs?
Ellis: Yes but after that you wait until you receive permission….Steve Anderson gave me the arrangements early because we were having our normal choreography meeting…
Keith: Prior to you receiving this document dated Aug. 7, which is a contract on Cherry Lane Music head, you did nothing with regard to ensuring the proper permission was to be obtained on these three songs?
Ellis: I did submit the songs and I was waiting for this as it came Aug. 22. We started choreography (In July)
Keith asks if Ellis had any follow-up conversations with Anderson to ensure proper permission was obtained.
Ellis said he spoke with Anderson in June and July. He said he doesn’t remember specifically the conversations but they talked about the status of these.
Keith: Did you inquire whether you had permissions prior to this contract?
Ellis said he does not remember the conversations.
Keith: You said you contacted Jeremy Alferra but you didn’t get a straightforward answer about permission to arrange. Ellis said he was trying to understand his process and why he had never asked for this before.
Keith: In spite of not getting a straight forward answer, you stuck with him and you had no idea who was going to get permission for those songs.
Ellis said he did not know, but as Ms. Ramona testified he was the one responsible for getting permission so those songs could have been performed.
Keith said that at the time you didn’t know. Ellis said that is why he postponed the show.
Ellis said he spoke with Ron Jones, asked David Alderman what was going on and why certain arrangers ask for this and others don’t. Alderman told him that a lot of arrangers don’t deal with it. He said he went to all of the arrangers even though it was uncomfrortable because that is what he was told to do.
Keith: What communication did you have with Ron Jones about who would get permission for songs he was arranging.
Ellis: I had a phone conversation with him. I don’t remember the specifics
Keith: What did Ron Jones tell you about who was going to be responsible for getting permission. Ellis said the conversation wasn’t about the songs he was going to arrange and permissions. He talked to him about the past and why Jones didn’t require him to do it.
Keith asks about conversation with arranger Megan Glecker. Ellis said it was email correspondence with her. Ellis said she said that he needed to get permission, or the school would, but there was no contract for hire with her.
Keith: Did you do anything regarding getting permission for the songs Megan Glecker asked you to get permission for?
Ellis said he remembers submitting that song to Tresona?
Keith: But you never had permission as of Sept, 29?
Ellis said he does not recall.
Keith asks about Virgina Silouettes. Ellis said he tried to get an arrangement from that group, but he never did.
Ellis said he submitted it (to Tresona) because he wanted to do that song but he never ended up getting it arranged. Ellis said it was a pre-arranged piece of music.
Keith: What about Jeff Bowen?
Ellis: Jeff Bowen did rent and it was a pre-approved arrangement so I submitted that song as well.
Ellis said he had a conversation with Jeff Bowen and he said that he would get permission for it.
Ellis said that he still submitted every song he wanted to do. “I guess it was both of us covering our bases.
Ellis said he had no written agreement with Jones, Glecker or Bowen.
Keith: In spite of your knowledge that Steve Anderson required you to get permission to arrange through a written agreement, you didn’t get a written agreement with (the others)
Ellis: I did not have any written contract or written agreement with any arragener. With Steve Anderson, there was no agreement, there were no titles on those songs and it was not signed by either party. He said he is talking about the written agreement prior to making the arrangement.
He said he submitted the songs for Steve Anderson on the website. He said that Anderson was planning to do six songs even though he only submitted four to Hal Leonard.
Ellis said it wasn’t signed, it was like an invoice. The invoice didn’t have any songs listed on it.
Keith: The fact that you had Steve Anderson who directed you to a contractual arrangement to determine who would get permission to arrange and then you had Ron Jones who you didn’t ask who would get permission to arrange and Megan Glecker who said you needed to get permission to arrange. Did that not raise a question in your mind that to make sure for any song you were going to perform, you had proper arrangment.
Butts objects and Keith restates.
Keith: You were working with arrangers. One needed a contract, one you didn’t ask who was responsible for getting permission and one emailed you that you needed to get permission to arrange.
Ellis: As you can see, all of these arrangers had no clue what they were doing, as I did not. That is why I spent time trying to educate myself. It did raise questions and I tried to figure it out. It took me a while to figure it out and then I found out that that was even wrong. That is why I submitted every song for approval. That is why I ended up cancelling the song to give us more time..
Keith: As of Sept. 29, you never asked the principal or the distirct’s legal counsel to give you help?
Ellis: No, I was trying to figure this out on my own.
Keith: As of the date, the show was postponed, you had not taken steps to get permission for the songs you had arranged.
Ellis said he had submitted those to Tresona.
Keith: You had not received permission?
Ellis said he had received clearance. He said he didn’t understand the terminology between cleared and final copyright approval.
Keith: I think the testimony shows that every one of those songs had already been duplicated and disseminated to students?
Ellis said they had
Keith: Those documents did not have the proper copyright language on the first page?
Keith: Now, you also recall that your own expert testified that she would not advise a school district to go forward with music obtained from arrangements in which there had been no permission from rights holders
Butts objects, saying that was not her entire testimony.
Hearing takes a 10-minute break at 9:45 a.m.
Hearing resumes at 9:53 a.m.
Keith refers to transcript. In it he asked DeSalvo if she would advise a school district to go forward with a performance if permissions had not been obtained. DeSalvo said if she knew beforehand, she would not advise them to go forward. She then said a performance would be expempt. But, Keith said, she also said she does not recommend it.
Ellis said if he knew beforehand, he wouldn’t have gone forward with a performance. To me, this makes it seem that she would go forth with a performance because a performance is exempt and we can work afterward to get permission.
Keith: On Sept. 29, you knew you did not have permissions, so you did know beforehand?
Ellis: That is why I went ahead and cancelled the show
Keith: You have no assurance of being able to obtain permissions retroactively for songs you had arranged and had not received permission.
Ellis said no assurance.
Keith asked the same thing about songs by other arrangers. Ellis said the performance would be exempt.
Keith: Are you saying if you knowing used songs for which there was no permission, are you saying there would be no liability on you.
Ellis: I don’t recall her saying that
Keith: There are some songs for which you never get permission, such as those from the Hendrix estate.
Ellis: That is the only song I had trouble on.
Keith: Based on what you know today, would you perform that song anyway? Ellis said he wouldn’t. He said he would replace that with another song.
Keith: You have no assurance a rights holder would not sue you?
Ellis: Based on what I know now, it is in a publisher’s best interest to make money. As Mr. Jordan and Ms.DeSalvo testified, they are not in the business of suing. There is no assurance but there is no case where they sued someone for doing those thing.
Keith: You recall your witnesses testimony that a knowing violation brings a $150,000 fine?
Ellis: But there was no violation. There was no performance.
Keith: What is your understanding of whether a knowing violation would bring a possible $150,000 statutory fine?
Ellis said his understanding is that the arranger would be the direct infringer and he is only responsible for the songs he arranged, but there is no liability on behalf of the district.
Keith: You say that because you say you were (arranging) in your sole role as Calvin Ellis not as Calvin Ellis show choir director. Ellis said yes.
Keith: If you were going to do it over again, are you saying on Sept. 29, you would have gone forward with the performance any way.
Ellis; Knowing what I know now, that the students could have had the opportunity to do the show and present their hard work to the community at no violation to the school and I would encourage the arrangers including myself to get permission, for the student’s sake there absolutely would have been a show. I may have delayed it, but that is why we are in this, for the student sake.
Keith: For your sake, as an arranger, would you still have gone forward with the show?
Knowing what you know today, would you have gone forward with the songs you had arranged for which you had not received permission?
Ellis: Yes I would have gone ahead and I would have done everything in my power to make sure all of the songs I had arranged would be approved. If they weren’t approved, I may have changed my mind. We still had other songs we could have performed and we would have gone on with the show.
Keith: Would you have allowed the students to perform the songs you arranged and hadn’t gotten permission?
Ellis: Yes I would have but I would have done everything retroactively to get permission. IF we didn’t get permission I might not have used them. I would have tried my best to get permission.
Keith: Had you not received permission, would you go forward with the performance?
Ellis: It is hard to answer yes or no….I postponed the show to allow more time for permissions and I would have continued to perform those songs….Knowing what I know now, I would not have put those songs on the stage if I hadn’t gotten permission. (Said he would have delayed the show to get those permission)
Keith moves to exhibit 31. It is the MS educator code of ethics. Keith said standard 1 talks about professional conduct. 1.1.2 talks about respecting other educators.
Keith: Do you believe in light of what you said in exhibit 2, do you believe you were following that?
Ellis said yes.
Keith talks about exhibit 2 that calls for forthrightness. He asks if Ellis thinks he exhibited that when he talked to boosters about copyright
Ellis said yes.
Keith refers to exhibit 4. Says an educator should maintain a professional relationshp with all students inside and outside of the classroom. He reads examples of specific transgressions such as sexual inneuendo and electronic communication - such as text messaging- with students. Keith asks if he believes Ellis followed that in relation to the Friday event.
Butts objects because none of that is mentioned in the charges.
Keith said that evidence came out about the Friday night event and that can be considered by the board. He asks Ellis if he followed that standard.
Ellis said he did.
Keith refers to standard 5, calls for collegial relationship with collegues. He asks Ellis if he feels he maintained that in light of exhibit 2.
Ellis said he does. He said he believes professional relationships are a two-way street.
Keith goes to exhibit 26. Ellis’ contract for 11-12 school year. Ellis said it is identical to his 10-11 contracts.
Keith said the first page of the contract emcompases both his duties as teacher of music and his supplement as choral director.
Keith: You performed your music teacher duties during school day? Ellis said yes. Keith: You performed your show choir duties, afterschool, evenings and weekends. Is there any time you didn’t perform your show choir duties? Ellis: yes
When did you perform your duties as an arranger? Ellis said during the summer.
Keith: Are you testifying under oath that you enver worked on arranging music during the school day?
Ellis said not to his knowledge
Keith asks if he ever worked on his arrangement while he was working with show choir.
Ellis said not while he was working with students, but sometimes he would change parts that didn’t work.
Keith: You did not ask administration if it would be permissible to charge the booster club for arranging?
Ellis said yes
Keith asks if the arrangements were solely for the Tupelo show choir? Ellis said yes.
Keith: You arranged those songs because you are show choir director, not because you are an independent contractor?
Ellis: I arranged those songs because I am show choir director for Wave Connection and Sound Wave and I wanted to contrubite to their performance.
Keith asks if Ellis arranged songs for any other show choirs. Ellis said no.
Keith: You were performed by your principal you would not be able to go forward with performrnace for songs for which permission had not been given?Ellis said yes.
Keith: Where does it say in your contract that certain work you do for your show choir performance isn’t covered by your contract or your supplement?
Ellis: It doesn’t say that, but supplements in my understanding are put in place for the time you spend with students outside of school hours. We pay other outside arrangers. I would never expect arrangement to put expected of me as part of my supplement.
Keith: Who made decision of which arrangers to hire?
Ellis: I made the decision
Keith: You were in effect recommending yourself to the booster club?
Ellis: For years I had taken other arrangers work and adapted it to the program. I thought I could do other arrangements for the program that would be cheaper. The budget for arranging was $10,000. We would hire arrangers and the arrangement would be wrong and we would have to spend $1,000 on one song to redo. I did start that process and the boosters agreed.
Keith: The amount of money you billed the booster club over a two-year period of time was approximately $10,000.
Ellis said he does not recall the approximate amount. He said he knows it is over $8,000.
Keith refers to exhibit 15. District policy for staff conflict of interest. It says that no employee will use their position to obtain pecuniary benefit for themselves.
Keith said number 2 says prohibited activities. 2.9. One of the activities is using his or her position to influence purchase of goods or services from a school, booster club, etc.
Ellis: I wouldn’t agree that I tried to do that to help myself. I was actually trying to benefit the school.
Keith: You just testified you received in excess of $8,000 benefit and at the same time you did that, you were the show choir director?
Ellis: I was
Keith: Yesterday you testified you were concerned about kids being bullied and forced to sing. Didn’t Mr. Meadows ask you to sign a letter asking the kids in the two show choirs to cooperate.
Ellis said that is not all the letter said.
Ellis is given a copy of the letter. It is dated Oct. 18. It says due to fact that copyright permissions have not been obtained, permission has been postponed, In the meantime, we ask for you to all work hard in class. It would have been signed by Ellis and Jason Harris
Keith asks You refused to sign the letter?
Ellis said he did. He was uncomfortable with the fact that they were putting copyright permissions as what was going on with him. He said he would have been glad to sign something asking for the work to go on but he was uncomfortable signing something saying the reason he was not at school was because copyright permission hadn’t been obtained.
Keith: Did you present any amendments?
Ellis: I asked him about rewording the first part of this and I said we could work on it together. There were no more conversations.
Keith: Did you submit a revised version of this letter?
Ellis: They didn’t ask me that.
Keith: You had already sent out an email that the show had been postponed because of copyright permissions, correct?
Keith: You knew it was wrong to tutor your own students during the school day for pay?
Ellis said yes
Keith: You tried to justify it yesterday by saying you only did it twice?
Ellis: I did it twice to help the student
Keith: You stopped because the student’s parent told you it was wrong.
Ellis said she did not tell him it was wrong. He was another employee was talking about it in the community and she warned him to watch his back.
Keith: Yesterday you brought up the Alabama trip and talked about parents asking you to take students to lunch?
Keith: You already said that students could eat in the cafeteria. Ellis said yes
Keith said that by letting them go to the mall, he turned over supervisory responsibility and he could have asked them to say. Ellis said yes.
Keith said that last week when he questioned Ellis if he had talked about the issue with the principal, he testified that the only supervision issue that was brought up was the issue of no staff member being on the bus back to Tupelo.
Ellis said yes and then you showed me a letter referring to supervision issue at a mall. Ellis said he thought he was talking about something else at the mall.
Ellis said he does not recall discussing the issue at the mall with him. He said that he read the letter but the discussion just talked about returning to school without a staff member.
Keith refers to exhibit 74. A March 28 email from Ellis to Stratton. Keith said he wants to email parents about the proper protocol to report a problem. Keith said that is because you knew a parent had reported the incident at the mall.
Ellis said he did know that but the discussion, he was confused about the unsupervised complaint because he was at the mall Friday and Sunday with students who were chaperoned and went in groups. He said he didn’t understand why there was any reporting of supervision. (He said that and the incident at the mall were two separate things).
Keith: Are you saying you were not aware that on Saturday there were students at the mall and you were not.
Ellis said he was aware students were at the mall but he didn’t know there was a supervision problem.
Keith asks if when Ellis discussed the issue with Stratton, whether a mall supervision came up in the discussion.
Ellis said he told Stratton that the allegations of the students being unsupervised at the mall got him upset because there was supervision. But you are talking about another incident at another mall and I wasn’t there.
Ellis said he told boosters if there is a problem with anything please come to him. He said he wants to know the issues….If all these parents are going straight to the top and not saying anything to me, how can I fix these problems?
Keith: Did you approach any of the parents before this email from Lee Stratton?
Ellis said he did not know there was an issue before this email.
Ellis said he can’t remember the actual order of events. He does remember Stratton coming to him and talking about the ride home without an administrator. He said he doesn’t know the time frame.
Keith; How did it come to your attention there was a mall supervision issue that prompted to write this email
Ellis said he doesn’t know. Maybe he had a conversation with Stratton in passing.
Keith: You were upset because you said, “I don’t know why someone would come up with this other than vindictive reasons of their own?”
Keith: Did you think someone was being vindictive by reporting that issue to the administration?
Ellis: I knew I was bothered by the fact that there was a report of unsupervision when I knew there was none. There had been amny incidents that year of people going to higher authorities saying things that werne’t necessarily true.
Keith: Yesterday, you said a student had to cross the street to eat lunch. You don’t know where she was prior to that?
Ellis said he would assume she was at the hotel.
Keith: Do you know whether she was under adult supervision prior to going there?
Ellis said they were in their rooms getting ready for a performance. He does not know if there was a parent outside every single room. You can not watch every single student, every single time, every single event at a hotel.
Keith: I believe you testified you didn’t go outside to supervise students running laps if it was daylight hours. Ellis said that is correct.
Keith: At night time, you supervised them? Ellis yes.
Keith: You obviously didn’t supervise them the entire time they circled the building?
Ellis said you can not supervise every single step but he was outside counting laps.
Keith asks Ellis about statement that Ellis did not know about Petal incident.
Ellis said he did not know about not being asked back. He said he knew there was an incident and that the Petal principal approached him about it but he didn’t know about ruining the reputation.
Keith asks if Ellis informed the Tupelo administration?
Ellis said no because he took care of it and went back and talked to the students. He said he saw Petal parents being rude to them.
Keith: You didn’t think it was important to tell the administartion
At the time I did not think that was important for the principal to know because I dealt with it. I don’t run with the principal for every issue, I try to deal with it. That is what most principals want.
Keith said that Ellis testified yesterday that it was not a matter of being invited to competition, it is a matter of filling out a form. Petal doesn’t have to accept the form does it?
Ellis said no but he had never had an application not be accepted.
Keith asks if Tupelo has gone back to Petal since. Ellis said no but he didn’t want to because of the way they were treated.
Keith asks Ellis about his arrangments and his relationship with the boosters.
Ellis: There were no arrangements that had already been arranged by other people. My arranging project was the very first music project of the school year. When I had to seek other arrangements to fulfill other performance needs, I did not inform (The boosters) because I had done that for years.
Keith asks giving copies of the music to the boosters. Ellis said he wasn’t asked by the boosters for that until this year but that he did provide it to Terri Stewart this year.
Keith asks what the dates were. Ellis said it was August or September. Keith asks if he provided anything prior to that. Ellis said he was never asked prior to that.
Keith refers to exhibit 18, a Tweet..
Keith: Did you have that conversation with the individual who Tweeted that message?
Ellis said it was a Tweet by a student who took a picture of a text message.
Keith: Did you make the statement with anyone that (they couldn’t get a zero for an event that happened outside of school)
Ellis: I had a discussion with this person buecase she informed me that the kids had been builled at school. I tried to give a student a zero for an event at Ole Miss and the administration told me that I couldn’t do that for an event outside of school. I wanted the student to know that.
Ellis said he did not tell her to disseminate that.
Keith said the date of that was Oct. 24. Was that the approximate time you had that conversation?
Ellis said yes
Keith refers to next page that says “Go for it. Tell all WC students and make sure they don’t show up.” Did you also have that conversation?
Ellis said no.
Keith asks about Ellis’ conversation with Whitwell. Ellis said Whitwell called her.
Ellis said he called her prior to him being placed on leave about the incidents on Sept. 30. The conversation in which he infromred her he was palced on leave, she called him.
Keith: After you were placed on leave, did you call Ms. Whitwell?
Keith: After you were placed on leave, you were instructed not to have contact with any TPSD employee but Mr. Turner. He asks about what Mr. Meadows told Ellis about creating a report of his copyright activities.
Ellis said he was told to create a report. HE doesn’t recall him telling him he needed a daily log.
Keith: You don’t recall him giving you a pad and pen and telling you to write down these instructions?
Ellis: I believe he asked me, maybe on the 21, I don’t recall him telling me about every contact. I still have the memo I wrote and I don’t think it said to make a daily log. It was difficult for me to log every conversation because I was in the process of waiting for approval. That is why the report was as extensive as it was because that was all of the work I had been doing.
Keith: You were on full paid leave and he wanted documentation of what you were doing.
Ellis said that is not true and the only thing he was to do daily was to call at 3:00.
Keith: Are you aware your Wave Connection shows for 2009 and 2010 are on YouTube?
Keith is finished with his questions. Butts will begin his redirect shortly.
Butts asks Ellis about his meetings with Jason Harris and David Meadows. He asks whether any of those meetings conformed to district policy about how complaints should be handled about licensed employees
Ellis said no
Butts asks him about a point he said he wanted to clarify from prank night?
Ellis: There has been a great deal of discussion about the use of materials, the condoms and bananas. I think there is a misconception of how those materials were used. The bananas were smashed on the windows. The condoms were thrown on the ground. The Vaseline was on the door handles and the paint was on the windows. I think there is a great misconception about how those materials were used.
Butts: Had you been informed there existed any copyright compliance policy in the district?
Ellis said no. He said no administrator ever came to him and told him there was such a policy.
Butts: You were asked if you sought district advice on legal matters. Have you seen district policy on that? Ellis said no
Butts: Were you ever informed you could go directly to the district legal counsel and ask a question.
Ellis said he was never informed but he did go on one occasion. It was about the Smith Lake trip. They were thinking about taking parent cars to Smith Lake and he was asking for a form that could release them from liability.
Butts: You were asked if you went to your principal about the problems with copyrights, to your knowledge does Mr. Harris have any expertise on that?
Ellis said no.
Compton: I have a question about the condoms, were they taken out of the packages?
Ellis said they were taken out of the packages.
Jim Keith and Kelly Stimpson are conferring about a possible question. They will not ask it. Ellis is done with his testimony.
Keith said the district will submit three affadavits as rebuttal witnesses. They will submit them this afternoon and Butts will have the opportunity to submit counter affadavits.
Compton wants them to file those today and he will talk to Butts about whether he needs counter affadavits. The hearing is now in recess waiting for those affadavits and possible counter affadvits. They will then be in recess until the hearing officer gets a copy of the transcript and is able to prepare his report and get the transcript and report to the school board. He will notify both counsel at that point.
The hearing is done, as far as live witnesses.
When the school board gets its report from Compton, it will have a 30-day window to make a decision. The two lawyers will also make closing statements to the school board sometime within those 30 days.
(Last update 4:39 p.m.).
The ninth day of Calvin Ellis' personnel hearing has begun.
Witness is called Dr. Jerry Jordan. Lives in Oxford. Owns four businesses in Oxford and was director of choral activities at Ole Miss for a number of years.
He directed two choirs and supervised other choral directors. He taught conducting and choral methods and supervised student teachers.
He directed concert singers. It is a high-level choir with the most talented students at Ole Miss. They performed around the world and in 1998 and 2000, they won one of the most prestigious music directors in the world.
David Butts: Have you had occasion to purchase music that was never performed?
Jordan.: A tremendous amount of music that was never performed.
Jordan said most of his show choir experience is supervising show choir directors. He said early in his tenure at Ole Miss he directed the show choir and later on, others did.
As part of his job he went into school districts and evaluated choral programs. Sometimes he was asked to come in and more often it was informal.
Butts: Will you generally describe the undergraduate curriculum learned?
Jordan said it grew out of conservatory tradition. (emphasis on being performers). He said it is unfortunate because it weights things too much to voice and not enough on conducting. One course on choral methods.
He said it doesn’t include education on copyright law. Said there is no formal exposure at all. “I don’t believe I have ever seen a course on copyright law included on the syllabus.
Choral directors are told not to copy copyrighted music and that is generally the (Depth of knowledge on copyright law.).
Butts: Are your students trained to direct showchoirs?
Jordan: Only the musical rehearsal aspects of directing a show choir.
Jordan said they don’t receive any training in choreography or arranging music.
Butts: Would you agree graduates are not showchoir directors.
Jordan: I would agree with that. (Also that they are not choreographers or music arrangers).
Butts: Asks why directors are not trained in creating derivative works
Jordan: There are millions of pieces of choral music to select from. Also said there is not time to train them in arranging, it is a secondary skill. Said we often think of great composers and great conductors but they are often not the same person.
Butts: Are choral directors, do they arrange?
Butts: IS that a specialty outside of school activities?
Butts: Were you ever expected to arrange?
Jordan: I had my first high school teaching position in 1967 and supplements were already established as part of a teachers pay at that time. I was not expected to arrange (in any fashion. Said that supplements were intended for additional time needed to work with groups outside of school hours).
Butts directs Jordan to exhibit 26. It is a contract for employment with Mississippi Public School Districts.
Butts: Is it similar to contracts you have had with Ole Miss or other directs you have seen?
Butts: Would the descriptive term show choir director imply he was expected to arrange music?
Keith objects saying the witness has no knowledge of the terms of Ellis’ agreement with the school district. Compton overrules.
Butts: What does term show choir director mean?
Jordan: Typically, in my experience, it would never include choreography or arranging. He said after it is done, it may include sharpening it up, but in terms of arranging the music, it would not be considered part of their duties.
Butts asks Jordan about his familiarity with Tupelo School District choral program.
Jordan said that over the last 30 years there have only been one or two directors he has not personally trained.
Jordan said that the duties of those directors were to assign other choral directors to groups, to assign who is to teach what, to group students by ability level and to place in choirs according to their ability level, to develop the curriculum to determine (consistency) and to schedule events and determine how money is spent.
He said that student scheduling for choral students is difficult and frustrating because ability level and talent level does not necessarily correlate with grade level.
“It is difficult to do. It is a very intense area that every choral director goes to at the beginning of a school year.”
Butts: Do you know of any area where a choral director does not do the things you have enumerated?
Jordan said that Ellis was his student for three years. He said that Ellis was an exceptional student, always prepared. Probably the best baritone I had. Has a wonderful singing voice. Terrific conductor
“You could always count on Calvin. Always on time, very communicative.”
Butts: What was your opinion of him as a person?
Jordan: My opinion was the same. He is an exceptional person. What struck me about Calvin from the very beginning was how gentle and kind he was. I asked my wife if she remembered any events that would attest to Calvin’s character. She said every day was a testimony to Calvin Ellis’ character. I do remember two specific things that greatly impressed me. One was that Calvin volunteered to start the Oxford children’s chorus (Said Ellis never received any pay for this). He did an exceptional job with this group and there was no obligation for him to organize a civic choir (in addition to his studies)
Jordan said that in his last year he had to leave his job because he developed tinnitus in his ears and his ears rang. He needed hearing aids and knew it would be his last year. He became emotional in one of his rehearsals and had to leave. When he got home there was an email from Calvin.
“Calvin not only thanked me for my influence as a person and a teacher but he emphasized with me the things I may be feeling. It displayed great courage and character than an undergraduate would express those things with his professor.”
Jordan said since then he has seen Ellis at several choir reunions. He came to Tupelo and observed his choirs and performance. He has observed a rehearsal. He said he hadn’t had a great deal of correspondence but had had some emails.
Butts asked about the nature of the group’s performances.
Jordan: “I would say it was professional. Not what you would expect of a typical high school chorus.” He said sound was wonderful, performed difficult arrangements, choreography was precise and together and staging, costume and sets were excellent.
Butts asked what he noticed about Ellis.
“Calvin was a hero to his kids. He is very professional in the way he goes about his business. Kids responded to him as they had to to achieve that level of excellence, students had to be very responsive to a person such as Calvin?
Butts asks about crowd at performances. Jordan said the performances were packed and a lot of people expressed feedback afterward about how good of a job they felt Ellis was doing and about the support of Ellis’ wife. He said that a lot of community members would take Ellis’ children into their arms so that Ellis was not directed.
He said the reputation of Ellis’ showchoirs was superior and he was one of the best directors in the MidSouth.
Jordan said he also knew Jauna Ellis, that she was also a student at the same time as Ellis and that she sang in his wife’s women’s glee choir.
Butts asks his opinion of Ellis
Jordan: I always thought Calvin was a very upfront person. Calvin was a leader. If he felt like students in his baritone section needed to know something or needed clarification, he was the first to ask.
Butts: What is your opinion of Calvin Ellis’ ethics?
Jordan: I thought he was a very ethical person. He said he has never known Ellis to be dishonest and that he always found him to take responsibility where responsibility was do.
“Choral music directors spend an extraordinary amount of time well beyond their compensation. Being the heroes they are and the hero that Calvin Ellis was to his kids, it takes a selfless person to do what Calvin Ellis did in Tupelo.”
Jordan said the charges against Ellis appear to him to be a contrived laundry list of despicable rubbish that have absolutely no connection to Calvin Ellis expect in a couple of cases they charge him with doing exactly what he should have been doing.
Butts ends his examination and Jim Keith begins his cross.
Keith asks Jordan what knowledge he has of the nature of Ellis’ charges.
Jordan: The charge of manipulation of student schedules is exactly what Calvin Ellis should have been doing if he wanted students in the appropriate class.
Keith asks if Jordan knew that class had been assigned to another employee and that class was taken away from that teacher?
Jordan said he knew something to that effect.
Keith: You don’t know Calvin Ellis’ role in that do you?
Jordan said copyright violation charge was contrived. “In my opinion, I served on the Walton Music Corporation board for a number of years and I have some familiarity with how the industry works on copyright violations. I am no lawyer but I have been advised by lawyers on copyright violations but I am knowledgeable on fair use violation and as is practiced in the industry, any one who is trying to do right by copyright holder or publisher has no chance of being punished for violation of copyright law.
Keith: You are saying that because law said it is a violation to arrange without permission, you don’t have to worry about that law?
Jordan said the law is complex. Mentions fair use and educational exclusions. He said that as a practical matter, they are never going to be prosecuted (if they are making efforts to get permission).
Keith asks what it was by fair use that Ellis was not going to be charged. Butts objects.
Keith: Do you know what the specific violation was that Calvin Ellis had been charged with? Butts objects.
Compton said the witness already testified he was familiar with the charges.
Keith: What information do you have about the nature of the charge?
Jordan: As I understand the fair use provision, I am not a lawyer but as I have seen it play out, any choral director who is attempting to see an arranger or a copyright holder is fairly compensated (may be technically in violation but won’t be punished)
Jordan: That the district is exposed to any liability is laughable to me. Said publishers don’t want to go after schools when schools are making efforts to ensure that appropriate parties are fairly compensated.
Keith: Do you know what it is that Calvin Ellis is being charged with?
Jordan: As far as I am concerned he didn’t fail to do anything that led to charge number 1.
Jordan: What I have been told and what I have read is that Calvin was attempting to get the rights.
He said he heard that from several sources and that he read some of the newspaper articles.
Keith: Did Calvin tell you he had used songs he had arranged without getting permission from rights holder?
Jordan: The answer is no but it would not have been pertinent to me because it is commonly done.
HE said it means the person plans to cover themselves with the fair use issue. He said he knows that because it is commonly done.
Keith: Are you aware that if you are a repeat offender, there are violations in the law?
Jordan said he is not aware of that because he does not know that anyone has been violated for being a repeat offender.
Keith: Are you still saying it is OK?
Jordan: No. I am agreeing that as a practical matter the industry is not going to go after you but I am saying those provisions to which you refer are preempted in the minds of directors and most companies by the fair use policy.
Keith: Are they preempted in the law itself?
Jordan: That is my understanding.
Keith: What is it about charge number 2 that you believe is contrived?
Jordan: In the first place, the show could have gone on. The timely manner of business is not of great importance. He was seeking to get permission and whether that permission came just before the show or just after, in my view, is irrelevant.
Keith: You are not a lawyer. Would you advise a show choir director to go forward with a performance if there are songs in that performance that had been arranged without permission of rights holder?
Jordan said he would if they were seeking permission.
Keith: If they are seeking it, that does not mean they are going to get it, does it? Jordan: There is pretty good assurance that someone who is in the business to make money (is going to want to make money by selling those rights. He said there is a strong assurance you will get it but not absolute)
Keith: If someone believes you are deliberately taking their music, and using it, there is no assurance they will give you that permission?
Jordan: I suppose the literal answer would be yes, but it is so far from the realm of the likely that it is (not relevant).
Keith refers to song owned by Hendrix estate and that permission has still not been received.
Jordan said he is not familiar with that.
Keith asks if he would have still gone ahead with that Hendrix song.
Jordan said if he had done his best to compensate the rights holder, then he would have gone ahead.
Keith: You said you were employed at Ole Miss, when did you cease working at Ole Miss?
Jordan: 2001. It was Ellis’ third year in the program
Jordan said he has been in private business for 45 years. His private businesses were side to his teaching at Ole Miss.
Keith: In 2001, you were a professor at Ole Miss and had retired. At that point in time, had you done anything to keep up with the specifics of the show choir industry?
Jordan said he hadn’t kept up on a daily or weekly business but he has kept up with what has gone and he knows what the trends have been.
His primary involvement since 2001 has been to judge international choral competitions, work with community choirs and help at clinics. He said he has done little with show choirs.
Keith: You made a comment that when you ceased being a professor in 2001, there was little in the curriculum regarding copyright law?
Jordan said that was correct.
Keith asks if he knows about curriculum today?
Jordan said music educators find the law daunting and most find it even more daunting than he because he has had experience with a publishing company. He said most people in the field would leave it school districts to establish policies and the standards by which educational exclusions apply.
Keith said that since it is so daunting, wouldn’t it be a fair statement to ask those involved to make sure they know what they are doing.
Jordan said arranging has become much more common to the modern show choir. The primary concern for most of the time choral music has been in existence under copyright law has been that you don’t copy printed choral music (He said that is the biggest thing that was stressed).
Keith asks if arranging is a whole different issue. Jordan said in some respects it is.
Keith: If people are going to arrange music, you need to know there are copyright issues you need to be aware of
Jordan: I would be surprised that a choral director would not have an awareness he needs to comply with the law.
Keith: In order to comply with the law, you would seek advice from someone with knowledge of the law? Jordan said that would be the responsibility of the school district.
Keith: Are you aware there was another director in Tupelo who was obtaining permissions for songs for her group?
Jordan said no.
Keith: Are you aware that person successfully got permission?
Keith: are you aware that was also the person who told Mr. Ellis he needed to get permission for his songs as well?
Keith: Have you ever seen Calvin Ellis’ job description?
Jordan said just the documents placed in front of him.
Butts objects saying that if such a job description exists, he has never seen it.
Keith: When did you visit performances of Tupelo show choir?
Jordan: As recently as 2008-2009.
Keith: So the 2008-2009 show choir performance would have been about the second or third year, Mr. Ellis had been in the Tupelo school district?
Jordan: I believe he had been here longer than that, but I don’t know how long he had been doing show choir.
Jordan said the last performance he had seen could have been as late as 2010, but he thinks it was 2008-09.
Keith asks about subsequent contact with Ellis. Jordan said there have been three or four reunions that Ellis has attended.
Keith: What was it based on when you said Mr. Ellis was one of the top directors in the mid south?
Jordan: Conversations with other directors.
Keith asks if Jordan is familiar with any awards Ellis had won.
Jordan said no.
Keith asks what reputation Tupelo show choirs had before Ellis
Jordan: I would have to say generally the sophistication of the show choirs has become greater and greater here in Tupelo.
Keith: What about the overall choral music program?
Jordan: The overall choral music program has always been very good in Tupelo and Calvin has carried on that tradition if not improved it.
Keith asks if Jordan has any personal knowledge since 2001?
Jordan said he can see their performances and he knows what the quality is.
Keith: Back to the list of charges you said was contrived. Look at number 3. What do you know about allegations under number 3 and the booster club funds?
Jordan: Every major show choir in MS pays professional choreographers. As I previously testified, the timing of the copyright clearance is not an issue. Thousands of dollars are always spent on these show choirs.
Keith said he wants to know specifically what Jordan knows about allegation Ellis has squandered funds.
Butts objects saying that the charge is not specific and Jordan said what he knows. He said if we were dealing with some specificity, that might be a fair question.
Keith: My question is simple. I can read number 3 as well as Mr. Butts. My question for this witness is what knowledge do you have specifically about the charges regarding the booster club fund that you think is contrived.
Butts: That is not what the witness stated?
Compton: The question is what is his personal knowledge.
What knowledge do you have of Mr. Ellis squandering booster club funds?
Jordan: I don’t know that he squandered any booster club funds.
Keith: Do you know how he spent booster club funds.
Butts objects, saying Ellis isn’t the only one who spent booster club money.
Jordan: I have knowledge that funds were spent paying for professional choreography (and their out of state travel. He said that is all appropriate).
Keith: You do not know how many times songs had to be redone?
Jordan said he doesn’t specifically know how many times.
Keith: Did you read the testimony of the booster club individuals who have testified in this hearing?
Jordan: I have not read the testimony. I have read the first couple of days of blogs.
Keith: Have you read the testimony of Terri Stewart?
Jordan: I don’t remember it. I may have read it, but I don’t know the same.
Keith asks about charge 4.
Jordan said he knows it as it has been told to him by Ellis and Butts. He said one student was taught during the day.
Jordan: I think it is purely a technical violation, something that was a matter of convenience not a matter of practice and it caused no harm to anyone else.
Keith asks if it is OK to violate board policy with out getting permission for a principal.
Jordan: I think if a choral director ran to a principal every time he was going to spend 15 minutes doing something that might be questionable, the principal wouldn’t have time to do anything else.
Keith: I am asking if it is OK for a choral director to violate a school board policy?
Jordan: In this case yes.
Keith asks about the charge with students getting on the bus on the Birmingham trip. He asks about those students needing to ride in a car with parents. He asks if Jordan knows who was in charge of supervising those students?
Jordan: Ultimately Mr. Ellis.
Keith asks if he was aware of whether any Tupelo staff were with those students at the mall.
Jordan said no. He said he is aware of thousands of trips choral directors take with their students in which it is possible for the directors to be with all students all of the time without parental assistance.
Keith: Are you saying in that case it is OK to violate board policy?
Jordan: In that case, yes
Keith asks about charge 6. Jordan said he does not believe the allegations of number 6 are characteristic of what Mr. Ellis would allow to happen if he was aware.
Keith asks about 7. Jordan said he does not know anything about the running of laps.
Hearing takes a 10-minute break at 9:47 a.m.
Hearing resumes at 9:58 a.m.
Jordan said he has no knowledge of students running the laps.
Keith: Do you have any specific knowledge of allegations in number 8?
Jordan: My specific knowledge would be in general, rooms used by high school students…
Keith: I am asking you your specific knowledge of this incident. That is my question on each of these, what specific knowledge do you have?
Jordan said he has no specific knowledge.
Keith asks about 9. Jordan said it would be appropriate if Ellis had done that.
Keith asks about charge 10. Jordan said he had been told that Ellis had done that and it would be appropriate.
Keith asks who told Jordan. Jordan said several sources, maybe Ellis’ wife or Mr. Butts. He said he has only had one conversation with Ellis, about a 15-minute conversation about a week about. He said he had a telephone conversation with Mr. Butts and he also met with Mr. Butts on Saturday. He said that Butts did not go through each of the charges.
Jordan said he is not sure (if Butts gave him the charges). He said he read the article in the Tupelo paper about the charges and he heard from Ms. White Williams. He said he didn’t have to hear about them from anyone to know that they are without merit.
Keith: Are you saying it is OK to charge the booster club for songs and not use those songs?
Jordan said yes. Keith asks if he knows how much money was charged and Jordan said no.
Keith asks about 11. Jordan said that the duties of Ellis would not have covered everything required and that the booster club helps cover those things.
Keith asks about 12. Jordan he is aware of an instance where Ellis had been told a piece was cleared and he took that to mean permission had been gained.
Keith asks about 13. Jordan said he stands by his characterization of the charges He doesn’t need specific knowledge of each of the charges because he knows his characterization of Ellis as a person.
Same for 14.
Keith asks about 15. Jordan said he has specific knowledge. His understanding is that the children were not out after midnight, every description he had heard was that this was prior to midnight. He does not know what time the city curfew is but he knows this was an evening of an announced event and that parents apparently gave students permission to take their cars and go to MR. Ellis’ house. Given that parents knew students were out, I would assume they were better off in Mr. Ellis’ presence than not in his presence.
Keith asks if Jordan knew the students went to Walmart and Jordan said yes. Keith asks if he knows what the students purchased. Jordan said bananas, some kind of paint and condoms and that they threw these on cars.
Keith asks who told Ellis the event didn’t happen after midnight? Jordan said he had not read that it was after midnight.
Keith: The information you have on number 15 is what you have read and what you have been told. You have no personal knowledge. Jordan said he was not there.
Keith: Do you think that activity was OK?
Jordan: I think that activity would have required investigation and perhaps counseling of Mr. Ellis.
Keith asks if he has knowledge of number 16 and Jordan said no. Keith asks about number 17. Jordan: I have knowledge that while choral directors may serve on a board, their position on that is as a choral director not as a board member.
Keith asks if he had read bylaws and Jordan said no.
Jordan: I don’t need to read them to think this is a mountain made out of a mole hill…I don’t believe in hanging people over a technicality.
Keith: You think a violation of a bylaw is a technicality?
Jordan: I think violations of bylaws are violations of bylaws.
Keith: You haven’t read the booster club bylaws?
Keith: Do you think it is OK to violate those bylaws?
Jordan: I think bylaws are violated every day where it is clear to everyone they are not appropriate to a certain situation.
Keith asks about binding the school district to a contract. Jordan said choral directors bind a district by implied authority.
Keith asks about allegation 19. Jordan said he does have facts. He said he knows that Ellis came to Tupelo schools to work with Vicky Wilson, that they had a wonderful relationship and that she considered him her heir apparent and that he has never heard about Calvin being uncooperative to anyone.
Keith asks about specific facts on number 19. Jordan said he had no direct knowledge.
Jordan said he had no specific knowledge of 2. Number 3, no specific knowledge and would be uncharacteristic and that is takes two to tango. No specific knowledge to number 4.
Keith objects that the witness is editorializing
Jordan said the Madrigals class has traditionally been in the purview of the person in Ellis’ role.
Jordan: We can dismiss with all of these questions if it requires that I sat in the classroom. Everything I know is second hand.
Compton: You made statement that all of these charges are contrived. When you made that statement, I knew these questions were coming. If you have no specific knowledge say you don’t have it.
Jordan: I don’t have first-hand knowledge but that doesn’t prevent me from making a valid opinion on these charges.
Keith: When you retired from University of MS, was it a retirement, a resignation or were you asked to leave?
Jordan said he took an early retirement. Keith asks if there was more to that than the health issue. The Jordan said the health issue was a big reason and he was unhappy with the direction of the administration.
Keith asks if there were any allegations against him before he left.
Jordan said no.
Keith is finished his questions. Butts will begin his redirect in closed session. Hearing goes into closed session at 10:21 a.m.
Witness has reopened and Jordan is done with his testimony. The next witness is Carrie Haadsma.
Haadsma lives in Tupelo. She said she has six children, all from the same husband. (laughter).
She taught for 13 years in Michigan, high school.
She has a senior and a sophomore at Tupelo High School. “We’ve got 3 out and 3 in at my house.”
Butts: Have you been involved with the show choirs and with the booster club?
Haadsma said she has been bless with 13 years of kids being involved with show choirs, 13 ad campaigns, 13 times of kids putting on a show.
She said that she has been involved the whole time Ellis was involved.
Last year she was on the show choir board, which was a new thing. Prior to that she had gone to the general meetings. Her niche had been helping with the programs. That is a big undertaking and it has become her niche.
Butts: As a board member of the booster club, are you familiar with the way the booster club raises and spends money?
Haadsma said she is pretty aware of that.
Butts asks about how it generally happens
Haadsma said her understanding is that the budget is basically a guideline to where they need to be. Students must pay a fee to participate and there is also an ad campaign, those are the main fundraisers. Occasionally they have done other things to add to the pot.
Butts asks how large the budget had gotten
Haadsma said she didn’t know exactly but that it would be a pretty large budget.
Butts asks how budgeting was done by various committees. Haadsma said they set budget based on what they’ve done in the past. She said it is a guideline, they don’t vote on that and it is to give them an idea.
She said that the budget has never been voted on by the board since she was involved, since 2002.
She said the board never voted on individual expenditures. The only time she remembers things being voted on was for general chorus, such as for risers. Never for show choir.
Butts asks about Ellis’ role.
Haadsma: The show choir board, we were a support system for the director. He was the director, the artistic director. He was large and in charge. We were folks trying to help him in whatever way we could. We were just trying to do in his direction.
Butts: Was any public money every given to the booster club by the district?
Haadsma said no. She said all of the money was from fees and fundraising. She said that she has been involved with other booster clubs with other children. She said her job with the basketball boosters is just to give the coach whatever he needs and that is how she sees it with Ellis.
Butts asks about Ellis being paid by booster club for doing arrangements.
Haadsma said he was.
Butts if Haadsma ever heard complaints about that arrangement.
Haadsma said the thought was that if we were going to pay someone to arrange a song, it would be good to pay Calvin because it would be cheaper and that it would be better to pay him than an outside arranger. She said that if people were upset with things like that, she wished someone had discussed it with her.
“It is my idea we try to work things out among ourselves before you go on to bigger things.”
She said that last year when it originally came up, no one was unhappy with it to her knowledge.
Butts asks about songs being rearranged that someone had already arranged.
Haadsma said she doesn’t think that is what happened. She said that Ellis would arrange a song and then pay another arranger to help work it in, to get the best song possible.
Haadsma said she didn’t hear any complaints about that at the time.
Butts asks if anyone ever brought to her a complaint that songs had to be rechoreographed
Haadsma said no and that she does not know of it being brought to the board.
“A lot of times you get mommas with one or two children who are used to having a real opinion on the activities their children are in (She said one of the blessings of having six kids is that they learn the world is not going to revolve around them. She said that choreography they would bring someone in and sometimes they would need to rework it. She said she thought it was great that whatever he needed to do, he had the expertise).
Butts: Are you familiar with any allegation that Mr. Ellis was improperly charging the booster club for anything?
Butts: What do you know about the credit card?
Haadsma: I didn’t know a whole lot. That was something I had heard one time in passing, maybe there was some food charged and the receipts didn’t come in so the decision was made to do away with the credit card.
Butts asked whether there were allegations Ellis had done anything improper with it? Haadsma said no. She said it wasn’t a charge, more of a conversation.
Butts why would booster club money be spent to pay choreographers
Haadsma: When you invite someone in, you pay for their food….I thought it was right and gracious to pay for people who came to Tupelo.
Butts: Do you know the hours worked during choreography?
Haadsma said long hours and very intense. She said it was normal to have food and normal to feed Mr. Ellis if he was there. She said the basketball booster club feeds people.
She said she would honestly feel bad if they didn’t (pay for the food) and she means that sincerely.
Butts: Are you familiar Mr. Ellis would have to provide transportation to the choreographers to the airport?
Haadsma said yes
Butts asks if she would have an objection to Ellis using the credit card to pay for gas
Haadsma said obviously not.
Butts: If Mr. Ellis had his child with him and used the credit card to purchase a Happy Meal for his child, would you find that objectionable?
Haadsma said any sane person would not think that would be a big deal and she would be happy to purchase an occasional Happy Meal for his kids.
Butts asks about committees. Haadsma said there were probably six or eight. She said Ellis was in charge of all of them, but that he concentrated on the music and the show and he left the other committees to do their things.
She said that the show choir board was trying to police all of these people. “We tried to hold them (the other committees) more accountable.”
Butts: What if they went over budget?
Haadsma: We didn’t have any authority over them, so the money would have to come from somewhere else.
Butts: Had you heard costume budget had been increased this year? Haadsma said she had because not enough money had been set aside in previous years.
Butts asks how Tupelo’s budget compared to other show choirs? Haadsma said it is actually much smaller.
Butts asks if Ellis dictated to the booster club what it could and couldn’t do. Haadsma said no. She said he would tell them what was needed and the booster club would do that. She said that Ellis was different than her, that he was more of the pie in the sky than the stick in the mud.
Butts asks if Haadsma is familiar with the NY trip.
She said she was. She said she was the stick in the mud.
Haadsma said that they had the opportunity to go to NY and they tried to do it and did several fundraising opportunities.
Butts: Did that trip fall through?
Haadsma: It did fall through. I was probably the one who wasn’t high on his list at that time because I didn’t think we would have the money to do that. (She said Ellis never held that against her. She said she was fine with trying to make the trip happen but that in the end it never happened).
Haadsma said Ellis was getting really wooed by the company that was putting it on and they were trying to entice Ellis to make the trip, offering to cut the cost and get sponsors. She said she thought it would have been inappropriate to not pursue those opportunities.
Butts: During this process for the NY trip, were you aware whether official approval had been given for the trip?
Haadsma: I can’t remember now…..I thought it had been, but I just don’t know.
Butts: Would you have knowledge of the process in trying to plan for a trip in that Calvin would have to see if there was interest in a trip before getting approval.
Keith objects, says Butts is leading the witness.
Butts asks her to describe the process.
Haadsma: He had the opportunity and he called us together as a board. We were excited about the thought, but we thought it would (be tremendously difficult to get the money. Haadsma said that she as the naysayer recommended surveying the parents first to see whether there was interest)
Butts: Were you aware it was inappropriate, or against school policy for Mr. Ellis to say anything about the trip without getting approval from the administration for the trip?
Ellis: How did Mr. Ellis treat your kids?
Haadsma: Mr. Ellis treats every child like they matter and like they are important to him. It really is a sight to behold. (He walks through the hallway and scoops up the kids and asks how they are doing). He really treats them like they are a precious gem, which they are.
Butts asks how kids respond to him.
Haadsma said they respect him. Said it is a love-hate relationship. Said they love him but sometimes he tightens the screws before a performance. She said the statements of the kids on Facebook and the number of likes on the Team Ellis page is an example of how much they like him.
Butts asks if Ellis plays favorites.
Haadsma said no except maybe for the kids at the bottom of the barrel. She mentions her daughter who was in Sound Wave as a freshman and sophomore and took lessons from Jauna but was placed in Sound Wave and not Wave Connection as a junior. Haadsma said she thought Ellis should put him there and that it would be an opportunity for him to play favorites because he likes her momma, but that he didn’t play favorites. The next year she did make Wave Connection.
Butts asks if Ellis played favorites for the students who took lessons from Mrs. Ellis.
Haadsma said the first year her daughter took lessons, Mrs. Ellis said she would love to give her lessons but that she couldn’t close to the show choir auditions because it would not be appropriate.
Butts asks if Haadsma had ever heard that parents would pay Ellis money to give their kids a better position in show choir.
Haadsma said she had not heard that and that if she did hear that she would be suspicious of it.
Butts asks about parents who have a hard time paying and what Ellis would do about that.
Haadsma said she has had a hard time paying it before. She said it is a fine line because you need people to pay them but she would have thought less of him as a person if he would have looked someone in the eye and told them they were out because they didn’t pay their fees.
Butts asks if she ever saw Ellis discriminate against a person because of financial position, race or social status. Haadsma said not at all.
She said that Ellis looks at the whole child and that is what makes him great. He wants what is best for each individual child.
She is thinking of a white child who kept not showing up for practice and he was asked to leave. A couple of weeks later, she saw that child on stage crew. She said Ellis told her that child really wanted to be back and it was better for that person to be on stage crew than out on the streets so he let him back.
Butts: What has been the overall experience for the kids, parents, community?
Haadsma: I’ve always thought the show choir was not about the singing and the dancing….It is the whole idea of working toward a common goal and the camaraderie you build up and the kinship working toward a common goal. It has been an integral part in the formation of my kids.
One of her sons who is a senior at Ole Miss tried out as a freshman in high school to met girls. Mr. Ellis infused him with a love of music and this boy is a singer, a musician, plays keyboard and guitar.
“This kid grew from the whole experience and his appreciation for music is so much bigger than being in show choir.”
Butts: I want to ask you about some of the charges. Do you know whether Mr. Ellis has ever squandered booster club funds?
Haadsma: I have not know that he squandered any funds.
Butts: Have you ever known him to endanger students on a field trip to Alabama or elsewhere?
Butts asks about him neglecting students to have to get food on streets of Birmingham. Haadsma said no
Butts asks about trashing room in Petal?
Haadsma: My son was one of the ones on that trip. He tells me absolutely, they did not trash the room.
Butts asks about them not being invited back to Petal. Haadsma said she has knowledge of that but thinks it was more because of Petal’s jealousy or the rivalry.
In response to questions, Haadsma said she has never know Ellis to intimidate or coerce student not to attend class.
Butts asks about hair and makeup night. She said her understanding was that it was a social event that didn’t need school approval.
Butts: Would you be surprised if the kids pranked each others’ cars during such an event?
Butts: I’m sure you may have heard of this prank and the use of several kids of items. One that is repeatedly mentioned is the use of condoms. What is your opinion of that and what is your reaction?
Haadsma: That night, the girls came to my house. At 11 or 11:15 I got a call from a girl (said come down here to the cul-de-sac). They had turned up the music and were dancing and you could see they were excited.
She said they told me they were going to prank the boys. She said call me a bad parent but she didn’t mind that. She said there were other things they could have done, a bad school dance or parties in the field. She is glad they weren’t doing that. Honored they called her to go outside and see them.
“We are one of the most conservative families in Wave Connection so I would think I am a credible source. I have boys. When boys retaliate, they think what can we do that will really embarrass the girls…They bought condoms and out it on the cars…IT was obvious they were going for a reaction they got….It has all been blown out of proportion....They were being goofy boys.
Haadsma said her understanding is that Ellis didn’t know they were doing that.
Butts asks about Ellis being paid by the booster club. He asks if she is familiar with booster club rule that members are not to be compensated.
She said know she is but she took that to mean that you are not to be paid for being on the board not that you are not going to be paid for anything.
Butts asks if in being paid for arranging, Ellis was doing something directors had done for years. Haadsma said yes.
Butts asks about Stewart. Haadsma said Terri Stewart would be the only one with access to money and with the authority to write a check.
Butts finishes his examination.
Hearing takes a short break at 11:20 a.m.
Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith: Do you have any familiarity with whether the booster club has paid any directors for arranging?
Haadsma said she does not have any knowledge that they had done that.
Keith asks which board Haadsma was on. She said she was on the show choir board.
Keith: That was the board that was hand-picked by Mr. Ellis for the sole purpose of overseeing show choir activities? Haadsma said that was correct.
She said she did not serve on the general booster board. The show choir board no longer exists, it disbanded at the end of the 10-11 school year. She said that board existed to try to be a help with the director and do some of the logistics.
Keith: Did you attend booster club meetings?
Haadsma: I assume I did, but I can’t swear to that. They have a general meeting, they have two or three a year.
Keith: The show choir board, you attended those meetings?
Haadsma: Not every meeting but yes.
Keith: Were you there the night the NY trip was cancelled?
Haadsma said she thinks she was but she was not sure if that was the exact one.
She said the board did not take a vote on that. She said they told Ellis they didn’t have the money and couldn’t go on the trip.
Keith: You were aware he continued to work on efforts to make trip happen any way?
Haadsma said yes.
Keith asked if he discussed that with the entire board or just with her?
Haadsma said it is hard for her to remember exactly what she knew when but that she would imagine he had told the whole group. Keith asks if he told the whole group at a meeting. Haadsma said she is not sure.
Keith asked about whether Haadsma had read bylaws. She said she had. She said this year’s bylaws are new because there was a different board.
Keith asks if the purpose of paying Ellis to arrange songs was to save money.
Haadsma said potentially, yes.
Keith asks if she knew how Ellis’ fees compare to other arrangers. Haadsma said she does not know.
Keith: On credit card issue, are you aware of receipts not being turned in in a timely manner?
HAadsma said she remembered hearing the treasurer say something about that. She said that she was also treasurer of a junior auxiliary club and she would not for anything if she didn’t get a receipt. She said people made that mistake one time.
Butts asks what credit card was used for. Haadsma explained. Keith: Every one of those expenditures lent itself to having a receipt?
Haadsma said treasurer should have tracked that down.
Keith asks if she knows board policy for field trips. Haadsma said she is not.
Keith: Are you familiar with who makes decision on who gets into Wave Connection?
Haadsma: They perform before judges. There is a scoring system. (MR. Ellis does it with others who are trained in that).
Keith: It is more than Ellis who makes the decision? Haadsma said yes. She said she would imagine Ellis has sway on who gets in but she doesn’t know exactly how the process worked.
Keith asked about the $750 fee to be in show choir Haadsma said it was paid in installments.
Keith: Was the board made aware of students who were not meeting their financial obligations?
Haadsma said Stewart was the only one who knew but she would tell them numbers of folks, not who they were.
Keith: You said it was the right thing to do to allow people an extension of those opportunities if they couldn’t pay to do it?
Haadsma said yes, it is a balancing act.
Keith: Kids know about the fees going in, don’t they?
Haadsma said there is (a certain obligation). She said some kids worked the whole school year to get their money. She said they were trying to work with people even though they liked to have the money by September when they had to pay their fees/
Keith: Would you agree with me it was unfair to let those folks in when they couldn’t pay when there is someone who just missed the cut who could pay.
Haadsma said she thinks it is a balancing act. She said if it was a deal breaker for someone, she wishes someone would have told her. They would have sent an email to parents asking them to contribute for that child.
Keith: But if you have too many kids who can’t meet their obligation, it would be a strain on the program?
Haadsma: It would be, but that is not the situation we are referring to.
Keith asks if Haadsma was there for the competition at Petal. She said she wasn’t there but her son told her it never happened.
Haadsma said she hadn’t heard about it previously.
Keith asked if Haadsma had heard a Petal administrator talked to Elis about the incident. She said she hadn’t until recently.
Keith asked about the girls coming by Haadsma’s house before pranking the boys.
Haadsma said they told her there were some guys at Mr. Ellis’ house and they were going to prank their cars.
Keith: Who was supervising the girls?
Haadsma: My child is 17. When she is at my house, I don’t even supervise her much. Ms. Jauna was with her. I just thought it was the coolest thing this adult was hanging out with the kids….(She told her husband about it the next day)….I just thought it was a really neat memory.
Keith: With regard to what Mr. Ellis knew or didn’t know that night, you didn’t have any knowledge at all did you?
Keith: Do you know whether there were any Tupelo staff people involved in that Friday night event other than Mr. Ellis
Haadsma: I don’t know
Keith: You characterized the boys decision as a dumb decisions, was that in what they purchased?
Keith: What should an adult have done about hat dumb decision.
Haadsma said it would be a problem if he paid for it with the credit card.
“When you are dealing with teenagers you make a 100 decisions in 20 minutes and you do the best you can.”
She would have never told her child to buy condoms and put it on a girls car but if that was the worst thing he had done, “we’re in business.”
Keith: Who knew MR. Ellis was being paid by booster club to arrange music?
Haadsma: Probably booster board.
No one called me and said we just sent a check, but I knew that was our understanding.
She said she didn’t know how much he would be charging the booster club.
Keith: Were you aware that the music and choreography budget was consistently over budget?
Haadsma: Not necessarily. I hadn’t thought about that.
Keith asks about different committees. Do you know which of those committees were overbudget?
Haadsma: I know we had issues with the costumes and sometimes we had issues with the sets, but I think they got the message to stay under whatever amount we gave them.
Keith: You said, you expect Mr. Ellis to be the in charge person and you were there to support?
Keith: Does that mean he was the one making decisions? Haadsma said he made some objections/
Keith asks if she disagreed with him on his decisions. She said that on things like choreography she felt like that wasn’t her decision.
Keith: Do you know which of the songs Mr. Ellis arranged were not used in the performance?
Haadsma said she doesn’t. Keith asked if she looked whether Ellis was a better deal than outside arrangers. Haadsma said she didn’t. She said that if the treasurer didn’t think it was a good deal, she would have told them.
Keith: You mentioned Tupelo budget is much smaller than comparable programs?
Haadsma said she doesn’t know but that she had heard that.
Keith: Do you know order of magnitude?
Haadsma said she heard Attache’s sets were $30,000.
Keith: Do you know what budget was for show choir program?
Haadsma around $100,000. Said she doesn’t know for sure.
Keith: Whatever it is, it is a significant amount of money? Haadsma said yes.
Keith asks if that is why they had to look closely at expenditures. Haadsma said yes but that it wasn’t because they thought money was being spent in an inappropriate way.
Keith: You were asked questions earlier about the process for determining interest in a field trip and how that fits with board policy. Do you recall on that NY trip, did the show choir board vote to have Mr. Ellis spend $1,000 on a non-refundable deposit?
Haadsma said they didn’t vote but that Mr. Ellis discussed that. She said obviously they knew it was a chance they were going to take.
Keith: That was a decision the entire board made?
Keith: One of the questions, you were asked was about Ellis’ treatment of children. Were you at a lot of the practices?
Haadsma said not a whole lot. She said that in during programs, when handling money she would be there 3 or 4 hours that night. Sometimes she would need information or sometimes she would bring food but she wouldn’t just hang out there.
Keith: Had you seen Mr.Ellis discipline kids?
Haadsma: I had seen him give talks where they had to buckle down and focus.
Keith: Did you see him make child run laps?
Haadsma: I was not there but I did have a child who had to run those laps…I did not have a problem with that in the least.
Keith finishes and Butts begins redirect.
She said her daughter Colleen participated in hair and makeup night and that she had Haadsma’s permission to be there.
Butts: Did your permission for her to attend also extend to permission for her to go to Walmart?
Haadsma: Yes, my child, when she goes out on a Friday night to some place, she is a fabulous child, she lets us know what is going on. She goes to Sonic sometimes. Walmart is great.
Butts: Did that include pranking boys cars
Haadsma: Yes. I actually told her to go for it (laughter)….Said she told kids they could roll people’s houses but it could never be damaging and it could only be people they liked. It could not be people they didn’t like.
Butts: Did your permission extend to your child being out after midnight as long as there was an adult present?
On questioning, Haadsma said she did not convey to Ellis or Mrs. Ellis that her daughter had permission to go to Walmart.
Haadsma’s testimony is completed.
Hearing takes a lunch break at 11:59 a.m. until 1:20 p.m.
This break gives me an opportunity to note something that happened at the beginning of the hearing that I hadn’t yet had a chance to note.
Before the hearing began this morning, Hearing Officer John Compton issued a ruling on the testimony of Lynne Johnson from Feb. 3. Jim Keith had made a motion that day that Johnson’s testimony should be stricken from the record because she had read the transcript of the hearing on the Daily Journal’s blog and had not thus been properly sequestered.
Compton ruled that her testimony should be stricken but that it can be offered in its entirety as proffer.
Butts said that he objected to that for a number of reasons. He said that even thought he had requested detailed facts about the charges against Ellis, he was not given that or able to determine whom he would need to call as witnesses.
“I would not presume to have the authority to tell any witness who is a member of this community or is a taxpayer that they are prohibited from seeking out any source of information they desire….
There is simply no way to try to insulate witnesses or potential witnesses from information. I believe they have constitutional right to be informed on any information they so choose.
I respectfully disagree with your ruling on that issue.”
Compton: “For the record the blogs have been fairly extensive, almost verbatim testimony of the witnesses and that is the reason for my ruling.”
Hearing resumes. David Butts presents an affadavit with testimony from a Mr. Whitney Williams (I think that was the name, I will double check when I am able). Butts said that Williams presented his testimony by affadavit because of his busy schedule but that he can be here for cross examination.
Next wintess is Amy Mercier.
She said she has a son in Wave Connection. Butts asks if he participated in a social gathering at Ellis’ house on Sept. 30 last year. She said he did.
Butts: Are you familiar with that type of gathering?
Mercier: Last year was his first year in Wave Connection, so yes. She said his junior year. This is his senior year.
Butts: You are appearing here today on your own behalf?
Butts: Are you also appearing on behalf of parents of other students who were at Ellis’ house?
Mercier: I am.
Keith objects, saying she can’t be here on behalf of other people.
Compton said that she can’t be on behalf of other people but she can say what she has heard from others.
Mercier said she had contacted the parents of the other boys and that she asked them if their boys had permission to participate. She said that she asked them for permission to speak for them. She said she contacted seven parents.
Butts: Did you reach any parent who did not want you to speak for them?
Mercier: I did.
Butts: Out of eight sets of parents, seven of them gave you permission and one didn’t?
Butts: Did you child have your permission and your husband’s permission to be at this event?
Mercier: He did
Butts: Were you aware your child would go to Walmart that night?
Mercier: I was not aware of it but it is fine.
Butts: Would you have objection to your son participating in a prank?
Mercier: Not at all.
Butts: Was your son free to go anywhere appropriate in Tupelo that night?
Mercier: He was
Butts: With respect to the time of day, did your son and Mr. Ellis have permission for your child to be out after midnight, if in fact they were?
Butts: These other parents, did they affirm to you their son had permission to be at this event?
Mercier: They did
She said they did not express any objection to their son being at Walmart .
Butts: Did you ask these parents whether they had any objection to their son participating in a prank?
Mercier: I did ask them and they said they didn’t have any problem
Butts: Did you ask them if they had any objection to their son being out after midnight, if they were out after midnight?
Mercier: I did ask them and they did not have any problem with that.
Butts asks her feelings on the items used in the prank.
Mercier: I didn’t think too much about it. I think it has been blown out of proportion…It is teenage boys being teenage boys.
Butts: What did other parents tell you about the items being used?
Mercier: I think they felt like I did It was boys being boys and it has been blown out of proportion.
Butts tendered the witness.
Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith asks if she has served on the booster board. She said no. She did serve on the show choir hospitality committee.
Keith: You said your child was involved with an event prior to last year, do you know what that activity involved the prior year?
Mercier said she does not recall. Keith asked if they went to Ellis’ house and she said she didn’t remember.
Keith: When your son went to Mr. Ellis’ house, did you have any idea he was going to leave with Mr. Ellis and some other young men to go to Walmart?
Mercier: I did not.
Keith: You did not give him permission to go to Walmart?
Mercier: He has permission to come and go.
Keith: Did you give Mr. Ellis permission to take your son to Walmart?
Mercier: No, I did not.
Keith: You did not know there was going to be a prank pulled?
Mercier: I did not.
Keith: You did not call Mr. Ellis and tell him your son had permission to be out after midnight?
Mercier: No, I did not call Mr. Ellis.
Keith: Are you aware if any parent conveyed any permission to Mr. Ellis to take their son to Walmart to buy any of the items mentioned?
Mercier: I do not know of any conversation.
Keith: Did any parent tell you they were aware that a prank was going to occur?
Keith: Did any parent convey to Mr. Ellis that he had permission to take their son to Walmart after midnight?
Keith: If in that trip to Walmart that night with the other young men and Calvin Ellis, who would you be looking to hold responsible if there had been an accident and your son had been injured?
Butts objects to the form of that question and rejects to it as a hypothetical. Compton overrules.
Mercier: It depends on what kind of accident it is. If a car ran into his car, it would be the other person’s responsibility.
Keith: Do you believe Mr. Ellis was supervising your child while he was out?
Mercier: Well, I guess so.
Butts beings his redirect.
Butts: When you granted permission for your son to go to the social event, what permission did you believe you were granting?
Mercier: They went to see the Ole Miss choral group and then all of the boys gathered at Calvin’s as a bonding gathering for all of the boys to get together.
Butts: It has been asked whether you called Mr. Ellis and gave explicit permission to go to Walmart or participate in a prank, but what was the extent of your permission?
Mercier: He had permission to be at the Ellis’ (for what happened that night)
Mercier said her son can drive and that he has permission to go where he drives.
Butts: Has anyone informed you that your son may have been in violation of curfew law?
Butts is finished with Mercier and her testimony is complete.
Butts calls Ellis to the stand.
Butts takes Ellis through his background. He has two children. He grew up in Memphis went to high school in Millington, Tenn., and went to Ole Miss from 1998 to 2002. He interned (or student taught) at Ole Miss from August 2002 to December 2002. He worked with Vicky Wilson, Debbie Bullock and Quinton Harris. He was mainly under the supervision of Vicky Wilson.
He taught a few pieces to the concert choir and shadowed Mr. Quint Harris and his involvement with the show choirs.
Butts: During your undergraduate studies, did you study copyright law?
Ellis: No sir. He said the music department did not offer any courses on copyright law. Said his instructors did not lecture about copyright law.
Butts asks how Ellis came to know Dr. Jordan. Ellis said he recruited at his high school and that he came to know him during his involvement with the concert singers. The only class he had under him was choir.
Butts: During your studies at Ole Miss, did you learn to arrange songs?
Ellis: No sir. (During music theory courses you learn how vocal parts come together but that was the extent of it).
Butts asks where he went after graduation.
Ellis: Hamilton Middle School in Memphis City School District in the middle of the year. He was there for a semester.
After that he went to a middle school in Arlington, Tenn. He was there for three years.
Ellis: My experience at Shadowlawn was great. He said he went out and recruited kids to the program. By the end of his tenure they had 180 kids, including a show choir. They competed on regional and national level. His first year, his show choir won first place at a national competition in St. Louis. His second year they went to Atlanta and placed in a competition. His final year, they participated in another national competition….His treble choir won best in class award…..They ran this festival every week over six weeks. At the end of the competition, they evaluated all of the scores and his treble choir had the best scores.
Under questioning. Ellis said he was happy in Arlington, was satisfied with the support he received and satisfied with the work and the community. He said no disciplinary action was taken against him.
Butts asked how his job at Tupelo came along. Ellis said that Quint Harris was leaving and Vicky Wilson and Mac Curlee invited him to come to Tupelo in February 2006 to meet with them and talk about the position. He knew the program was stellar and he knew the reputation of Tupelo’s choirs. He was torn because he had had a wonderful experience in Arlington and he didn’t know if he wanted to give that up.
HE wanted to be a director of a high school program because as a middle school director you are somewhat limited. He was torn but decided to take the job.
Ellis was hired in August 2006 and was under the supervision of Vicky Wilson.
Butts directs him to his contract for the 2011-12 year.
Butts: IS that contract substantially the same as all of your previous contracts
Ellis: Yes sir
Ellis said job description is music teacher and his supplement description is choral director.
Ellis said his contract never had arranging music in it as part of his job description.
Butts asks Ellis if he ever told the district that he was an arranger and Ellis said no. Butts asks if Ellis was ever told by the administration that his job description included arranging?
Butts: Did Vicky Wilson or anyone ever tell you that your job included arranging?
Butts: When did you first learn that your job including arranging?
Ellis: Dec. 5, 2011, the first day of the hearing.
Butts: Who said that?
Ellis: Mr. Meadows.
Butts asks if Quint Harris left him a book about show choir when he left. Ellis said yes, he describes the book, saying it was an informational book about directing show choir. He said the book didn’t say anything about the need for arranging. He said it contained numbers for the arrangers Harris used.
“There was no mention of copyright permissions in that book.”
Butts: Are you aware of any copyright compliance policy of the Tupelo School District?
Ellis: No sir
Butts: Describe how your job as choral director went for the next few years in Tupelo?
Ellis: I had a great expereiecne. I wouldn’t say every moment was great but overall my experience working as assisntat choral diretor under Vicky Wilson was great. We didn’t agree on every aspect but we were able to talk about it and work in a way that was best for students (He said he helped Ms. Wilson and Ms. Bullock and they helped him). He said he was responsible for show choirs but Vicky Wilson helped him as she could.
“It was a great experience. We had a wonderful experience.”
Butts: Did I ask you to prepare a document describing the awards of your choirs and show choirs up until the time of your termination?
Butts: Hit the highlights of what your choirs have accomplished
Ellis: In 2006-07, the 9th and 10th grade choir received superitor rating at district and state levle. He directed one song for 11th grade choir. Co directed with Vicky Wilson.
Wave Connection his first year received a grand champion award at a competition in Nashville. His first year he was voted as Mr. Teach THS, which is voted by the students.
Every year, they received superiors at district and state and superiors in sight reading.
In 07-08, a very awesome accomplishment, I feel, the Sound Wave group that year was particularly superb. They made the finals at both competitions which is not something that normally happens. SoundWave did and actually placed higher than Wave Connection at one of the competitions.
In 08-09, Wave Connection was first runner up in Nashville. Biggest accomplishment was Wave Connection was grand champion at Petal competition and swept all of the captions. Sound Wave also won a grand champion award that year. The Structure band received the most outstanding instrumental combo award.
I was nominated for teacher of distinction and Wave Connection was featured in the Entertainment Weekly publication as one of the nation’s top show choirs in which the Show Glee was featured.
In 2009-10, Wave Connection was first runner up in both competitions and Sound Wave was grand champion at both of those.
Last year, to be invited to the competition in New York was a great honor. Only 30 schools in the nation got an invitation and Wave Connection was one of those. The choirs continued to do well in district and state.
Madrigals, he took varsity choir to festival at Ole Miss and they received superiors as did Madrigals.
Butts: Did your wife Jauna make any contribution to show choirs?
Ellis: I can’t describe how important it is for anyone who takes the show choir position at any school to have their spouse support the efforts it takes to have a successful program.
Butts: Have I asked you to create a list of her contributions?
Ellis: Yes you have
Butts: How much was your wife paid?
Ellis: Absolutely nothing, it was all volunteer.
Butts: What did she do?
Ellis: There were a few times she spent her own money on Wave Connection kids. She bought samples of makeup and tried them out on the kids. She bough hair samples and jewelry and tried them out. She bought food and snacks for the parties and the gathering sand made brownies. The timing she put in to make sure those gatherings were worthwhile for the kids. On Sept. 23, had happies for the boys and the girls. She has bought flowers for the kids when they were performing at events around town. She has written tons of thank you notes to kids for contributions they made to show choir. She bought journals one year for the girls, little pins for the girls.
Butts: Did she contribute to the success of your show choir?
Ellis: Every year after a competition, I would get started on the next competition. It is a 12-month process. We would sit at computer for hours and hours listening to music. Ellis said he is the choral person and his wife knows more about pop and she would recommend songs. He said his wife helped with costumes for both show choirs. Ellis said she did not do it the first year but he wanted her to do it because they had some difficulties making sure they had the right things. Ellis said Jauna knew what would look good on every single person, for every single body type
Butts: What is her education?
Ellis: Bachelor of fine arts in theater and a minor in music?
Butts asks how many hours she put in. Ellis said he didn’t know, well over 1,000 hours.
Butts: The Tupelo Public School District got her contribution for free?
Butts: anything else you want to say about her contribution
Ellis said she put on a free camp for under privileged kids on things like stage presence. He said that Jauna would often wake up at 5 in the morning to pick up a choreographer and take her to Memphis. One time a flight was cancelled and Jauna’s parents put the choreographer up in their home and drove that person to the airport.
Ellis: Never did I turn in a receipt for them to be reimbursed for gas. They didn’t want to be reimbursed for gas. To be treated in a way that I don’t care about the boosters or the money they spent, it infuriates me when I think of all of the things I’ve done to contribute to this program.
Ellis talked about the sacrifices he’s had to make for the job, time away from his kids.
Butts: You testified how your choruses scored but are awards and scores what this show choir is about?
Ellis: Absolutely not. The most important part of any choral program is the experience of team work. Learning the foundations of music, allowing music to inspire you and move you to a point…..IT is our job to communicate with an audience and if the audience is not moved, we are not doing our job.
IT is how we feel we are communicating with an audience and those are the experiences that matter most.
Butts refers Ellis to his termination letter.
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this termination letter that you were fired for giving students condoms
Ellis: Absolutely not
Keith objects that Butts is leading the witness
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this letter where you were fired for allowing your students to get condoms
Ellis: Absolutely not
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this that you were fired for pranking cars
Ellis: Absolutely not
Butts: Is there any charge you have seen that you were fired by allowing students to engage in sexually-suggestive activities?
Ellis said no
Keith objects that he is leading the witness and just asking him questions he can answer yes or no. Butts said the point he is trying to make is that there is not one mention of the word condom in the charges against Ellis. However, he said, most of the testimony brought to attention that Mr. Ellis was being charged with condom in some way associated with condoms. We are trying to find it in the termination letter?
Keith: In response to item 15, Mr. Ellis went into specific detail about it. I don’t think there is any question Mr. Ellis knew what that involved.
Butts said nowhere in the letter is any charge for condoms or any charge with an improper relationship with any student.
Compton said that the letter is clear but that is something he can make a point of when he has the opportunity to argue before the school board.
Butts: For this event at your home, did you have prior administration approval?
Ellis: No sir
Butts: For prior years, had you had this event every year?
Ellis said he considered this a social event and in the past when he had social events, it was never approved by the school board.
Butts: As far as the prank, were you aware condoms were going to be used?
Ellis: I did not know condoms were purchased or were going to be used. I only know it was discussed the possibility of purchasing them.
Butts: What was your response to that?
Ellis: I told them that condoms were not to be purchased.
Ellis said he told them not to do it but they did it anyway and he found out afterward.
Butts asks how far Ellis was away from the prank while it was occurring. Ellis said it was like 150 yards. From that house, to get to the Whitwell house, you have to go down a hill, around a corner and down a hill some more. He does not know the exact distance
Butts: Could you see the prank being performed?
Ellis” Absolutely not.
Butts: There has been talk about you keeping these boys out after curfew, is that correct?
Butts gives Ellis a copy of Tupelo’s curfew ordinance. He directs him to 19-54, exceptions. Further directs him to sub paragraph 2 and asks him to read it.
Ellis said it is when a minor is accompanied by an adult for a designated period of time and for a designated purpose (I didn’t get the entire language of it down).
Butts: You were placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6, 2011, is that right?
Ellis said yes. He said he was subsequently fired on Oct. 28, 2011.
Butts brings him exhibit 86. He said it is a Tupelo Public School District Board Policy KEB (or KED?). Public concerns about complaints. Have you read this policy?
Ellis: Recently I have yes
Butts: From reading this policy, what is your understanding”
Ellis There is supposed to be a chain of command where the person who has a complaint goes to the principal and the principal directs the employee and that person to work out of the problem. If there is no resolution (a decision would be made on how to proceed)
Butts notes that the policy calls for a conference and said that the principal is to make a written report of that conference. Then if there is no resolution, that person can go to the superintendent and attach memorandum of meeting from principal. Superintendent is then to investigate those facts and notify both parties in writing.
Butts: Was that followed for any charge?
Ellis: No I never had a meeting with my principal about any charge against me other than when I went to him because I heard there was an investigation.
Butts: were you afforded any of the procedures stated in Tupelo Public School District policy KEB?
Ellis: No sir
Butts asks if he (Butts) wrote a letter to Ms. Stimpson requesting a meeting. Ellis said he did but that meeting wasn’t granted.
“I really wanted to get back to Tupelo High School to establish normalcy to that program and I asked you to write a letter to Ms. Stimpson to sit down and talk about any complaints and we were not awarded that meeting at all.”
Butts offers the letter he wrote to Ms. Stimpson
Butts asks about Stimpson’s reply. Ellis said he had seen it. Butts offers it as exhibit 88.
Butts said his letter asked if Ellis could get back to work during investigation. He asked why Ellis wanted to get back to work. Ellis said he had heard about things happening in the choral department and he was concerned about the wellbeing and success of the program. He was worried about the kids being bullied and threatened and having security officers in their class forcing them to sing. He was concerned with what was in his mind and he wanted that program to continue. He said if there was a way to continue investigation so that some sense of normalcy could be brought to the school, he thought they would like that idea.
Butts: I’d like you to go to your termination letter. I’m going to bypass for now charge 1, lets go to charge 2. That he failed to provide them a curriculum that allowed them to perform songs for which copyright permission had been obtained.
Ellis said that is false. Said that we know now we didn’t have to do all of the things for copyright they are claiming in that charge.
Ellis said he did postpone the show because he wanted to do what he was informed by Mr. Greenburg regarding copyright. He wanted to do everything he could do to comply. He postponed the show so they could have more time to obtain the permissions they thought they needed.
Butts: What have you learned now about those copyright permissions?
Ellis: I was doing as much as I could when I had been told this was a process that needed to be done for every song. I did everything I could to go back and correct this problem. I know now that in just about all instances that wasn’t needed.
He said he didn’t ignore anything. “If you look at all of the emails you will see I was doing everything in my power to make sure the kids were able to perform those songs….I know now that wasn’t necessary.”
We know now students could have performed those songs and they could have had the show and the season they deserved. These are students who worked diligently for those experiences. For the administration to talk to a businessman who works for a living to get copyright permissions and didn’t know the full extent of the law and then to say I didn’t know the law is crazy. It is so wrong. We are tyriyng to be student centered and we have this situation where these kids had performed for years and had wonderful epxerinces and it is taken away in a way that didn’t make the best possible judgement for the students.
Butts: AT the time were you of the impression you neded copyright permissions for all of your songs?
Ellis said at the time yes
Butts: What led you to believe that?
Ellis said the letter he received from Hal Leonard and subsequent conversations. He was asking why this was all of a sudden happening. He had already begun structuring his show and they are telling him this was something he needed to be doing for every song.
He said that informed Dr. Williams she needed to obtain permission for songs Debra Atkinson had already done. Suzy did find this company called Tresona. I called this guy because I knew at the time I was having to go back and retroactively get my permissions. He was the one who informed me.
I was trinyg to gain an education on what was going on. I asked him a lot of questions. I asked him about the fact that his colleguaes are performing songs all ove the region where they ahven’t gotten permissions. I asked him why it was suddenly an issue. I asked him what was the fine. I wasn’t thinking I was going to go out and do this. I was just trying to educate myself. He gave me all of this false information that we know now. Ofrourse it scared me.
Butts: You said you informed Suzy Williams she neded to get permissions?
Ellis: This was August or September. I told her about this process. She didn’t indicate to me that this was something that needed to be done.
She got a whole new set of music and she started working on approvals. She ran across Tresona company and she told me about that.
Butts: Steve Anderson was the arranger she was working with? Ellis said yes. Butts asked if Anderson had a contract that required the school to get permissions?
Ellis said yes
Butts asked who was responsible for getting the permissions for the other songs?
Ellis said it was the arranger
Butts asked if he knows now that when he was an arranger he was responsible for getting that permission?
Ellis said he knows now that as an arranger it is his responsibility to get permissions and that he will do that and will retroactively correct that.
Butts: If there are any payments to be made, will you do that?
Ellis: Yes sir.
Butts: Any other comment about this copyright infusion and quagmire that has been created here?
Ellis: No sir.
Butts: Lets go on to next charge (squandering booster funds for songs that didn’t get permission)…Is that true?
Ellis: Now I know that is not true. I did what I have done every year for choreography.
Butts: Would you every hire a choreogpraher to choregrpaher and tehn have them rechoreograph something?
Ellis: That is the nature of the beast. You never know how a choreoegrpaher will present something to the kids until it is done. You don’t know until they have learned it and moved on to something else whther or not this will work. In Sound Wave where you have all girls, it is different. They get ther choreography and oyu don’t have to change much. Wave Connection with the boys, you have to consider the changes that need to be made to make sure the songs are ready for performance. You have to redo a lot of things in Wave Connection.
Butts: Did you squander booster club money be redoing choreography?
Ellis: No. that is a necessaity. You can’t take mediocre work and put it out there.
Butts: It says you squandered booster club money on travel expenses for out of state choreographers.
Ellis said he doesn’t kow exactly what that charge refers to. He said they tried to find the best rates for their travel but he doesn’t know how it is squandering money to pay for their travel.
Ellis said that before his termination he was never informed that he had been squandering money?
“The booster club as many times as we met never once opened up their mouth to say why are we paying for choreography for this song.”
Butts: Does it have something to do with a lfight instead of someone driving?
Ellis: I don’t know what they are talking about specifically.
Butts: Lets go to charge 4, tutoring students for pay. Tell us about tutoring students for pay and the charge refers to tutoring students during a school day. Is that charge trure?
Ellis: Yes it is ture. There was one student who came to me with a conflict of some after school acitivity she had to be at a particular time. She asked me to start her voice lesson that normally started at 3:05 at 2:45 instead. I started her lesson at 2:45. We did this twice. I am talking about a total of 30 minutes where I was trying to help the student to get to her other activity at a reasonable time.
Butts: Have you ever done this before?
Ellis: I may have done it one time, helped a student at lunch. I’m not sure. I don’t remember
Butts: We are talking about a total of 30 minutes of student time?
Ellis said he was not summoned to the principal’s office about it. He said he had a discussion with Mr. Meadows about it on Oct. 21 or 22.
Butts: Did you tell him what you just told us?
Butts: So he knew it was a total of 30 minutes for one student?
Butts goes to charge 5 that students were endangered when they were left behind at a mall. Is the charge true?
Butts: Briefly, where were you and what happened?
Ellis: At this particular incident, I was at Homewood High School working with stage crew and Sturcture band getting ready for the Wave Connection performance. The parents asked for my permission to take students to lunch and I said yes.
Butts: Why did you let them go?
Ellis: The parents wanted to take the students to lunch. It was right across the street. I thought it would be fine.
Butts: Had you ever been informed that it was absolutely prohbited to take a student anywhere without a staff member?
Ellis said no.
Ellis said they are talking about three buses and 150 kids. He said there is no way for three staff members to attend to every single student thtat is there. You have to have parent help. You have to have parents help the kids with the problems they have with the costumes and with their hair. There is no way for me to be in every place at every time.
Butts: When was the first time you learned of this charge?
Ellis said on Oct 28. He said he did receive the letter from Mr. Stratton. In that letter, he talked about there being a supervision problem at the mall. At the time of that letter, the only mall he had been to was the Summit mall on htat Friday and the next Sunday and he knew there was no superivison problem. He never knew there were three students left behind at a mall when you and the other students departed on the buses. I never knew about that until Oct. 28.
Butts: What bus were you on
Ellis: The bus didn’t exist that I departed on and left other students behind. That didn’t happen to my knowledge.
Butts: Was that lack of superivison on your part?
Ellis: I don’t think so.
Butts asks Ellis about students needing to fend for themselves for food. Ellis said he doesn’t know anything about that and the first time he had heard about that was Oct. 28.
He said what he knows now to his knowledge it was only one student.
Butts: Was that student wandering the streets of Birmingham to get food?
Ellis: My knowledge she walked across the street to get food. That is not wandering across the streets.
Ellis said it was a Wave Connection student. They had gone to watch the Sound Wave performance. Because they were staying over night, he gave chaperones permission to take them back to the hotel to prepare for their afternoon performance. Ellis said he was with stage crew and structure.
Butts: Is that a lack of supervision on your part?
Ellis: I don’t think so. I entrusted chaperones to give the supervision they needed.
Butts: TO your knowledge the only wandering this student did was walk across the street to Subway?
Butts is the charge true that you sent a bus home without any staff members in violation of school policy.
Ellis said it is true and he knows that now. He said it had been common practice to send buses without staff members. He said that practice started before he was director, back when Vicky Wilson was director.
Keith objects because the testimony .
Butts asks if Ellis sent students to run laps for being late. Ellis said yes, he did so to teach students responsibility.
Butts asks about nighttime rehearsals. Ellis said was not nighttime when they began but it was when they ended. He said if the student was only a couple of minutes late, he had them run their laps in the beginning of the class. If they were really late, like 20 minutes late, he had them run them at the end because he didn’t want them to miss any more rehearsal time.
“Every time there were kids running laps at night, I was outside counting the laps. I would only have them run laps at night when they were significantly late. It was in the 15s and the 20s how many laps they needed to run.
Butts: Did you endanger the students in any way?
Ellis: No. The cross country team runs all over town. Is their coach following up behind them, no. When a teacher sends their student to the office, does that student always go straight to the office. I’m sorry if they were doing other things.
Butts: Do you know they were doing other things?
Ellis: I never heard they were doing other things they were supposed to be doing. I heard that on October 28.
The hearing goes into a break at 3:07 p.m.
On to charge 8.
Butts: Do you know anything about a room being trashed at Petal?
Ellis: I did not hear anything about that at all until this letter.
Butts: Had you heard about Petal boosters voting to include Tupelo from future competitions?
Ellis said he had not heard about that at all. He said that competitions are not a matter of invitation. All you have to do is fill out a form, submit a check and go. He said it is the director’s choice on where to go.
Butts: Said that it resulted in damage to reputation of Tupelo
Ellis: that is false. I do my best to suerpvsie students. He was in cafeteria when he can to supervise students when they are eating lunch before he needs to be back in the room.
When the principal mentioned to him something about Tupelo students, he went to the kids to ask them about what was going on. He said they meet every day to establish expectations so the charge about not having rules is false.
I addressed the students. I was told they had been treated unfairly and quite rudely by the other school and the room was not damaged. Earlier testimony established that.
Butts: Does Tueplo shave a bad reputation?
Ellis said no and that everyone wants tupelo to come to their competitions. He said that it is a large group with 150 students and with parents it is 200 to 250 people in the audience supporting Tupelo. Yeah they are a large group but to call them unruly is totally false.
Butts goes to charges 9 and 10. Charging boosters for music that was already arranged and charging boosters to arrange music that was never used.
Butts submits an exhibit that contains the Wave Connection program, songs submitted by Ellis and songs submitted by Ron Jones.
Butts from previous testimony do you understand that to mean that both you and Ron Jones were paid to arrange certain songs?
Butts: What is a custom arrangement?
Ellis said it is an arrangement done for a group for the first time. You let them know the voices you need and they tailor it to your group.
Butts how much does Ron Jones charge for a custom arrangement?
Ellis most of his are $500. They arrange from $500 to (I think he said $650).
Butts: It said you charged boosters when other arrangers were paid for those songs?
Ellis” That is incorrect. The case is I arranged a number of songs. I participated in an arrangmenet project where I arranged a number of songs. Ron Jones was paid for his arrangmenet of it after I was paird.
Butts: Baby I’m a star. Ron Jones had done it as a custom arrangmenet, $500 or $600 paid by the booster club? Had you done that song?
Ellis said yes. He charged them $300 and he was paid $300. Ron Jones charged $75.
Butts: How is it you are getting an arrangment for $75?
Ellis: Because this is a previously arranged strock arrangement he had in his files?
Butts: Why would you arrange this song and then charge the booster club for a stock arrangement?
Ellis said it was a song he wanted to do. He embarked in a project. Show choir arrangement is a lot like choreographer. Arrangements for a group, it is difficult to find exactly what you need. For several songs, he didn’t feel his arrangemenet was the best possible one for the group. He asksed if he could purchase his arrangement. There were parts of his arrangement that suited the group and parts of my arrangement that suited the group. It was more like a conglomeration.
Ellis said if Jones had done a custom arrangment, it would have been $500. The savings was $175 but that was not the point. “You have to do whatever you can possibly do to get the best possible end product.”
Butts: Why are you concerned about that?
Ellis: If I took Ron Jones’ arrangement alone, there are certain aspects of that that don’t work as well?
Butts: What are you trying to accomplishment?
Ellis said an end result that the students and band members feel the best about. “We are in pursuit of excellence. That is our model. In order to get that excellence, you have to alter you get the best result you can.”
Ellis said there are times when he wasn’t arranging when he ordered a custom arrangment that didn’t work. Then the going rate was $350 to $450. He ordered a custom arrangment that didn’t work and he needed to ask someone else to do it.
“That has been happening since the beginning of time.”
Butts What do you do with arrangements that weren’t used?
Ellis said you put it in stock and put it in the library. Perhaps you use them later. That is the property of the booster club and in the long run, it can save you money because you owe those songs.
IT is common practice, if you see it doesn’t work, you put it in stock and maybe you can use it later.
Butts: You testified to “Baby I’m a Star,” does the same process follow for the other songs?
Butts: Did you charge the booster club for duties contained in your supplement.
Ellis: I did charge the booster club over $7,000. I never understood my supplement was to cover that.
Butts: Do you know of any choral director whose supplement includes arranging?
Ellis: I do not.
Butts: Do ypu have specific knowledge of other choral directors arranging music and being paid by their boosters
Ellis said he does. He said he knows it from discussons with other show choir directors.
Butts: Before you were fired, were you ever infomrted by anyone in the administration that arranging was included in your supplement?
Butts: Lets go to charge no. 12. Lack of trustworthiness on his work to get copyright.
Ellis: That is not true. My intent when I was relying what I thought was necessary to the booster club for copyright was that the terminology relayed between Marc Greenburg and myself that cleared meant I could use those songs. (That was the basis, he said, for what he told the boosters. I didn’t purposefully misrepresent the status of copyright, it was a misunderstanding of terminology.
Butts asks about charge that Ellis had encouraged students to quit the program.
Ellis said that is false
Butts asks about a text
Ellis said the text was between a former parent and a student at Tupelo High School. He can’t remember verbatim what the text said. He had heard from that former parent that there were security officers in the choral room making students sing and threatening them with zeros if they did not sing. There were a lot of crazy things going on and this parent had come to him to inform him of what was going on. Ellis told her he was disappointed in that. She told me that several of the students were thinking about quitting.
“All I did was make an off-handed statement that that would make a huge statement. Did I actually tell them to quit Wave Connection, absolutely not.”
Butts: As of that date, did you still hope to get your job back?
Butts refers to the next charge, threatening , intimidating or coercing students to interfere wit classroom attendance.
Ellis said he does not know which student this is referring to. He said he does not have any knowledge that he has ever threatened or
Butts next charge. We’ve already dealt with that. Knowing what you know now about curfew law, did you violate city curfew law?
Ellis said no.
Butts moves to charge 16, failing to get administrative approval about field trips before announcing them to students
Ellis said they have tried to take several trips since he came to Tupelo. The first thing his supervise always said is that they needed to find out if they had enough interest to take the trip. He said this is false that he announced the trip as if it was a go.I never said we are going on this trip to New York. I suggested to them this was a possibility, who would be interested and who would not be interested so before work was done to plan the trip, you would know if it was worth your time or effort prior to filling out the paperwork?
Butts: Does it make sense to you to seek prior approval before you know there is interest in the trip?
Ellis: To me, policies sometimes seem cumbersome. I am not criticizing anyone who wrote it. I just think some extracurricular directors will tell you that is not practical.
Butts: We have dealt with the exytracurricular activitiy as it is spelled out in charge 16. Was the hari and makeup night and bonding night a required school event?
Ellis: No it was not a required school event. I highly encouraged students to participate but if they told me of a conflict, were there any consequences? Absolutely not.
Butts: You reacall you sent an email to a student’s parents and commented on the failure of that student to attend?
Ellis: I was disappointed….
Keith objects because it is getting into individual student information.
Compton said can identify circumstances but not student or parent
Butts: What was your intent?
Hearing goes into closed session at 3:44 p.m.
3:49 p.m. Hearing is back in open session.
Butts asks Ellis about charge of him being paid as member of booster club. Ellis said first time he learned of the charge was when he got fired. He said no one ever made a complaint to him about it before.
Butts goes on to charge 18, entering into contracts that bind the school district. What contracts are we talking about?
Ellis said he thinks it is Hal Leonard contract and there was also a choreography contract. He said he signed those contracts.
Butts: Was there anything in your mind unusual about signing these contracts?
Ellis said no. He said that it was a contract that would be paid by the booster club. He said the common practice was set before him. He had seen previous choral directors signing bus contracts.
Butts: Has the school district paid anything on that contract?
Ellis: Only thing school district allots the choral department is $4,000 for music but we use every penny of that…we do get uniforms
Butts: You are talking about choral department?
Ellis: Choral, yes
Butts: But to you knowledge has the school district paid Hal Leonard anything?
Butts asks about charge 19. Creating a hostile work environment. He asks about the scheduling process.
Ellis said it has been a very difficult process the past couple of years.
“When we do our choral auditions at the end of the year, we put each student who auditions in a choir. It is up to the counselors to determine how they can be put in the choir they were placed in.”
Ellis said that is difficult to do when students are in different grade levels. HE said some students dropped out when they didn’t make advanced choir. He said every time they tired to work out schedule to make sure those kids got in the right choir. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. It was never purposeful to get those kids into my choir. That was ridiculous.
Butts moves on to charge 20. Charging booster club credit card for meals for his wife and his children.
Tell us about that?
Ellis: Every choreography week we have and every choreography weekend we have, those are strenuous days, long hours of being at the high school and making sure everyone is happy. There are people working hard and diligently for the students.
That is when a bulk of the choreography work happens. He said his wife is helping with costumes and helping choreographers with charts.
He said common practice has been all people involved, whether himself, Ms. Bullock, Jauna, their meals are provided. He said that has been common practice before he got there. “That is just what we do.”
I can only think of that one time, the Happy Meal of my child ever benefitting from the boosters as far as a meal was concerned. IT was a mistake. I ordered everyone’s food and out of common practice, I paid for it. If the booster club had a problem with it, I would have paid them back.
Butts: Does that still apply today?
Ellis: I would still give them the $3 back.
Butts: Did anyone every complain about your use of the credit card?
Ellis said no one every complained. They all get in their little groups and talk about it. He said he told the treasurer that he has a difficulty keeping up with receipts and that was the extend of their conversation.
Butts: Did you ever use the credit card improperly for your own personal gain?
Ellis said never. He said there were things for mailings, for mailing out CDs he bought a scanner that is still at the school that could be used to send things to choreographers and he told them about those major purposes.
Butts: Lets go to 21. You were directed not to have any contact with students, parents or TPSD staff. Did that occur?
Ellis: There were a couple of incidents were that did occur. Valerie Whitwell did contact him the day he was placed on leave. She called him because they had been in contact about the week’s events.
Butts: You didn’t initiate the contact?
Ellis: No, she called me.
Butts: Do you know today even what they are talking about?
Ellis said no. He said he saw parents at church, at his son’s soccer games. He said he saw a parent once when he was at Ichiban. He said it was awkward.
Butts: Was it your intent to be insubordinate?
Butts moves to charge 22. That Ellis was supposed to focus his time during his leave on obtaining copyright permissions.
Do you know now you did not need to get them?
Butts: it says “I” asked you to keep a daily log of every effort you made and to submit it to me by 3 p.m. Did you do that?
Ellis: First of all, that is not true. He asked me to create a log. I don’t remember him asking me to report daily at 3 p.m. He asked me to prepare a report and I definitely did that and submitted it to him on the following day.
Butts: What were you to do at 3:00 every day in your understanding?
Ellis: I was told I had to call central office at 3:00 every day to see where the investigation was going. I did that every single day (He said sometimes he was put on hold for 20 minutes or so or sometimes he never got an answer)
I felt it was a waste of my time to call at 3:00 every day and not get everything.
Butts: Is this the log you prepared?
Butts enters it as an exhibit
Butts: That concludes going through the charges. Before we go into closed session, I’d like to ask what affect have these charges and this proceeding had on you and your family?
Ellis: I can’t stress enough the stress that this whole process has brought to me and my family. I try to live my life in an honorable respectful Christian manner. AS a teacher, I always try to inspire kids and motivate kids, to be a role model to them, to be open to the problems they are having. I have always thought of teaching as more of a ministry than a job.
The worst part of this is my superintendent Mr. Meadows on Oct. 28, sat in the office with Mr. Turner and said to me, I don’t usually participate in this process, an ending event, I usually leave that up to Mr. Turner, but because I have so much respect for you I will sit in on this.
That rings in my mind because if my superintendent has respect for me (wouldn’t he owe it to me to sit down and talk to me about it. That meeting lasted for 10 minutes. For someone to have respect for me, I would think they would give me a chance to talk about it).
To see how this whole process has had a spin on it to say that I’m a perverted person, the students have been spun as perverted students and have been slandered. The motto is student centered.
That is not student centered where you take an event that happened in innocent fund and turn it into something slanderous. That has had an emotional impact on me.
I’ve had digestive issues. My wife has been in emergency room for stress. My son who has been raised in Tupelo choral program has asked me repeatedly why I don’t go to work anymore.
This has had an impact on my family that is beyond words and beyond description.
I am hurt, outraged, disappointed, all of those things. I have worked my tail off for this district and have not been given enough respect that he said he had for me to talk about this.
It has hard to go out into community and think what does this person think about me.
It plays a lot in your mind when you wonder what is this person thinking. Do they think I am a perverted choir director? That is not Calvin Ellis. That is not me. It was a mistake and a prank. That is not what happened.
Hearing goes into closed session at 4:11 p.m.
Hearing resumes at 4:31 p.m. Butts presents Ellis with his evaluations. District’s attorneys are reviewing them.
Butts said that Ellis has another document in front of him. Ellis said it is a compilation of all messages posted to Team Ellis page prior to Oct. 28, before he was fired.
Keith objects. One because there is no foundation that this is what it purports to me and because he does not know what the relevance is.
Butts said it is a demonstration of the support of the community for Ellis by people who have come to know him.
Keith said he has the same objection and that there is no way to test the credibility of the statements or where they came from.
Compton said his concern is that there are full names that may be student names.
Compton said he will let it be marked for ID.
Butts said he rests his case. It is 4:42
Hearing will recess until 8:30 tomorrow.
District will cross examine Ellis at that time and possibly have rebuttal witnesses. Compton said that he is hopeful the hearing will wrap up tomorrow.
I just received the final results from the Lee County School District's reading fair, which was held on Tuesday.
Here are the winners for each division:
Sophie Crouch, Saltillo Primary
Bryant Perkins, Shannon Primary
Megan Davis, Saltillo Primary
Destaan Buchanan, Verona Elementary
Laikyn Boozer, Saltillo Elementary
Mitchell Tharp, Mooreville Middle
Division H (Grades 4-8 Nonfiction)
Cayson Hankins, Mooreville Middle
Division J (K-3 Group)
Mrs. Greer's Class, Shannon Primary
Division K (4-8 Group)
Hunter Tate and Jeremy Hallmark, Mooreville Middle
Division M (K-3 Family)
Max and Ray Arcand, Saltillo Primary
Division N (4-8 Family)
Logan and Mary Morgan Lyle, Mooreville Middle and Mooreville Elementary
Congratulations to each of them.
Reader Note: We've been asked about access to DJournal.com on Tupelo Public School District campuses. According to TPSD officials access to DJournal.com website has been temporarily blocked by the district on school campuses due to it becoming an issue with educational instruction. TPSD has made arrangements for Daily Journal reporter Chris Kieffer to continue to access the site and post on this blog during the Ellis hearing. DJournal.com will continue to cover this important news story. School officials said a full statement is coming soon explaining the reason behind blocking DJournal.com. - Todd Vinyard, Online Editor
UPDATE: TPSD officials inform us DJournal.com is no longer blocked at school campuses. Teachers had requested to see it for educational purposes in the classroom.
Chris Kieffer's blog post ...
I will post updates to the bottom. The last update was at 2:12 p.m.
The eighth day of testimony in Calvin Ellis' hearing is about to begin. The hearing has covered all five days this week, plus three days in December. If it is not completed today, it is expected to be recessed until Feb. 13-14.
The hearing has begun. Keith is resuming his cross examination.
Keith: I want to see if you can put all of these in layman’s terms so I can understand exactly what you are talking about. Lay people are going to have to understand very carefully what is required of a school system to make sure they do not violate these copyright laws.
Most people are familiar with the fact that there is a copyright law out there that may affect them in some way?
DeSalvo said yes.
Keith: We are talking about custom arrangements of copyrighted work?
Keith: Isn’t it true it is necessary to get permission of every customized arrangement that you disseminate.
Keith isn’t it true that making arrangements of copyrighted music and disseminating without permission, can that be a felony
Keith: What can it be
DeSAlvo: Potentially if can be a civil infringement
Keith: Where someone goes to civil court and files a lawsuit
Keith: Isn’t it true that unauthorized dissemination of copyright material is a violation of the law that may rise to a felony in certain cases
DeSalvo Reproduction and distribution of (an arrangement) can be a felony if a certain dollar amount is met and a certain (number of copies are distributed)
Keith: You are aware that Mr. Ellis arranged some of the songs for the October show.
DeSalvo said yes but said that she does not know which songs Ellis himself arranged.
Keith: For the songs, Mr. Ellis arranged, was he legally required to get copyright permission
DeSalvo said yes. Then said disseminating is a different right.
Keith: Was he legally required to obtain permission from copyright lawyers
DeSAvo he would have had to have permission to have a musical arrangement (of that piece). It depends on what he was using it for. There is an exemption. If he is using it for face-to-face classroom teaching that is exempt. IF it is a performance for educational purposes that is also exempt. The exemption for classroom teaching is also extended to online classrooms.
Are you aware how Mr. Ellis was using the music?
DeSAlvo: I understood students learned the music at school and performed the music at school and they were also going to perform at school.
Keith: You are saying there would be an exemption if that was in the classroom face-to-face instruction and there is a performance exemption. But if it was for preparation for a performance, then it was necessary for him to obtain permission from copyright holders?
DeSalvo he would have had to have permission to make an arrangement. (Talks about dissemination. Said teaching would not have to be in a classroom).
Keith: Put he would still need permission to arrange the song
Ketih: If he did not have permission to arrange he would have violated copyright law
DeSalvo: Technically yes.
Keith asks about the agreement with Anderson. DeSalvo said it is a license agreement. She said if it was a work for hire, it would have required Mr. Ellis or the school district to sign off on it.
Keith said it was signed by Calvin Ellis on behalf of Tupelo High School. Keith asked if the permission to arrange the music had to be obtained by Tupelo High School.
DeSalvo said that is what the document said and it allows Tupelo High School to use the song.
Keith said that on the contract it says that the licensee will submit a copy of the song and the arrangement.
DeSAlvo: I want you to understand what this is. This is what is commonly referred to as label copy. It gives appropriate credit so if anyone wants to use this (in the future, they will know where to go to get it….She said the item of submitting a copy is a matter of the contract, not of copyright law).
Keith said that the document said that until they sent a copy of that music, the agreement is not effective.
DeSalvo: Asks to explain this. She said often licenses go out and people neglect them and don’t sign it so often publishes say you have a certain amount of time to get it back to us or the contract isn’t valid?
Keith: Do you know if those songs had been arranged and disseminated to the students before this document was signed on Sept. 6?
DeSalvo: I think they were.
Keith: Should he have arranged and disseminated the music prior to signing the contract?
Here is my question. Would you advise your client to have the arranged music disseminated to students prior to the execution of that document?
Butts objects to the form of the question. Does he mean execution by Mr. Ellis or by Cherry Lane?
Keith; You said you would not advise your client to disseminate that music to students prior to the execution of that contract by all students?
DeSalvo: We are kind of splitting hairs.
Keith: I want a direct answer. Would you advise your client to distribute music to your students prior to the execution of the contract.
DeSalvo: It is not a yes or no answer. Mr. Keith is trying to get me to say something I don’t want to say.
Butts said the witness should be afforded the latitude to answer the question as she sees appropriate.
Keith: My question is would you advise your client to have the arranged music and disseminate it to students prior to having exhibit 24 executed by the parties.
DeSalvo: It depends on where you are in negotiation of the contract. It is common for the two parties to negotiate the terms, arrange the music and sign the contract subsequently….Had there been no contact with Cherry Lane to use the arrangement and then contact to negotiate later, that would be a different scenario. In that scenario I will tell him (to go further with the negotiation first)
Keith asks if she had any information that Ellis had contract with Cherry Lane first
DeSalvo: No, I think that would have been initiated by Mr. Anderson and not Mr Ellis
Keith: You don’t have any knowledge of that
DeSalvo: Yes I do.
Keith asks if DeSalvo had any knowledge of the negotiations.
What information do you have that it was OK for Mr. Anderson to permit Mr. Ellis to disseminate the arranged music to his students prior to the execution of this document
DeSalvo: I can’t answer that question. I don’t know.
Keith asks if DeSalvo has any facts to show Ellis had obtained that permission by Sept 29
DeSalvo said he complied with the terms of the contract and payment ws paid….Based on the effective date of the contract and it wsa mailed with a check on Sept. 8, 2011. It was mailed with two copies at the license explains. That is all a publisher needs…Once a publisher receives this Mr. Ellis is good to go.
Keith: The use of that music had been taken place prior to Sept 6?
DeSalvo said yes but that is OK. She said that this license (secures any defect)
Keith: When you use arranged music without permission, you are going to have to get permission at some point?
Keith: For the songs Mr. Ellis had chosen for other people to arrange, wouldn’t it be necessary for Mr. Ellis or the arranger to secure permission from the rights holder
DeSalvo: IT would be arranger’s job to do that.
Keith: You have no knowledge of the discussion between the arrangers and Mr. Ellis. There is no agreement. Wouldn’t it be necessary for Mr. Ellis and the arranger to ensure the rights had been obtained.
DeSalvo: If Mr. Ellis had been told by the arranger to do that then Mr. Ellis should have done that (Said that without a direct agreement, the arranger is the author of the work and would be responsible for getting the permission)
Keith: You are assuming a lot of facts that should be laid out in an agreement between Mr. Ellis and the arrangers?
DeSalvo: You don’t have a written agreement. (Said if you did, it would have been different.)
Keith; Since Mr. Ellis didn’t have written agreement with the other arrangers, have you seen any written agreement defining who was required to obtain permissions?
DeSAlvo: In the absence of any document it is the arranger’s responsibility.
Keith said there could have been discussions. DeSalvo said that doesn’t change the law. That a verbal agreement doesn’t change authorship. Said that under copyright law when there is an arranger who is the author, if there is a written agreement transferring the authorship, it would change the responsibility. But she said you can’t shift the responsibility without a written agreement.
Keith: When Mr. Ellis asked other arrangers to secure arrangements wasn’t it incumbent on him to make sure (arranger was getting permission)
DeSalvo said if he knew about it.
She said with the knowledge she has, even if it wasn’t a contractual obligation, she would want to understand that care, but Mr. Ellis didn’t have that knowledge….Arrangements are different things….You have a musical composition and you put a fiddle in it, that is an arrangement….When you are talking about cover versions that doesn’t require an arrangements…Just putting music with it doesn’t require permission
Keith: AS a show choir director, you would at least expect Mr. Ellis to understand that copyrights are an issue and you need to seek help to understand it.
DeSalvo said she thinks every music educator should seek knowledge about copyright.
Keith asks about which songs Ellis had gotten clearance of that she had knowledge of. DeSalvo said she does not know the song titles. Knows he got some through Tresona.
Keith proposes a hypothetical. Suppose a show choir performance goes forward without permission having been gotten for arrangements. Suppose someone films that performance and puts it on YouTube. Would the district be liable for that?
Butts objects, saying there is no evidence Mr. Ellis uploaded anything to YouTube and that it is not factually complete for the witness to answer.
Keith essentially repeats the question
Butts objects again to the form of the question. He asks who the someone who videos is, whether it is a parent, an official of the school district, someone who happened to go.
Keith said he is asking about the potential for risk in that situation?
DeSalvo: It is difficult to answer that question because it depends on who arranged the song. Said the performance itself is not the issue (and would not pose any liability to Ellis or the school).
Keith: Let’s suppose Mr. Ellis arranged the song. Could that pose liability?
DeSalvo: Probably if publisher heard that song, if they wanted to, they could get it pulled off of YouTube and contact Mr. Ellis or the school district about licensure. That is generally what the publisher would do because they would rather make money than sue people.
Keith: Where Mr. Ellis arranged the song, that would be a violation by Mr. Ellis and the school district?
DeSalvo: Not by the school district, potentially by Mr. Ellis.
Keith said would the school district be liable if Ellis had done the arrangement when his contract provides a supplement that pays him for the arrangement?
DeSalvo said if there was a direct infringement by Mr. Ellis the only way the school district would be liable would be secondary infringement….(School district would have to know or have reason to know about the violation and contribute to the violation or it would need to be found that the school district had the ability to supervise Mr. Ellis and had direct financial gain as a result of his violation. She said she doesn’t see that in this hypothetical.
Keith: Did you say a knowing violation of copyright law can bring a $150,000 fine.
DeSalvo said it is not a fine it is a statutory violation. The maximum fine is $150,000 (for, I think she said willful violation, or intentional violation).
Keith refers to email from Ellis to Greenburg where Ellis said he first became aware of copyright law at the end of the previous school year and that he now knows that it is something every arranger must get.
Keith: Would you read this email as saying Mr. Ellis now understands what is required of an arranger.
Question over who the word “we” in the email refers to.
Keith asked if DeSalvo knows who Mr. DeSalvo worked for. DeSalvo said Tupelo Public School District. She said we would be he and a group of people. Maybe some arrangers.
Keith: Did you ever ask Mr. Ellis what he meant by the word we.
DeSalvo said no
Keith: See where he asks what is the fine for performing songs without permission. I would never purposefully want to do something like this but I am worried about a song being denied.
When Mr. Greenburg used term $150,000, that was obviously maximum fine.
DeSalvo: It is not a fine, it is a statutory damage.
Keith: But the maximum amount is still $150,000.
DeSalvo: Yes, and those are reserved for the most extreme cases.
Keith: Would you advise a school district to go forth in a musical performance in their auditorium if you knew the performance contained songs for which permission to arrange hadn’t been obtained.
DeSalvo: Would I advise a school? If I knew them in advance I would probably tell them not to, but the performance is exempt
Keith: Are you aware Mr. Ellis had a contract that paid him a supplement for being a music director?
DeSalvo said she heard that in the testimony.
Keith asked if she was aware Ellis’ contract required him to (maintain professional competence though trainings to improve him as a music director)
DeSalvo said no.
Keith asked if DeSalvo is aware that another employee of the school obtained the necessary arrangements for her show choir.
DeSalvo said she had no idea what Ms. Williams did. Keith said it is Dr. Williams.
Keith asks if DeSalvo is aware of music organizations to which Ellis belonged.
DeSalvo said no
Keith refers to exhibit 5. It is an agreement with an arranger.
Keith: If those songs that Steve Anderson arranged and supplied to the school district, if Mr. Ellis never obtained permission but if he used those songs and disseminated them would that have been a violation of the law?
DeSalvo said by Mr. Anderson, not by Mr. Ellis. She said that this isn’t a work for hire agreement so that Anderson would be responsible.
(She said that it is a contract, not a work for hire agreement)
Keith: Don’t you think it would be incumbent of choral director to ensure that permission would be obtained.
DeSalvo said, if Ellis had knowledge of it. Said that would be a better practice.
Keith: It certainly creates potential for a lawsuit involving both Mr. Anderson and Mr. Ellis and the school district.
DeSalvo said it would for Anderson. She said maybe for the school district involving the contract issue.
Keith refers to another email. Asks DeSalvo if Ellis would at least have a rudimentary knowledge of his requirements for copyright.
DeSalvo said it seemed like he had some knowledge by that date (April 28).
Keith: If he had been to Hal Leonard website by that date, (would it appear he had even more knowledge)
DeSalvo said if he had been to the website yes.
Keith: With the knowledge he had, is it reasonable for him to wait until September to secure permissions for those songs.
Keith: Do you have any evidence he did anything before September to arrange permission to arrange other than the Steve Anderson contract.
DeSavlo: If the contract was signed Sept. 6, it would have had to be in the works sometime before Sept. 6. Sometimes you can turn that around in a couple of days, sometimes it takes longer….Said you don’t get permission from the song writers, you get permission from the publishers….two weeks to 30 days is reasonable.
Keith: What documentation do you have to indicate (he started working on copyrights before September).
DeSalvo said the Greenburg emails and those licenses. She said the fact that they were executed on Sept. 6 means that work on them would have had to have begun prior to that.
Hearing takes a 10-minute break at 10 a.m.
Keith is referring to an email in which an arranger had to pay Hal Leonard for not having gotten previous permission in 2009. It includes a contract requiring payment for the license and a fee for not having had the right previously.
Keith refers to an email exchange that it was necessary to clear this up before going forward with anything else.
DeSalvo said she doesn’t know if it was from the email but she learned somewhere that something had to be cleared up.
Keith: In this agreement, it assigns the responsibility to Tupelo High School as the licensee, right?
DeSalvo said yes.
Keith asks who paid that $1,000, was it the arranger or the Tupelo High School booster club
DeSalvo said it seemed to her that Alderman said have paid it. But Keith notes the contract said that the school district was the one that was supposed to pay it. DeSalvo said that is correct.
Keith would you agree that this contract clearly indicates that there are some responsibilities to ensure permission for songs you are going to arrange. DeSalvo said yes.
Keith refers to an email from Ellis to Stewart….It said that Ellis plans on using many of the arrangements he did the year before during this year (2011-12)
Do you have any knowledge whether Mr. Ellis had permission to arrange those songs? DeSalvo said she did not.
Keith if he used those songs, would he need permission to arrange them? DeSalvo said yes. She said instrumentation doesn’t require permission but if you are changing how the work is performed, you would need permission.
Keith: If Beyonce has a song Mr. Ellis wants to arrange, it would be necessary for Mr. Ellis to obtain permission from the rights holder
Keith: How much are you being paid to do this investigation and to testify.
DeSalvo: I’m not quite sure. I’m not there because Mr. Butts or Mr. Ellis are not able to pay me. When I was down last time, I was paid a flat fee of $2,000.
Keith: Do you have an hourly rate as an attorney when you are engaged in copyright litigation.
DeSalvo: Last year it was $250 an hour and this year it is $275.
Keith: Are you charging on an hourly rate for this or just a flat fee?
DeSalvo: I am keeping time on my hours in case they are able to pay me and I will see if they are able to pay me on that. If they can only pay me a flat fee, I will take that.
Keith: How many hours have you accumulated?
DeSalvo her time is probably in excess of $3,000 and her travel time 11 hours which she did not bill for. This past week she put in in preparation four to five hours plus her testimony yesterday and today. She has also been on standby all week (but she is not charging for that)
Keith: If I told you some of the arrangements had been done by Mr. Ellis during the 2010-11 school year in which he did not obtain permission, would that change your opinion you stated yesterday that you did not have any information that Mr. Ellis violated the law?
DeSalvo: If Mr. Ellis arranged songs without permission during the 2010-11 school year, there is potential liability there if he did that without permission.
Keith is finished with the witness. Butts begins redirect.
Butts: If Mr. Ellis had arrangements during the 2010-11 school year, there would be potential liability to whom?
DeSalvo: To him for direct infringement but it depends on if he used the song. (You can do it in your house and it is fine, but if he took them and used them that would be direct infringement)
Butts: Assume worst case scenario, Mr. Ellis created arrangements that would qualify as an infringement and assume he took that to show choir and taught the show choir the arrangement and then that arrangement was performed in a public performance. Assume there is no contract for hire between Tupelo Public School and Mr. Ellis to do the arrangement and also assuming the arrangement was performed under the arrangements you mentioned for schools, and the worst case scenario, would there have been any liability on the part of the Tupelo Public School District on the part of the defendant.
Keith objects, saying question is too broad.
Butts re asks the question
Butts: I would like you to assume that during 2011, if Mr. Ellis for the performance in 2011, he would have started working on arrangements. I’d like for you to assume he did create arrangements. Assume he did not get copyright permission from the copyright holder to create the arrangement. Assume he took it to his show choirs and taught his arrangements and there was no written contract between Tupelo High School and Mr. Ellis and these songs were performed on the school premise and admission fees were charged and they were performed at competitions but Tupelo High School received no private gain from those performances, would the TPSD have any liability for Mr. Ellis’ arrangements without permission.
Keith objects unless Butts includes in his hypothetical that Mr. Ellis is under contract with this school district as show choir director. Butts said there is no contract between Ellis and the school district to arrange music. Compton overrules objection.
DeSalvo: (In the hypothetical) The school district would not be liable for the arrangements Mr. Ellis did. TO be perfectly honest, if it was within the course and scope of his employment to prepare arrangements, the employer could be liable. If there is no specific duty that is required by his job….if it is not something it is specifically required by his job to do, there is no liability.
Butts: In the situation I just gave you, the liability would be Mr. Ellis? DeSalvo said correct.
Butts refers her to agreement where Hal Leonard gave permission to David Alderman for “Ask the Lonely” and “I Drove All Night.”
Butts: Is it your understanding there was no contract for hire between Tupelo High School, Tupelo School District and Mr. Alderman for those agreements?
DeSalvo said that is her understanding.
Butts: Would you know why this agreement from Hal Leonard makes Tupelo High School the licensee rather than David Alderman.
DeSalvo said it is because the school will be using the work. She said Hal Leonard and Cherry Lane and others grant permission to the arranger to arrange but make the school the licensee to perform.
DeSalvo said the publisher still owns the arrangement, this is just a license to use it.
Butts: Since Mr. Alderman did not get permission to arrange the songs back in 2009 and there was no contract for the arrangements, who infringed Hal Leonard’s copyright in 2009?
DeSalvo said Mr. Alderman.
Butts: From your knowledge of dealing with arrangers, would Mr. Alderman be aware of that fact.
Keith objects and Compton sustains.
Butts refers to correspondence
Keith said the language is clear who paid the fee for not having permission to pay the arrangement (the school district was obligated to pay it by Tupelo).
Butts: Has any fact been brought to your attention on cross examination by the district
DeSalvo: No, although since yesterday. I found this in the email in exhibit 5 when Mr. Alderman said he paid the fee for the song. Yesterday I was unclear about it.
Butts: Do you stand fully on your testimony given in this hearing yesterday?
DeSalvo said yes.
Butts is finished with DeSalvo.
Next witness will be Lynne Johnson.
Johnson has children in the school district.
She lives in Tupelo. She has two daughters at Ole Miss who were in show choir for four years and her son is at the high school. He is not involved in show choir.
Butts: Tell me about your involvement with show choir and the booster club?
Johnson said her girls both became part of Ellis’ show choir in the same year. One was a junior and one was a freshman. She was involved for the next four years.
“It the most amazing experience for them and for us.”
Johnson said she became known as the snack lady and she was involved in every practice parents could be part of.
She said that it was a lot of work.
Butts: From your observation, what is the work load on the children and Mr. Ellis?
Johnson: I don’t know how he physically did it, but he was always there with an amazing attitude and the kids respected him. There were long hard nights getting ready for the competitions and the shows.
The loved working with Calvin. They respected him and looked up to him. There was a lot of sweat put into it but they loved working with him.
Butts asks about the trip to Petal.
Johnson said they arrived at school at 7 a.m. Sound Wave always competes first.
Keith said it would be important here to voir dire the witness about her knowledge of previous testimony. Compton said Keith can do that on cross.
Butts: We’d like to know about your participation.
Johnson said she was in the room with Wave Connection the entire time. She specifically remembers that competition because her daughter was sick.
Sound Wave performed, all of the parents go out, we are so excited because we love our show choir and we love our kids. Then we go out when Wave Connection performs and we wait to see who makes finals.
Johnson: I do remember while we were there the Petal parents were very rude to us. I just don’t think they like us. It is just a rival like any sport.
Butts asks about any rules handed out by Petal representatives on arrival
Johnson said she is not aware of any rules
Butts asks about the room. Johnson said they wait to see when everyone leaves that the room is put exactly back in order. She said that just because of the way they were treated, they wanted to make sure room was spotless.
Butts: Was the room our show choir stayed in in Petal trashed?
Johnson: No. When I saw the 23 accusations that came out about Mr. Ellis I was at the Link Centre. I was sitting there reading them and when I saw the accusation that room had been trashed I took that against myself. I am not going to say the room did not get messy. We were in two rooms that were connected to each other. (Two rooms connected by a door. Put girls in back room and boys up front). We are trying to keep these kids comfortable. It is a competition. They are there long hours. The room does get messy….but a group of parents make sure it is always spotless when we leave. We would never want Tupelo’s reputation to be anything but the best.
Butts asks about whether boys and girls changed in the same room
Johnson: We do not change in the same room, but I will tell you. The way they set us up, the girls have to walk through the boys room. There may have been times when they walked through that the boys were in their boxers but I do not find that offensive (Said that was because of the way the room was set up. That is why they put the girls in the back room. Said parents were there to make sure nothing inappropriate happened)
Butts asks about her experience in show choir?
Johnson: You can ask my girls to this day, the thing they remembered that left the biggest positive impact on them at high school was Mr. Ellis and the show choir he was in. I love him. He is the best teacher and mentor and person I have ever known. My girls loved it. They worked very hard. They didn’t mind being there until midnight.
(I can hear sniffles from people in the audience)
Butts asks if she has found Ellis to not be forthright?
Johnson said all of her friends have always thought of Ellis as honest and forthright and that she hadn’t talked to anyone who thought anything else
Butts asks about Mrs. Ellis
Johnson said he always thanked his wife. She thought that union between the couple was so strong. She said Jauna Ellis was always there for the show choir and she is a great lady.
Butts asks about accusations of wasting money. Johnson said it was the parents money and that they knew it was going toward their kids.
Butts: Are you aware Mr. Ellis would have choreography arranged and then have it rearranged?
Johnson said she isn’t the best person to ask about that
Butts asks about planned New York trip
Johnson said it was a big deal to be invited to perform. They had several meetings where they discussed how expensive it would be. They fundraised and tried to raise money, but they couldn’t make the money. They were told they probably wouldn’t be able to go. Then New York contacted Calvin and said we really want you to go and we will try to do something to help you, find a sponsor. We grasped on to that small hope but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
Butts asks Johnson if she perceived a lack of supervision. Johnson said never. She said there were 5 or 6 parents who were always there. She said with two show choirs you need help from parents and that he always made sure parents were there. She said that during her four years, the kids were never unsupervised.
Butts asks about Ellis making kids run laps around the PAC
Johnson said that didn’t happen while her children were there.
Butts asked if Ellis didn’t maintain discipline of the kids. Johnson said no and that if Ellis needed to do something to discipline kids she would have supported him 100 percent.
Butts asked about the experience for her girls being in show choir?
Johnson: IT was such a wonderful experience. I feel very blessed he was our director. Getting to know him as a person .
Butts was Mr. Ellis unfair among the kids for any reason, race or financial condition?
Johnson said never. She said she remembers a student who didn’t have financial means and they made sure they got that child and brought that child to practice.
Butts: Did you child participate in hair and makeup nights.
Johnson said they did. She said she never had concern about her kids being there. She said it was a team building event. She said Calvin really wanted tm to participate but he was never like if you don’t do this, this is what will happen to you.
Butts: Are you aware of the allegations of this last hair-and makeup night?
Johnson: I am aware of what happened. I think it is ridiculous. AS a mom of two seniors who graduated from the high school, I feel like someone could put me on trail because I had children over at my house the night before school began and I didn’t know they had cans of spray paint and spray painted “09” on neighbors mailboxes.
Johnson said that happens with kids. She said she has seen pranks happen and has had them happen to her.
Butts: As a parent of girls, with a prank involving condoms would you be offended?
Johnson: No. Boys are boys. Boys are going to do stupid things. You tell them not to do it and they are going to do it. I don’t think it was anything where a teenage boy thought about being sexual. It is but they are just dumb boys. Bananas and condoms? Really? They are so creative. (Laughs)
Butts asks about Ellis’ influence
Johnson: We feel very blessed that for the four yeas my girls were involved in show choir, he was our director. He is a wonderful person, a wonderful influence. I would love to see my son involved in show choir with him
Butts: Is Mr. Ellis perfect
Johnson: No one is perfect. He is not prefect. I’m not perfect. The kids were not perfect.
Butts: Is show choir competitive?
Johnson: It is extremely competitive. The thing I loved about show choir is I watched these boys who played soccer and would never think about being involved in show choir get involved. It is very physical but it is not that contact sport where you are running into people. The kids he got were kids who would not have been involved but he saw the talent in them. The reason they did it was because of him, because they admired him and respected him.
Butts: Are the kids competitive among themselves….Have you observed children and their parents where they would like to be on the front row or they deserve a solo
Johnson: When you try out for something you are going to want that. But just like anything, you don’t get it, you don’t make it. Sometimes you make it and sometimes you don’t.
Butts: How would you characterize us being competitive with other schools
Johnson said they were competitive, they worked hard and they wanted to win.
Butts: Was show choir supported by community?
Johnson yes, parents were very involved. WE want to be involved because we loved Calvin as a director and it was a good group of kids. We would have been excited it a principal or someone from central office would come to our shows to see how great they were.
Butts asked about the size of the group
Johnson said it was two large groups and they had a large group of people who came to competitions and when they cheered they were very loud.
Butts: Do you have an opinion whether our show choirs acted appropriated and were a good example of Tupelo High.
Johnson: Because I was always there I do believe we represented our school district in a good way. We were raised to know right from wrong. WE didn’t ever want Tupelo High School to come out like they’re this or that. We always behaved and that is why we had parents involved. One person can’t supervise that many kids. As parents we were always there to make sure our students behaved and did the right thing.
Butts finishes his examination and Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith: Have you ever served on the booster board?
Johnson: No, I just served on the hospitality committee.
Keith: You were as
Johnson: I attended a meeting at the Link Centre when Mr. Butts presented the 23 accusations against Mr. Ellis. The one concern in Petal popped out to me. I told David if he would like me to testify and he said yes.
Keith asks whether Johnson had read the blogs. She said she read about the copyright lawyer and part of Valerie Whitwell’s. She said she didn’t really read about the pranking. She read some of Mr. Meadow’s. Part of Terri Stewart’s and part of Mr. Ellis.
She said she is familiar with the testimony that has occurred.
Keith objects to the witness because she has violated law of sequestration.
Butts said the rule applies to witnesses remaining outside the courtroom and that there is no way to insulate witnessed from the newspapers or the blogs or what they made have read. To insist on that kind of sequestration is absurd. Said this witness testified on her personal knowledge and not on the testimony of anyone else.
Compton said he will reserve a ruling on it.
Keith said she knew even before these proceedings that she was going to testify and that Butts should informed his witnesses not to keep up with it.
Compton said he is going to reserve a ruling on it. He will review it and make a ruling this afternoon.
Keith: Were you disappointed in the results from Petal. Johnson said, no. They were very close. They were in second and were very close to the first place team.
Keith asks if Ellis ever told parents that someone from Petal had raised concerns about Tupelo students
Johnson said she heard Ellis ask the boys if they had been disrespectful. She said that the Petal parents were rude to them. She said Ellis told the boys that when an adult talks to you, you need to be respectful of them. Johnson said the parents told Ellis they would keep a better eye on the boys.
Keith: Do you recall where you were when you heard the New York trip had been cancelled.
Johnson said she does not remember. Keith asks about her getting an email about the trip being canceled, was that when she found out. Johnson said she didn’t remember.
Keith asks about students running laps around the PAC. She said she heard that happened this year and her daughter graduated lat year.
Keith asks if Johnson went to all of the rehearsals when her daughter was involved. She said she went to most of them. She said she did not go to all of them, there were many rehearsals and a lot of late rehearsals.
Keith asks if Johnson allowed her daughters to spend the night at the hair and makeup night. She said they were allowed to spend the night but if they did not spend the night she called the parent were they were staying and told Jauna that they were not spending the night.
Keith asked Johnson what is her knowledge of the Friday night pranking incident.
Johnson said she heard the girls spent the night at the Whitwell house with Jauna and the boys were at Ellis’ house. That the girls wrote things on the boys’ cars and the boys bought things and went over and pranked the girls cars. She said she had heard it was all in fun and that the kids were laughing about it and that it got out of control.
Keith asks about pranks that had been pulled on Johnson. She said people had written either 2009 or 2011 on her mailbox.
Keith asks if her children were involved in pranks similar to what happened on Sept. 30. Johnson said they were not.
Keith: Were you at board meeting in May of 2010 when Mr. Ellis stood before board and told where he was over budget?
Johnson said no. She said she did not attend any board meetings.
Keith has no further questions. Johnson’s testimony is completed.
Hearing breaks at 11:45 a.m. It will resume at 1:05 p.m.
The hearing resumes in closed session.
Hearing is back in open session at 1:19 p.m. Parent Kim Burleson is testifying. She was also testifying during the closed session.
Butts asks about her daughter’s experience
Burleson: I can’t tell you how positive it has been for her. She has thoroughly enjoyed all four years….As far as school activities, it has been a major part of her education. (It will be a major part of her high school experience)
She said she has also had a positive experience as a parent. She said her daughter has stepped out of the box under Ellis’ guidance.
Butts asks about her observations on his mentoring of the kids.
Burleson: He is an excellent mentor…It always amazed me how he could encourage them all to be part of a group. I was impressed how he could mentor all different kids of kids. He could always get them to bond, kind of like a team.
Butts: Have you found him to be forthright and honest?
Burleson: As far as I have dealt with him yes.
She said he has treated the children fairly regardless of their financial situation of their race.
Butts: Have you ever had an occasion where you had an impression where Mr Ellis failed to supervise these children?
Burleson: No. When you are dealing with a group of teenagers, you can’t be one on one with them all of the time. Said has never had a concern.
Butts asked if she had seen Ellis endanger children. She said no.
Burleson said she feels he is an excellent show choir director, as far as her experience goes.
Butts: How would you say his show choirs have performed?
Burleson: Very professionally. I am not sure of the record but I would say that we’ve placed (in every competition been in).
Butts: Have you ever observed any incident where you felt the students were not acting appropriately or where they brought disdain on Tupelo High School
Burleson: No, not from what I witnessed.
Butts is done with his questioning.
Keith asks if Burleson has ever served on choral booster board. She said she was treasurer for Sound Wave for one year, two years ago
Keith: Did you ever hear complaints about Mr. Ellis’ handling of money for show choirs?
Keith: What about his selection of students for the show choirs
Burleson said just common complaints from parents about their children not making a particular group.
Keith asks about the trip to Petal. Asks if she heard any complaints by Petal officials to Mr. Ellis about behavior of students.
Burleson said she had never heard that complaint.
Keith: The year you were treasurer for Sound Wave, did you end that year in a deficit position?
Burleson said Terri Stewart was treasurer for all groups and each group had its own treasurer. Stewart was the one who had the final figure and she does not know what that was.
Keith: Did you attend any booster club board meetings.
Burleson said yes.
Keith: What about the one in May 2010 where Mr. Ellis talked abut the budget issues. Burleson said no and that she does not recall that discussion taking place.
Keith is finished his cross examination, and Burleson's testimony is complete.
Next witness is Stephanie Maxcy. She lives in Tupelo and has a child at Tupelo High School, a senior.
Maxcy said both of her girls are cheerleaders.
Butts: Tell me about booster club for cheerleaders.
Maxcy said she has been involved with the cheerleader booster club for six years. Said it is literally to boost cheerleaders and support them. We support the coach as needed.
Butts: Asks about nature of cheerleading.
Maxcy said they are athletes like any other sport. They are competitive.
Maxcy said they have camps and competitions.
This year she is treasurer, the previous two years she was president of booster club.
Butts asks if cheerleaders take overnight fieldtrips. Maxcy said they do as part of camps and various competitions. She said that nationals includes overnight travel.
Lawyers have a sidebar conference.
Butts asks Maxcy about the numerous trips that have been taken that require school approval. When you talk about nationals you are talking about going to Disney World?
Maxcy said that is correct.
She said kids have traveled by bus and have flown out of Birmingham.
Butts: Has an administrator from the Tupelo Public School District accompanied the group on the trips?
Maxcy said not any trips that she knows of.
Maxcy said they are going to nationals next week.
Maxcy said they have an administrator going with them this year, on the trip next week. That they hadn’t had an administrator go with them in the past. She said it was just recently that she had ever heard that an administrator from the district had to be with the group on its trip.
Keith declines cross examination. Maxcy’s testimony is complete.
Next witness is Deborah Bullock. She is a teacher at Tupelo High School. She has been there for 12 years. She is a choral director. She said she has had the same job over the last 12 years.
She teaches guitar, keyboard, music theory, general music, she helps with the two show choirs. She said she assists the show choirs by accompanying them.
Butts: You have been there before Mr. Ellis was there and you have been there since.
Bullock said she has worked with Vicky Wilson and other choral directors, Quinn Harris, Suzy Williams, Debra Atkinson.
Butts: In the last five years, since Calvin Ellis got there,….I understand he came on as an assistant choral director with Vicky Wilson as his immediate supervisor. Bullock said that is correct. She said Wilson was also her supervisor.
Butts asks what coach assistant means in the schedule?
Bullock: It can mean a number of things, it all depends on how we work together. We can take the role while they start the class. Said she has accompanied the class, it can mean working with sectionals or singing with the class.
Butts asks about term assistant choral director. Bullock said she is an assistant in some classes. She is choral director, a music teacher and an assistant choral director.
Butts asks how it is determined who will teach which class?
Bullock said that is determined by the counselors. Usually they are informed during the summer. She said you never know from year to year and it usually depends on how many students sign up for a class and whether that class makes. “It is really not in our hands.”
Butts asks how the three choral teachers confer
Bullock said they try to confer with each other as much as they can. Sometimes their schedules don’t allow them to do that. They try to work together as much as they can
Butts asked if Wilson was Bullock’s supervisor while she was there, and Bullock said yes. Butts asked he took Wilson’s position when she left, and Bullock said Ellis did.
Butts: Did he then become your supervisor?
Bullock: I would say so, yes.
Butts: Would he also become the supervisor of the other choral teacher in the program?
Bullock: I would say so yes.
Butts asks Bullock to describe her working relationship with Ellis.
Bullock said she was accompanist for different choirs and show choirs he directed. They spent a lot of time together. They share the responsibility of teaching the structure band group. They each worked with half of them and put them together. They have been to numerous conferences together and have a good working relationship.
Butts asks Bullock about any problems she had with Ellis.
Bullock: I have never had a problem with Calvin. I’ve worked with a lot of different directors. I have never had one cross word from Calvin since I’ve been working with him.
Bullock said it has been a pleasant experience working with him. She said Ellis has award-winning show choirs and award winning choirs. She thinks he is a very good choir director.
Butts: You do make a contribution to that.
Bullock: I try
Butts asks Bullock if she would trust Ellis
Bullock: I would trust Calvin with anything. WE have done so much together and he has always been the perfect gentleman to me
Butts asks about Ms. Ellis. Bullock said she has a lot of stage experience and a lot of hair and makeup experience and she volunteers he time to help her husband with all of that.
Butts: Are you aware of any incident where he failed to properly supervise his students?
Bullock: I would say he has always supervised his students to the best of his ability.
Butts: Would you have to agree he has to rely on people like yourself, the other choral teachers, chaperones and parents to help him in that task.
Bullock : I would, it is a tremendous task.
Bullock said she has never known Ellis to endanger a child
Butts: Would you know any reason why you would not want to continue working with him?
Bullock: No, I know no reason why. I’d be glad to continue working with him.
Butts finishes his examination.
Keith begins the cross examination.
Keith: Do you know whether or not Mr. Ellis’ contract was changed to reflect director of choral activities after Ms. Wilson left?
Bullock said she does not know, she has not seen Ellis’ contract.
Keith asks if Ellis has ever supervised Bullock to evaluate her performance and Bullock said no. He asks whether Ellis gives the administration an evaluation of Bullock’s job performance. She said she didn’t know, maybe if they asked him.
Keith asks about what awards Ellis’s show choir had won. Bullock said she does not know which years.
Hearing goes into closed session at 1:59 p.m.
The hearing opens back up, and Bullock is finished with her testimony.
The hearing is done for today. It will recess until Monday, Feb. 13 at 8:30 a.m. at the Hancock Leadership Center.
I will post updates to the bottom. Last update was at 4:58 p.m.
The seventh day of the Calvin Ellis hearing is about to begin. They will be in closed session because testimony inovlves another individual's character and reputation.
Hearing is back in open session.
Keith is asking Ellis about when he selected music for his show. Ellis said the process starts in March and continues until July. He said choreographers come into town in July. Ellis said at that point he hadn’t selected all of the songs. The choreographers are from the competition songs, but there are additional songs that would be performed during October.
Keith asked whether any of the songs would need to be arranged. Ellis said all of the songs that were going to be in the competition show would be arranged. He said Steve Anderson and Jeremy Alferra (spelling?) would do the arrangement. He spoke with them at the end of April or beginning of May. He told them which songs he wanted arranged for the competition show and that he sent them the exact songs. For Steve Anderson it was “Cold as Ice,” “Fire and Ice,” “Fire,” and “We didn’t start the Fire.” For Mr. Alferra, it was “Freeze” “More,” and “Set Fire to the Rain.”
Keith asks Ellis when he got permission to have those songs arranged. Ellis said he received a contract from Steve Anderson for the four songs he would arrange. On the contract it said it was the school’s responsibility to get permission for the arranging. He said Anderson said to please make sure to get the permission because they are really cracking down on this copyright business. “So I did it, just for his.”
Ellis: I also need to state, for years since I have been doing this job, every arranger I have spoken with does not do this particular thing. They don’t ask you to sign a contract. You send them what you want arranged and they arrange it. When he was harping on going to Hal Leonard, I did what he asked me to do.
Ellis said he didn’t think about that for the other arrangers because he had never been asked to do that before. “That was the common practice for all arrangers.”
Keith directs him to exhibit 24.
Keith asks if that is the contract from Steve Anderson.
Ellis said it is not. He said he didn’t receive that until August. He said that document is a contract provided by Hal Leonard after he submitted those songs to Hal Leonard in April.
Keith asks Ellis about his contact with Hal Leonard. Ellis said it did it through the website, which was the way Anderson told him to do it. He contacted them in late April or May, toward the end of the past school year. He said he didn’t hear anything from them until he received that document, exhibit 24, in August.
Ellis said that when he received it, he forwarded it to Terri Stewart. It is a contract that says licensor, Tupelo High School, agrees to pay licensee, Steve Anderson, $200, etc. It also says that after arrangement Tupelo High School would send a copy of the work to the copyright office.
Ellis said that he did not read the contract, he forwarded it to Terri Stewart because he knew there was a copyright fee that would need to be paid.
Keith asked if he sought legal advice from the school district to make sure he wasn’t in violation of copyright law. Ellis said he did not.
Ellis signed the document on Sept. 6. It was then sent to Cherry Lane Music. Ellis said he didn’t know at the time it was sent to Cherry Lane. He said he entrusted Terri Stewart to take care of it. He was deep in the show choir season and he didn’t read the fine print and left Terri Stewart to take care of it.
At the bottom of the letter it says the deal will be voided if they don’t get the payment within 60 days.
On the next page is the same form of a contract for “We didn’t start the fire.”
Butts said the last line of questioning is unfair because on the front of the contract it says payment was sent within two days of the signature.
Also attached is a contract for a third song.
Keith said it could not have left the district before Sept. 6 because Ellis had not signed it. Ellis agreed.
Also attached are mailed checks. I think Keith said that one of the days listed was for Sept. 4
Ellis said the fourth song was “Fire” but there was something with the Hendrix estate that prevented them from getting permissions.
Keith asked if Ellis was concerned at that time that he would not get permissions in time for this show in October.
Ellis said he began at that time in August to become concern because he had a better understanding of the process. He said he had done the job for years and the massive scope of copyright law blew his mind. He said he did not have a complete understanding of the details needed for copyright law. That was something he hadn’t considered before.
Keith asked if the students had already begun practicing and whether copies of music had already been placed in student folders. Ellis said yes.
Keith: Had you gotten copyright permission at that time?
Ellis said no.
Keith moves to exhibit 8. An email exchange with Stewart. Stewart asked for any updates on copyright stuff. The last paragraph said she also needed to get copies of the music Ellis wrote.
Keith: She is not depending on herself to do this, she is asking you for the update?
Ellis: She was asking me for an update on the status. At that time, I was also unclear on the full process on how all of this worked. I had submitted the majority of the songs for my show at the end of August when I got all the information I needed to understand that every arranger and every piece of music needed to be submitted and approved. I finally understood that. I submitted all of my songs at the end of August. I had been speaking with Mark Greenburg….I was thinking that when Mark Greenburg would send me an email that said cleared, I thought we were good to go on copyright. I didn’t know the full process was sending back two copies of the music. When I got information from these people that the songs were cleared and you were good to go, I thought that mean we had approval.
Keith asks what Ellis meant when he said he submitted all of his songs by the end of August.
Ellis said he had been working with arrangers before and had never been told he had to get copyrights….Every arranger I had ever worked with never asked me to do this. At this point, I am coming to the summer and I was like I did this for him (Steve Anderson) and then I get this crazy email from Hal Leonard. I am asking can you explain the process to me. I have never had to do this before. One arranger is asking for this and every (other) arranger I have ever worked with never asked me for this. It took me a while to understand that it doesn’t matter what the arranger asked me, I had to get permission for copyright..
Ellis said he finally understood at the end of August, through his conversations with Greenburg. On Aug. 29, he thought he still had two months and all of his songs would be cleared. He submitted all of his songs at the end of August through Tresona.
Keith asks how he found Tresona.
Ellis said Suzy Williams was the first person to tell him about that company. She had found it as she was trying to get copyrights for her songs. It was in the beginning of August and she told him about this company she found that could help get the process going.
Ellis said he has been working with other arrangers and all of a sudden there is emphasis on this. Arrangers are all uncomfortable that there is this legal mess going on with the show choir profession.
He said emailed Jeremy Alferra what was going on and why he had never asked for this before. Ellis was told this was new, I am trying to do a service, that this was new.
Ellis: Here are these colleagues I have been working with for years and years that were uncomfortable with the situation and I am stuck in the middle trying to figure out how do I deal with this. I was trying to get the full scope of this and then I finally understood that I needed to do this no matter what.
Ellis said he didn’t get a straight forward answer from Anderson. He had to ask other people. He had to ask David Alderman and other arrangers to see what the truth was.
Keith asks if Ellis stayed with Mr. Alferra for those songs.
Ellis said he did submit those songs to Hal Leonard. He didn’t think anything of it. What triggered him to think more about the process was the letter he received regarding the Ask the Lonely and Drive all night arrangements that were already done.
Keith asks if Ellis stayed with Mr. Alferra for those songs.
Elllis said he did.
Keith asks why he didn’t go
Ellis as I have stated five times already. I have done this job for five years. Never have I had to do this process. It did not occur to me at that time that I had to go an do this for every single song. It didn’t register with me. I thought this was something he was asking me to do for him.
Keith: You didn’t understand you had to do this for every arranger?
Ellis said it was informal. It wasn’t a full explanation of why. He just did what he asked him to do in the middle of his crazy, insane schedule.
Keith refers to email on Sept. 14 to Terri Stewart at 12:01 a.m. It says that he thinks they are in the clear and that no news means good news in this arena. Ellis said that (no news is good news) was Greenburg’s statement.
Ellis said the email says I think we are in the clear, not that he knows they were in the clear. He said Greenburg told him that if you aren’t able to get copyright you usually hear something immediately.
Keith: In fact, you had no confirmation at that point.
Ellis: I had no confirmation, yes.
Keith asks about board meeting that night. He said Ellis told the board they had permissions on five songs.
Ellis said he can’t remember. He thinks had permission from Mark Greenburg about one or two songs being pre-cleared or on the cleared list. He took that to mean he was approved for it. The language of copyright was not something he was well versed in so he thought cleared meant he could perform those songs.
Ellis said when he met with the booster club, he had the three songs he had signed to contract on (mentioned above) and the two songs on the pre-cleared list.
I understand now that was a misrepresentation because I did not have the copies of music attached but at the time I thought the singing of these contracts and the mailing of the checks meant we were good to go with those songs.
Keith asks what documentation Ellis had from Greenburg.
Ellis said he did not have documentation but that he didn’t understand what he needed.
Hearing takes a break at 10:20 a.m.
Hearing resumes at 10:37 a.m.
Keith refers to the meeting with the board where Ellis discussed copyright. Keith asks about discussion where Ellis said he would go forward and ask for forgiveness later.
Ellis said that is not how the discussion went. He said he talked to several other directors who were working through this and moving forward. Ellis said that he doesn’t recall saying he was going to do it anyway and ask for forgiveness. It was a discussion on how they would make it happen.
Keith: As of that date, you had not sought assistance from the administration or the district’s legal counsel had you?
Ellis said no.
Keith refers to an email that Ellis sent to Greenburg after that meeting. Ellis said in the email that he learned about copyright permissions at the end of the last school year and that he didn’t realize that this was something that every arranger must get. Ellis said he had arrangements that didn’t have copyrights.
Ellis said at this point he knows that wasn’t proper.
Ellis said in the email he was getting worried and he asked what the fine was for performing songs without permission. He said he would never purposefully do that but that he is worried about not getting permission for the songs.
Ellis: Like I stated at the meeting, where there was discussion about going ahead and doing the show as was the example set by other directors, he wasn’t comfortable with doing that, he wanted to get more information. “I wasn’t saying to him that I was going to do it, but I think it is important to know what the full scope of doing something is.”
Ellis said asking him what was the fee doesn’t mean he was going to do it, it was just a question.
Keith: You realize that performing songs without permission, you and the school would be in a lot of trouble.
Ellis: I was beginning to realize that. That is why I decided to postpone the show.
Keith refers to an email from Greenburg, says the fine is the last thing to worry about and it is $150,000. Says that is the last thing to worry about, it is a felony.
Keith asks if that outlined the seriousness of what they were dealing with
Ellis said he began to understand it was not in the best interest to go forward. He began to think they may need to postpone the show after that email.
Keith asked if Ellis shared that with anyone and Ellis said he did not.
The email noted a pre-approved list. Keith said you could not use that list because you had already been practicing songs and it was too late to do that?
Ellis said that is correct.
Keith asks about Stewart and Whitwell agreeing to help Ellis. Ellis said he gave them everything he had in his files.
Keith said they realized that no songs had been approved as of that date.
Ellis: They never communicated with me that no songs had been approved. They never communicated with me that I misrepresented the status. When I said I had four or five songs approved, they never said but Calvin we don’t have any. I feel like if there was disagreement they should have mentioned it to me so that I could understand where the miscommunication was.
Keith: Is it
Ellis: I didn’t say it was the parent’s responsibility. I gave the responsibility to Terri Stewart because she wanted to help. I don’t want to make excuses. My day…you can see all of these emails happened at midnight at 1 a.m. I spend all my day working with kids and there is no way I could do my job and do all that she did. I am not saying it is her responsibility but she offered to help me. Ultimately it is my responsibility because I am the director, but she was helping me. Yes it is my responsibility but I do rely heavily on parents for help.
The other teacher getting these copyright approvals had six periods during the day where she had time to get those approvals. I did not and that is why I asked for help.
Keith said that Ellis chooses his schedule and that his teaching lessons after school and his enrollment in a college course is his choice. Are you now saying your schedule was so bad you didn’t have time to do what may be the most important thing you had to do and that was to make sure this district was not in violation of copyright law.
Ellis: I am not trying to withdraw my education. I realize that this is an issue but before I realized this was an issue I had commitments for voice lessons. Said he thinks it is important to further his education because that helps students. “When this issue came to me, I already had other obligations….I needed help and if I had a fellow colleague who was willing to help and wanted to help, this burden would have been easier.
I am not taking the responsibility away from me to make sure this district is not liability. I am not saying that is not important. But in the scheduling, it is a lot to drop every detail. I did everything I could.
Keith refers to April email from Ellis to Stewart saying that he may need to put the copyright fee on the credit card. Ellis said that was just for Hal Leonard. He didn’t know then that he needed to submit by check and he was trying to think about possible expenses.
Keith refers to email from Daniel Peters about arrangement of “Ask the Lonely” and “I Drove all Night.” The email is to Peters and Atkinson saying copyright agreement had not been obtained. Keith you knew at that time that there is copyright issue in regard to arrangers I need to be aware of. This is July 13.
Ellis said yes.
Keith: After your meeting with the executive board on the 14 th , you were aware that the executive board met with Mr. Harris.
Ellis said he never knew they met with Mr. Harris. He knew Mr. Harris knew about copyright because Valerie Whitwell said she had been approached by Mr. Harris at a laptop distribution and asked her what was going on with the copyright issue. He said he had no idea the board had approached him about the copyright.
Ellis said that was Sept. 18.
Keith: Prior to Sept. 18, you had never gone to Mr. Harris about a possible copyright issue.
Ellis said he did go to Mr. Harris on Sept. 21 when he had a conference. At that point, Whitwell had told Ellis about her conversation with Harris and that she told Ellis she did not know how Harris knew about it.
Ellis said at the end of the conference, he told Harris about the problem he was having. He said that Harris acted like that was the first time he had heard about anything regarding copyright.
Keith: Are you disputing what Mr. Harris testified.
Ellis I just know there is something fishy about that story because he acted like my conference with him was the first time he knew anything about copyright. He testified the other day that the booster club came to and told him about a copyright issue and I never knew that.
Keith refers to an email from Ellis to Greenburg. Said he wanted to apologize for his second email and that he didn’t realize that Greenburg had sent cleared list. It said there was only one song on that list in his show. It said he doesn’t know what to do or how to replace the seven songs he had already practiced. Said he is about to lose his mind over this and he was truly in a mess..”
Keith: You sent that because you realized you were in a lot of trouble at that point.
Ellis I knew our show was about a month away and I didn’t know how I was going to do that.
Keith refers to an email to parents, on Sept. 29. It said they were still waiting for copyright permissions on a few songs. Keith asks how many songs Ellis had permission on at that point
Ellis: According to real meaning of approval that I didn’t find out until after I was terminated. I thought more was approved.
Keith: I am asking you as of this date, how many did you actually have.
Ellis: I understand now…I don’t know. I don’t know when they received the music with the copyright. I may not have had any but what I am trying to explain to you in my mind, I thought we had those cleared…..After I was terminated and I understood the difference between cleared and approved I understood that I didn’t have any.
Keith asks who the district looks to to make sure all songs are cleared and approved. Ellis said “me.”
Ellis said it was his idea to postpone the show, not Mr. Harris’ idea. He said he wanted the parents to know it was important to him that the principal (thought they should postpone the show. Said he thought it was important for the parents to know that the principal thought the same thing).
The email talked about the need for a meeting. Keith asked if the board decided a meeting wasn’t needed to postpone the show. Ellis said that was correct.
Ellis is referred to a letter he sent to parents. Email said they had permission on a few songs.
Keith: At that point, what evidence did you have that songs were cleared.
Ellis: Based on the fact that I had signed three contracts and I had heard at that point on two songs that we had cleared. It was a general representation of what I thought was approved.
Keith: You had told Mark Greenburg the day before there was only one song on the cleared list.
Ellis: There was also another song. I believe it was “Written in the Stars” that he told me was cleared.
Referred to email from Steve Anderson to Ellis saying that he doesn’t have permission on fire and warns that it is highly illegal and he could get in a lot of trouble.
Keith asks if Ellis ever sought advice from administration or district lawyers.
Ellis said he didn’t do that. He said he tried to work with the issue as best as he could given that he had planned his show, hired choreographers and done everything as he had in the past. The process is so extensive that it took him a lot to understand himself. True he could have gone to the administration, but that is something he did not do and he is not perfect.
Keith refers Ellis to booster club bylaws and asks if Ellis had ever read it. Ellis said, to be honest no. Said he skimmed over it.
Keith said Ellis did not read this, contract with Hal Leonard, his employment contract. Do you not read documents (related to your job?)
Ellis: Choral program is a lot from tradition. I learn from my arriving here, under my supervision. Not one revisits these. They are not brought up. I was never even given one of these by the booster club. You learn your job day to day. You assume the people in the booster club are following these and you work. I read things I need to read. I just skimmed over these, but that is the nature of what the beast is.
Keith asks if Ellis is a member of the booster club. Ellis said he understands that now in reading this, but he thought the teachers were just there to oversee it, he didn’t know he was a member.
Keith refers to constitution. It says that all officers and members shall serve the club without compensation. On the next page, at the bottom, the treasurer shall make no expenditures without a receipt.
Keith said that members come and go with their children and that Ellis is the consistency from year to year. He asked if Ellis goes to all of the meetings.
Ellis said he goes to all of the general meetings but not the board meetings.
Keith: You know now that you did not follow the procedures in regard to you being compensated by the booster club.
Ellis: I now know that but I never saw a copy of the booster bylaws (until he was fired?).
Keith: You now know expenditures required a receipt. Ellis said his weakness is keeping up with receipts.
Keith: You now know that major purchases required a majority vote.
Ellis: I now know that.
Keith: Do you believe you have a duty to follow the terms of this constitution and bylaws of the Tupelo High School choral booster club.
Ellis: I believe that.
He said the officers also have a responsibility to inform him of the booster bylaws and that had not been happening.
Keith: You don’t have a duty on your own to determine what your responsibilities are to spend booser club money?
Ellis: I have a duty, but I thought the way the booster club was operated was how I observed it. (Before 2010, he observed how it was run under Vicky Wilson). His work with the booster club was steered by his example.
Keith: In spending booster club money, it was important that you let the booster club know what you were spending, is that correct?
Ellis: AS this process is happening, I see now what that was important. (Said he wished he could go back and change that but he was operating on examples.)
Keith is referring to a February email exchange between Ellis and Stewart. Ellis refers Stewart to a bill from Anderson that he just received. Said he told Anderson that the booster books were closed but that they could pay it after July 1. Then there is an email from Stewart to Anderson the next day paying the invoice. A reply from Anderson said he was surprised to hear that she was just receiving the email because Ellis had had it for a long time. He said that whenever he spoke with Ellis about it, Ellis told him the booster books were closed.
Keith: Does that mean your email to Stewart was not accurate?
Ellis It could be looked at as not accurate. I remember not receiving or not opening that email. I can’t remember exactly. I remember in looking at it, it was not open. I must have missed it in the 60 or 70 emails I get each day.
Keith: He said he talked to you about it.
Ellis: Yes. I don’t remember that.
Ellis said that invoice put the Sound Wave group over budget.
The district presents Ellis with a new email, exhibit 79. It was written by Ellis about the need to pay an arranger, take money from another fund to do it.
Stewart sent it to other boosters.
Response from Mary Thomas, who was the secretary at the time, said they could not keep altering (the budget)
Then Ellis sent out a letter to the booster board. Keith asks Ellis is he was upset at the time.
Ellis said he was very upset.
“Mr. Keith, the difficulty in working with parent groups is that they don’t fully understand, and I think you can tell from the testimony before us they don’t fully understand the scope of the expenses and the need to change things in show choir. We are dealing with a competitive group. Sometimes songs don’t work out and some times choreography doesn’t work out…It is frustrating that I need to do what is best for the group when you have parents who don’t understand what needs to be done. All they are talking about is the dollar, the dollar, the dollar. I am not saying that isn’t important. It is. But I need some free reign to do what is important for my group….I was upset because they try to micromanage, there is no way for them to micromanage every decision I need to make for the betterment of Wave Connection or Sound Wave….I heard through the grapevine Mary Thomas was upset at the way the New York trip money was spent. I had to spend it for those kids….The micromanage everything I do that I know is best for the group. They are not the music director They are not the artistic director.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, you are spending booster club money, and don’t they have a right to question your expenditures.
Ellis: They have a right to question and they have a right to know. I’ve told them on chorography sometimes when you have 26 boys who can’t dance, sometimes it doesn’t work out. …I know they have a responsibility and an obligation, but they have to understand that their questions need to be geared in a way that still allows me to run my program and they are trying to hinder that.
Keith: You got mad because they challenged you?
Ellis: Yes I got upset they challenged the fact I needed to move the money around. I would take away from sets, I would take away from everything else, the two most important things they are judged on, music and visual….Mary Thomas said no altering, but that is what we’ve always done in show choir. She didn’t understand the necessity to alter. I was trying to inform her of that.
Ellis said that every year he has been here there have been budgetary issues in show choir because they are trying to compete against groups with there times the budget…I think we do a pretty good job given the money we spend….This is a problem that existed before I got to Tupelo. I came in here with Sound Wave and Wave Connection not having any money.
Ellis said he talked to parents about having bigger fundraisers.
Keith said you knew board didn’t reissue credit card
Ellis said that is true but they never told him why.
Keith asks Ellis about several large expenditures. $1,000 for NY trip to register, $850 for charter bus to Oxford, $2,500 for a party at Birmingham competition at Auburn high school when you told everyone you were invited to Auburn party, $10,000 plus for lighting without board
Keith: Which of those did you have board approval for?
Ellis: None, can I explain. WE do not operate like that. If we operated like that, why did the treasurer of the booster club not decide not to pay the expenditure. That is not how our booster club has run ever since I have known it. I could explain each of those expenditures and the process behind it if you like me to, but we didn’t operate like that. The booster club could have asked me to reimburse them or could have not paid it. There was not conversation with me that they disagreed.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, when they challenged you, you sent them a hot response about what is going on.
Ellis: It was, but they didn’t understand the scope of the (process?)
Keith about board approval for arranging a song
Ellis said the show choir met and they knew what (he was going to do….the arranging project).
Keith: You didn’t inform them how much you were going to charge until you submitted the bill
Ellis No. Neither did I inform the board of any arranger’s fees before I submitted a bill, ever.
Keith asks about sending students outside the PAC for punishment. When you sent them out, they ran laps around the building. Was there any adult supervision?
Ellis there was supervision at night when the ran. Sometimes I had them run at the beginning of practice and I would not go out when they did that because it was still daylight. AT night, on numerous occasions, I would stand out and count how many laps they had run.
Keith: you did allow students to wrestle on the mats without your supervision?
Ellis: Yes. Let me explain that situation. AS one of your witnesses stated before. You have all kinds of guys in this group, many of whom are athletes. I am trying to teach these guys to sing and dance, many of which have never done that before. I strongly believe you have to let these guys be who they are to get what you can get form them. These guys don’t care about show choir. They don’t care about singing and dancing. They care about having a good time. They use this tradition of wave connection fight club. They are not punching each other in the face. They are just having a good time in their breaks for the long hours that they are rehearsing. Sometimes I would be in there. Despite the testimony of the student yesterday I did not wrestle with them. Sometimes they would try to wrestle with me, but I didn’t stet out to wrestle with any student.
Keith: But you did wrestle with them
Ellis; They jumped on me but I didn’t body slam them or anything. I want you to understand this was just a tradition I wanted them to be proud of. No one got hurt. I wanted them to have fun as part of the group.
Keith asks about supervision.
Ellis said sometimes he would give them a 10 minute break while he worked with choreographer. The guys would sometimes sneak off and decide to have WCFC….I am sorry I couldn’t be in every single place at every single time .Every time they decided to have this, I wasn’t there. It wasn’t like I was letting them run wild and do whatever they want to do. They snuck away and have fun.
Keith asks about board policy not allowing teachers to tutor their students but that Ellis was given an exception tot that policy.
Ellis said yes.
Keith asked about Ellis also violating a policy that prohibited teachers from tutoring during the school day. Ellis said that he did so because the student asked him if he could begin her lessons earlier in the day because she had another school activity at 3:30. Because he was available during eight period, he agreed to do that.
Keith asked Ellis if he had any authority to alter a board policy. Ellis said he did not.
Keith: Did Mary Thomas resign her position after receiving that email from you?
Ellis said yes.
The district said that it is done with Ellis. Butts will not cross examine him because he will call him as a witness.
The district rests, subject to rebuttal witnesses. The district called 13 witnesses over 6.5 days of the hearing.
Hearing is in recess until 1:10 p.m.
David Butts will begin the defense’s case at that time.
The hearing resumed at around 1:10 p.m. David Butts is beginning his defense. The hearing opens in closed session because a student is testifying.
The hearing is now back in open session. Ramona DeSalvo is now testifying.
(NOTE, DeSalvo says later that she may have confused Alderman and Anderson at some points in her testimony. It says that later, but I wanted to be sure to also note that here, in case there are incorrect references to one or the other).
She is a copyright lawyer from Nashville. She is testifying via online video. She has been practicing for 32 years. She holds a degree in political science from Cal Berkley and attended law school at University of San Francisco before transferring to the University of Cincinnati and receiving her degree there in 1980.
She has been a trial attorney her entire career. In 1991, she decided to focus on the music industry….Is a music publisher….Since 1991, she has been focused on copyright and entertainment and she has also worked on trademark.
Butts: Have you had frequent opportunity to work with copyright?
DeSalvo: Absolutely, on a significant number of cases….She said she was involved on the single largest copyright infringement case in United States history.
She was also involved in Napster litigation…..several other high-profile cases….
She teaches intellectual property law and entertainment law at the Nashville School of Law. ...
She also speaks to music educators. Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association. And the Collegiate Music Educational National Conference. She teaches copyright basics to music educators.
Butts asks if she has had an occasion to advise schools and institution on copyright matters. DeSalvo said she has and also outlines that work.
DeSalvo said that she has mostly prosecuted infringers. She represents copyright owners.
She said she calls herself a copyright nerd and that she has been labeled as militant about copyright.
She said that she has often lent advice to attorneys litigating copyright issues and has consulted about copyright ownership issues.
Butts: Are you familiar with copyright law as it may apply to performance of songs in an educational setting, such as high school show choirs?
She said yes. She said is also familiar with how it applies to bands and choruses.
Butts: I believe from your testimony you state you are familiar with application of copyright law not just to universities but also to high schools?
DeSalvo said yes and also public elementary, middle and high schools.
She said that she attended the first two days of the hearing in December and heard testimony of the superintendent, which was quite lengthy. She said she also heard Mr. Greenburg. She said she also heard Terri Stewart.
Butts, from listening to Mr. Greenburg, what business is he in?
DeSalvo said it is her understanding he is doing a licensing. That he was working in an academic setting in licensing music. It sounded like his experience was more related to bands and musical performances and not to show choirs.
Butts asked DeSalvo if she had reviewed TPSD policies regarding copyright, that David Meadows referred to in his testimony.
DeSalvo, I am not sure if I would call it a copyright policy. There was an electronic use policy. I did review it. There was a use policy that people were required to sign. There were four policies referred to in his testimony that were said to be copyright policies but did not seem to apply….The policy said you have to obey the law but it doesn’t saw what the law is.
She refers to IJND.R1
In section 1A, it says transmission of any material in violation of federal law or agency guidelines is prohibited. Includes copyright material….She said that covers transmitting copyright material, she would imagine by email and over the internet.
She is referring to another policy, authorized use of school-owned equipment.
DeSalvo said that in the third paragraph from the bottom, it references the district purchasing software for computers. That you need a license and if someone needed a copy, they needed to contact the owner of the software.
She said those were the only two references to copyright. She also reviewed two other polices. Both called “Responsible Access and use.”
DeSalvo said those addresses use of the Internet and email and webpage. It involved transmission of information and said you should transmit resources in an ethical and legal way in compliance with the law.
She said it would be more helpful to know what the law was instead of to say follow the law because, she said, most people already know to follow the law.
Butts: What is your opinion concerning the adequacy of the Tupelo Public School District copyright policy.
Keith objects. Said it presumes that this was ever intended to be a copyright policy and that this is a misrepresentation by Butts.
Butts: During Mr. Meadows’ testimony he asked what copyright policies had been put in place and he mentioned the policies to which DeSalvo referred.
Keith said these were policies that had references to copyright but that he never referred to them as copyright policies.
Butts: If there is a copyright policy of the Tupelo Public School District, we have not found it and it has not been produced.
Keith: We don’t need to have a policy that you can’t violate copyright. We don’t need to have a policy that you can’t speed in a school vehicle.
Compton overrules the objection.
Butts repeats his question, asking DeSalvo’s opinion of Tupelo’s copyright policies.
DeSavlo: My reflection from Mr. Meadow’s testimony. When you inquired what the policies were, he directed you to these, which is why I reviewed them. These are not copyright policies. If they are intended to be copyright polices (they don’t educate anyone on anything other that follow the law) In a specialized area of the law such as copyright it is something people need to be taught, it is not something you can just learn from your moral compass.. I think people generally know not to illegally download music but as far as copyright in an academic setting, it needs to be spelled out a good bit more clearly.
Butts asks DeSalvo about Ellis’ training on copyright law and his understanding of polices. Keith objects because she didn’t hear Ellis’ testimony. Butts said she can rely on conferences with Mr. Ellis. He said experts routinely rely on hearsay evidence.
Butts: If he is going to rely on her expert testimony, she has to give us what she has relied upon as her basis.
Compton sustains to the fact that she has not been tendered as an expert to this point.
Butts said he will tender her as an expert in copyright law at this moment.
Keith said his objection is that Butts has to provide the basis to which she is an expert. Said Butts is not following all of the rules of an expert witness.
Compton said she will have to give the basis of his opinion.
Compton said she can answer the question if she has talked with Mr. Ellis.
Butts: Ms. DeSalvo, did you consult with Mr. Ellis about his practices and how he handled his job at Tupelo High School.
She said yes.
She said she met with Mr. Ellis in person when she was here in December. She also met with Ellis and Butts at Butts’ office. She also heard the superintendent’s testimony, mentions several things Meadows referred to in his testimony. She said she asked Mr. Ellis several questions about the nature of the performances. She said there are six aspects to copyright and one is performance so she asked Mr. Ellis about the nature of performances. She also asked Ellis about how he had conducted the show choir prior to 2011 when an issue came up with an arranger. She spent an hour and a half this week talking to Butts and Ellis so she would have a factual basis of what transpired. She considered there to be a before Hal Leonard and an after Hal Leonard. She also wrote down the song titles that were mentioned in the hearing and found that all of them were (I think she said they were for public use. I didn’t fully get that).
Butts: What was your opinion on how Mr. Ellis
He selected the music the students were going to perform and there choreography done with it. He understood the performances were covers of different songs which are expert from public performance licensing for non-profit educational institutions.
My understanding was that he believed he was covered by an exemption as an educator. What prompted him to look at things more closely was when he got an email from Hal Leonard that an arranger needed to get a license for a musical composition. Before that no arranger had (requested him to get permission).
She said from what she saw, he exercised his best efforts to get information from people he thought were knowledgeable such as Mr. Alderman and Mr. Greenburg. She said Mr. Greenburg gave him a lot of erroneous information.
DeSalvo asked Ellis about his experience and what he had been taught about copyright law. He said he hadn’t been taught about it and that he wasn’t given any information from his principal, his school district or his superintendent that he needed to get copyright.
Butts asks DeSalvo if she has information that Mr. Ellis infringed any copyright laws when he got songs arranged before 2011.
Keith objects, overrules.
DeSalvo said her understanding was that he talked to arrangers and asked them to arrange a song.
Her opinion on that, the law is complicated so she wants to explain….unless there is a written agreement signed by both parties as work for hire, there is nothing where Mr. Ellis was in infringement. If the arranger arranges the song and didn’t secure permission, the arranger committed the infringement not Mr. Ellis. Arrangements are negotiated.
Say I am a owner of a copyright and an arranger comes to me wanting to make an arrangement.
Most publishers want to make money so they agree and they say you can make me an arrangement and you need to pay me so much money. She said the person who does the arrangement is the infringer.
She said in the case where it is done properly, where there is a written agreement, in the school setting it is a little different because there are people out there who make the school the licensee. It is called a work for hire arrangement. When an arranger makes an arrangement without an agreement, he is the author. But if you have an entity like a school who is paying for it and there is a written agreement, the school is the author. To qualify as a work for hire, there has to be a written agreement signed by both parties. In the cases where there is no written agreement with the school and the arranger has not gotten permission from the publisher, it is the arranger who has infringed. Not the school and not Mr. Ellis.
Butts: Do you have an opinion whether Calvin Ellis should have applied for copyright permission for the songs used in his shows before 2011.
Keith objects saying that whether he should have or shouldn’t have was related to his job duties, not a legal question.
Butts rewords asking whether he was required by the law to apply for copyright permissions.
DeSalvo said the arranger would have been required to do that because the arranger was the (one doing the arrangement without a written agreement).
Butts refers to spring of 2011 and a series of emails between Ellis and Hal Leonard, Mark Greenburg, Steve Anderson, etc. He refers to a series of exhibits and asks DeSalvo to describe what was going on.
DeSavlo said most music publishers are not in the business of suing people and that they would rather license the work. It might be a technical violation of the law if you make an arrangement and don’t have a copyright (but most companies won’t law and file a lawsuit, they will notify an arranger).
Butts refers to July 13 email from Daniel Peters of Hal Leonard to Ellis and Atkinson. It said that Alderman made an arrangement of two songs and permission was not obtained. Assuming there was no contract for hire, who was responsible for getting permission for those two songs?
DeSalvo: David Alderman. The arranger.
DeSalvo said it happens commonly with arrangers. They don’t contact the publisher.
Butts: What is your experience in the way these arrangers work…
Keith objects, saying what goes on in the industry is irrelevant to what went on in this district, whether arrangers were asked to secure proper permission.
Butts asks what is her experience about diligence of arrangers in securing copyright permissions prior to 2011. Keith said that is over broad and vague and doesn’t have anything to do with this particular case.
DeSalvo said there are professional music arrangers in Hollywood who that is what they do fulltime. There are two ways works can be work for hire. An employer employee relationship. The second way is a special commissioned work. The hiring party can be the author by entering into a written agreement by both parties. There must be a written agreement by both parties. When it comes to schools in particular, at all levels of education, my experience has been that arrangers and especially people in school districts don’t have information about copyright law. Arrangers arranger often without written agreements, there is a small fee….the question is when do publishers find out about it….the music is now looking at people they never looked at before…There has been a change in the philosophy (Because revenue has gone down so much lately, that music companies are looking for new sources of revenue).
Do you really want to sue a school district? School districts don’t have a lot of money and it is bad PR for a publishing company to go after a church, a school district, the girl scouts. Now that there has been a loss of revenue from (more piracy, publishing companies are going after sources of revenue they didn’t go after before).
Butts: Refers to July 13, 2011 email from Daniel Peters, which raises the subject of an infringement by Mr. Alderman in 2009. Refers to exhibit 5, an email from Ellis to Alderman.
The last two sentences of the first paragraph, Butts said, are Alderman telling Ellis he thinks they are in the clear.
DeSalvo said that sounds to her that Alderman was going to cover the expense.
Butts: when he states all I need to do now is pay them and Tupelo will be cleared, what did Tupelo need to be cleared of?
DeSalvo if he paid the licensing fee, then they would be able to use the arrangement. Hal Leonard would be the owner of the new arrangement and then they license it for use. She said it would only be for Tupelo.
Butts: Was there any liability on the part of the Tupelo Public School District?
By Mr. Alderman, no. There is statutory liability and the person who does the arrangement is the direct infringement. There is also secondary responsibility (which arises out of case law). A third party, such as the school district, can be responsible for the liability of another party. (Said there is contributory infringement….said for the school district to be liable they would have to know that Alderman was infringement and would have had to be privy by participating…A secondary means, is called vicarious liability...
The second kind of liability would be if the school district had a direct financial benefit by what Mr. Alderman did and the school district would have the right and ability to supervise Mr. Alderman. I don’t think any of those facts apply. He wasn’t their employee, he wasn’t under their control and the school district didn’t make any money off Mr. Alderman.
Butts asks about show choir admission fee.
DeSalvo said that is different. She said an arrangement is a different infringement than a performance.
Butts when you said a profit I thought you might be referring to whether they made a profit off their shows.
DeSalvo said if admission is charges it refers to a public performance. It would have to be a public performance and then there is a question whether a performance is exempt. There is a section that exempts non-profit educational institutions from public performance. It is exempt if there is no admission cost or if the admission cost is used for the production of the show and the money left over is used for educational purposes.
The performance of the song would be exempt from licensing so there is no infringement there.
Butts: Do you have an opinion whether Calvin Ellis exposed the school district to liability before 2011.
Keith objects, overruled by Compton.
DeSalvo: I don’t have the facts that he exposed the school district to any liability since he did not infringer. Since he is an employee of the district he would have had to directly infringe and the school district would have had to participate in it.
Butts: Are you aware Mr. Ellis arranged in some arranging?
Said Mr. Ellis did some arranging and was paid by booster club
DeSalvo said an arrangement is a derivative work and if someone created an arrangement, he would have had to have permission to create that derivative work.
Butts: assuming those facts to be true, what would be the liability for the Tupelo Public School District for his arrangement?
DeSalvo: I understand the arrangement was paid for by the booster club which was a separate organization from the Tupelo Public School District, those were funds raised by parents. That comes back to secondary liability….Based on facts I know, school district didn’t do any of these things.
I do want to say though, I heard some reference of significant liability to the school district and I’d like to clarify that. In my opinion, even if Mr. Ellis had created an unauthorized derivative work, he did so innocently. He thought he was doing a cover of a work….First thing a copyright owner would do is to enter in an agreement and have Mr. Ellis pay a fee. Most arrangements are done for a couple of hundred dollars. A company isn’t going to sue over $250. However if you have a militant publisher, the law allows them to go after their damages. The damages would be the amount of the arrangement $250. The law allows (for statutory damages for innocent (or unknowing)copyright between (I think she said) $750 and $30,000. It goes up if you know what you are doing). (In statutory damages, plaintiffs can elect actual damages or statutory damages…..in statutory damages, if the arranger didn’t know what they are doing, it is the discretion of the court to reduce to $200 if the court finds the arranger was not aware).
In my discussions with Mr. Ellis, he said he didn’t know until this one man (informed him. He believed he was performing cover versions of a song for which there is no infringement).
Butts asks about Greenburg’s references of a felony and going to jail.
DeSalvo They are completely wrong. I was shocked when he wrote it in an email and even more when he testified in December. It is absolutely untrue. There are no fines in civil (copyright infringement). There is criminal copyright infringement. (She said that what Ellis did would not fall until any criminal copyright law. Not a felony. Might fall on low end of civil infringement).
There are three things that constitute criminal copyright infringement. He would have to do it for personal gain. He would have to reproduce and distribute music, record the music and put it out in the market place (would have to sell multiple copies for retail value of at least $1,000). Third (refers to case with M&M where someone would steal copy of music before publicly distributed) deals with distributing a work being prepared for commercial distribution.
She said Greenburg’s statement that you can get five years is false. You can get five years (if you put it out there, but there is a dollar amount (I think she said $2,500).
Butts asks DeSalvo her impression of Greenburg’s testimony regarding copyright law.
DeSalvo said he had some knowledge of copyright but knowledge of copyright is different than knowledge of copyright law. Said people in publishing generally know about copyright but usually go to a lawyer with those questions.
She said most people who work in Nashville know that would not be criminal copyright infringement.
Now Butts is asking about 2011. Asks if she is familiar with the fact that an arranger, Steve Anderson requested copyright permissions on the songs he was going to arranger.
Butts asks, with respect to exhibit 24, is it her understanding that Mr. Anderson requested Mr. Ellis to obtain copyright permission for that song.
DeSalvo said, excuse me if I have confused Alderman and Anderson in her testimony.
Butts: I’d like for you to assume if you don’t know that Mr. Ellis had a show choir performance in October of 2011 and he had been working with other arrangers for that show.
Butts: With respect to the songs that arrangers had not requested Mr. Ellis to get copyright permissions was it Mr. Ellis’ obligation to get those permissions?
DeSalvo: That would have been the arranger’s obligation.
It wasn’t that he didn’t need to do anything. The arranger needed it initiate it and it needed to be completed to be an authorized derivative work. Because the arranger did not transfer the authorship to the school district, (it would have remained the arranger’s responsibility).
DeSalvo in the absence of any written agreement for Mr. Ellis to take on those responsibilities, that responsibility lays with the arranger and not Mr. Ellis.
Butts: Did you understand what Mr. Ellis thought he had to do in respect to these songs?
DeSalvo: Prior to the email from Mr. Anderson he thought he could perform the songs.
Butts: After the email from Mr.Anderson, do you know what Mr. Ellis thought was his responsibility for the other arrangers.
DeSalvo: Mr. Ellis got scared because he was now told he had to do something. I saw the communication he had with Mr. Greenburg, someone he thought was knowledgeable to help him email what he needed to do….I understood for the show coming up in October, he was making every effort he could to get the songs ready for the show.
Butts: Even though he didn’t have to for the songs where the arrangers hadn’t said anything about getting permissions.
DeSalvo said that would have been more cautious (to try to get them for those songs).
DeSalvo said the documents that Mr. Anderson had him sign is not how everyone does it. You don’t have to do it this way. Licenses are privately negotiated and they can be done any way. You can just do one line in writing say make an arrangement. It doesn’t have to be for money.
Hearing takes a 10 minute break at 3:27 p.m.
Hearing resumes. DeSalvo is directed to an exhibit with licenses from Cherry Lane Music Company and from Hal Leonard. Ellis signed them on Sept. 6. They don’t have the counter signature from Hal Leonard or from Cherry Lane but Butts said since payment was paid, assume all necessary documentation was completed within about a week.
Butts said say Mr. Ellis had planned for 15 songs to be performed by Wave Connection at the their upcoming October show. On the other 11 songs being arranged by other arrangers, Mr. Anderson was to arrange four songs, but he had 15 songs in his show, assume the other arrangers had not asked for permission. Do you see any legal impediment why Mr. Ellis could not have gone forward with his show on Oct. 22.
DeSalvo said no. She said they could have been publicly performed. The better route would be to know the arranger had permission but it was the arranger’s responsibility, not Mr. Ellis.
“That show could have gone on.”
Butts: At any time during 2011, do you have an opinion whether Mr. Ellis exposed the Tupelo Public School District
DeSalvo said she has an opinion that there was no exposure to the Tupelo Public School District for copyright infringement. She said there would have had to be an act of direct infringement by someone in the school district.
Butts is asking about how governing bodies of institutional education deal with compliance. Keith objects, saying that the question is overly broad and vague. Butts said he is asking about how school districts learn about copyright law, develop policies and train employees. Said it is a general question to establish her expertise. Question is related to high schools.
DeSalvo said her experience has been in high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, that group of teachers does not know much about copyright as a general rule.
She knows that from conferences she attends where she is either educating teachers or in the audience when they are being educated about it. She said her experience has been in high school, elementary and middle school that there is an assumption among a lot of teachers that because they are using copyrighted materials for educational purposes it constitutes fair use. Just because you are a non profit, it doesn’t make every use of copyrighted material fair use. That is the biggest misconception. She said there are professional organizations that focus on educating music educators.
She said that association of school boards has an awesome responsibility because it has to cover a lot of areas of law, including copyright.
She said those organizations have conferences to educate teachers because it seems like on a broad scale, the teachers are woefully uninformed, they are not trained in copyright and they have to rely on their employers to provide information to them. It is a funny phrase, but you don’t know what you don’t know.
She said something very common is teachers photocopy sheet music. They are spending their own money because districts don’t have it in their budget. That is copyright infringement. She hears from teacher after teacher that is fair use. There are exceptions, like an emergency copy. The goal of copyright in education is schools are not exempt, except in some situations like pubic performances (said there are so many complexities in the law, the average educator doesn’t know it unless they study it and they don’t know they need to study it).
Butts: Do you deal with administrators?
She said yes.
Butts asks if he deals with boards of trustees or school boards and DeSalvo said yes.
Butts asks if she is familiar with the ways and means those boards develop copyright procedures. DeSalvo said yes.
Butts asks again whose responsibility is it. Keith objects that she does not know whose responsibility it is. Compton sustains.
Butts: You have reviewed all adequate policies of Tupelo Public School District that pertain or may pertain or mention copyright?
DeSalvo: Yes, as I understood from the superintendent, those were (the policies of the district)
Butts: Does the Tupelo School District have in place an adequate copyright compliance policy?
Butts: In your opinion, is it Calvin Ellis’ obligation as a music teacher to develop an adequate copyright policy.
Keith objects, saying that she has not read Ellis’ job description. Compton sustains.
Question is who is responsible of developing the policies of a school district.
Keith objects. As an expert, she needs to have a foundation for her answer.
DeSalvo answers the school board.
Butts: I’d like for you to assume Tupelo Public School District School Board has five members who are not attorneys and are not experts in copyright law. Who would be responsible for guiding them in developing a policy.
Keith objects again. Compton asks why it matters who helps them develop a policy.
Butts said he is trying to establish how a board as lay people would develop a policy. Keith said that question is too broad and that she hasn’t worked with any board.
Butts asks if she has worked with any school boards
DeSavlo said not in Mississippi. She said that Meadows in his testimony said he had no information about copyright law and that he relied on counsel to the school board (to guide him).
She said she there is also the national association of school boards.
Butts tenders the witness.
Keith: Are you aware it is not called the national association of school boards, it is the national school board association. I want to make sure we are talking about the same entity.
DeSalvo said she is. DeSalvo asks if she is a member of the National School Board Association or if she has attended its conferences. DeSalvo said she is not a member. She has been invited to conferences but has not attended.
Keith is asking about DeSalvo’s resume. Asks where she was from 2008 until 2011. DeSalvo said she maintained a transactional practice working for herself while she taught full time.
Keith said resume is missing page 5, asks if there is something they are not seeing or if it is an omission. Butts said it was a copying error.
DeSalvo said she was first contacted about this matter on Nov. 30, 2011. Butts contacted her and asked her about her experience on copyright involving music educators and advised her he had an employee terminated for violating copyright law. DeSalvo said she has not rendered a written opinion.
Keith asks if she had rendered (any written report). DeSalvo said she hadn’t.
Keith asks whether DeSalvo had been given any previous opinions Mr. Butts or Mr. Ellis had obtained regarding this issue and the claims against Mr. Ellis?
provided any other written opinions about Mr. Ellis’ case. Butts objects.
DeSalvo said that other than the superintendent’s claim, no.
Keith asks about what DeSalvo has in front of her that has been the basis of her decision today. Asks about what documents she has in front of her. He said he also wants to know every piece of paper she has reviewed to give the statements she made today.
She said she reviewed the testimony and exhibits 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 33, 34, 50, 51, 55, 56, 59, 65, 66, 24, 25, 29, 30, She quotes sections of law she reviewed, I believe this is copyright law. She reviewed several websites (ASCAP and BMI, SESAC, most publishers are affiliated with those and all of their music is available for licensing). She looked for all titles Mr. Ellis had used in his last show and found all of those songs were registered through either BMI or ASCAP. Researched if there were specific licenses for high schools, elementary schools or middle schools. Said there aren’t any because they are exempt. She did research of licenses to see if they could be applied to show choir but she couldn’t find any. She only found one case in 100 years of a show choir being sued for copyright infringement. It was a university and it was found to be not guilty because they couldn’t establish secondary liability.
Keith: If you looked at lawsuits, you don’t know if there have been any settlements that did not result in a lawsuit.
DeSalvo: No, I’m sure you couldn’t know that either. No one knows that.
Keith: Because people solve those to stay out of court and have to pay lawyers
DeSalvo: Also because publisher just wants to license their work, they don’t want to sue people.
Keith said they will also sue to send a message. DeSalvo (yes, if repeat offender)
DeSalvo said she also reviewed MTAA.org. She also looked at National School Board ASsocation website.
DeSalvo mentions several articles she read that she got from the National School Board Association to see what was available for school boards.
She also reviewed the blog of the Daily Journal reporter. Said she found it to be fairly accurate so she read it for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Said she reviewed a contract from Hal Leonard. Keith and Stimpson said they don’t have it and Butts said he doesn’t have it either.
Date is July 12, 2011. From Hal Leonard corporation.
They are trying to figure out what document she is referring to. They said it hadn’t been entered as a document. Butts said it should be in Mr. Ellis’ email in the school and that the district has access to that and he doesn’t. Butts said he got it from David Alderman.
Ellis is not emailing the document on his iPhone to Kelly Stimpson. An interesting moment, somewhat unorthodox.
Hearing takes a three minute break at 4:43 p.m. waiting on receipt of the email.
Hearing will recess until 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning with DeSalvo still on the stand.
I will add updates to the bottom. Last update was at 5:12 p.m.
Day six of the Calvin Ellis hearing has began. The hearing is now in its third different calendar month.
The first witness is in closed session. I do not know whom it is but the person is testifying via Internet video.
The hearing is about to be back in open session. The computer has been rolled back from the witness stand so that it appears whomever had just testified has completed his or her testimony entirely in closed session. Closed session is uesd when witnesses need to use the names of students.
A new witness is being sworn in.
Jenni Hilbun. Has one child in show choir. I appologize if spelling is incorrect, I will check it as soon as I can. She said that she received a subpoena to tesity.
Hilbun said she attended the Birmingham trip as a parent and not as a chaperone. She said that the reason she was not a chaperone but that Ellis informed her that she was never to be a chaperone within his program.
Lawyers are having a discussion now.
Hilbun said Mr. Ellis has previously informed her she was to appear around his program as a parent volunteer ever.
She said she was informed of that during the summer before her child’s senior year, summer of 2010. Stimpson said they will come back to that during closed session.
Her child was a member of Wave Connection at that time.
Stimpson asks Hilbun why she went to Birmingham
Hilbun: It was my feeling that the trip was very loosely supervised. Part of the reason I went was to make sure my child was tended to and was not jeopardized for her safety, make sure she has food when she needed food and make sure she was taken care of. I also wanted to see her perform.
Hilbun:”I just had trouble trusting Mr. Ellis. “ Stimpson said they will talk about that more in closed session.
Stimpson asks Hilbun about the students' venture to the mall, and Hilbun said she can not discuss that without using student names.
Hearing goes into closed session again at 10:09 a.m.
Hearing is back in open session. Hilbun is testifying about her frustration that there was no administrator on the trip to Birmingham, a violation of district policy. She was also concerned that there was no staff member on the bus on the way back from Alabama. She said that was an unneccessary risk.
Hilbun said that she spoke with then Tupelo High principal Lee Stratton about it about a week after the trip. She also called then Superintendent Randy Shaver about it and also spoke with Billy Crews about it. Crews was then serving as the district's chief operating officer.
She said Crews is the one who returned her call. She stated her concerns that there was no administrator in the trip, that students were left at the mall and that there was no staff member on the bus trip home.
Hilbun said that she asked whose child needed to get hurt before something was done about it. She said she didn't speak with Ellis about a 40-minute conversation with him "where he clearly let me know he didn't want me around."
Hilbun is directed to exhibit 73, a show choir intent form. She said that she has seen it before. She is reading a bullet point about the total cost is $650 to be paid in full by Aug. 31. It says students that don’t meet that commitment will be dismissed from the group. The second page is a show choir policy agreement indicating that you’ve read and agree with the show choir intent form.
Hearing takes a break. When it opens back up, Butts will begin his cross examination in closed session.
Hilbun just finished her testimony. The hearing is in another break.
Hearing resumed around 11:20. District calls Calvin Ellis as a witness.
Ellis said he was director of choral acitivities and show choir director. His contract said choral director and his supplement said that he was over show choir.
He said he was over Wave Connection, Sound Wave, varsity choir (and another group) for the 2010-11 school year. He also led Madrigals that year.
He said he was not in charge of Sound Wave for the 11-12 school year.
Keith asks about Alabama trip. Ellis said he did not have an administrator accompanying him on the trip.
Keith asks Ellis about Atkinson not coming back to Tupelo with the show choir.
Ellis said he did not know that Atkinson was not coming back to Tupelo.
Ellis: "It has been the practice for all of the directors to go down to the competition together. There have been many competitions prior to me coming to Tupelo where one of directors, their spouse would come to the competition and stay the night, and the students would come back with a chaperone".
Keith: Debra Atkinson met with you on the Tuesday before to determine the responsibilities for someone coming back to ride with Sound Wave. You told her you would not be requiring her to do that.
Ellis said the conversation was not her ride home. It was about her duties while she was there.
Ellis: “I said you were going to be with Sound Wave and monitor Sound Wave. At that time I thought we would be in finals” (And she would accompany Wave Connection) Ellis said he did not know anything then about Atkinson riding with her husband.
Ellis said the conversation about the bus ride home happened in Birmginahm. He said he released her because she had made those plans (with her husband). He said she could ride home with her husband because he knew there was a chaperone, he discussed with Lee Anne that she would be riding with the students. Baseed on his past expereicne he thought that would be OK (Because chaperones had rode on the bus back with students before).
Ellis: “I do remember telling Ms. Atkinson you could keep the plans you had made and Lee Anne and I would work it out.
Keith: But Ms. Atkinson told you then that she could change her plans.
Ellis: Out of the kindness of my heart I told her she could go ahead with her plans.
Keith: You had responsibility to those girls and you turned over responsibility to a parent.
Ellis said yes, a parent he could trust.
Butts objects, noting that Webb wasn't just a parent volunteer but was an approved chapperone.
Keith: Webb is a chapperone but you have no authority to turn over supervisory responsibilities to her.
Ellis said he realizes that now but at the time he did not know he didnt have that authority.
Keith asks Ellis about him not being present when the buses were being loaded for the return from Birmingham.
Ellis said he was present. Ellis said you have to understand the scope of what is going on. He is in different places when stuff is happening, that is why there are chaperones there.
Keith asked about testimony that said Ellis was at Buffalo Wild Wings when buses were loaded.
Ellis said he traveled to Buffalo Wild Wings with the Wave Connection.
Keith refers to Webb’s testimony that Ellis was at the restaurant at the time. Ellis said Webb was mistaken on that point. Ellis said the three buses were not together. The Wave Connection bus was in a different place than the Sound Wave and Structure buses. He gave the responsibility to Lee Anne Webb to be with those buses as they loaded.
Keith asks about the permission forms and medical forms. Ellis said that before he left he asked Atkinson to pull out the Sound Wave forms and he left that responsibility to her. “If she needed to give that to Lee Anne Webb, I would expect her to do that.”
Keith: You left the responsibility to Ms. Atkinson who would not be on bus without any follow up on your point?"
Ellis: I am sorry. I am not perfect. That day was hectic. I did not follow up to make sure she received those forms.
Ellis said he did know Sound Wave bus got off fine. He called Webb to check. Structure bus was left because there are so many groups that it takes a large amount of time to get all of the kids off. The Wave Connection kids were hungry and Ms. Bullock was with Structure and sound crew so Wave Connection and Ellis went to Buffalo Wild Wings. They brought food back to the hotel (I didn't catch whom the food was for. I think Ellis meant that it was for the Structure and sound crew kids)
Ellis said Ms. Bullock was with Structure and Sound Crew
Keith is asking about the trip to the mall. Ellis said it was on the itinerary for the students to eat at the school in the cafeteria.
Ellis: When Lee Anne asked me if they could take kids to the mall, I said sure. They could eat here (at the school) that is where they are supposed to eat, but a lot of kids said they didn’t like the food there and Lee Anne was a trustworthy parent so I let her go.
Ellis said he first found out about the incident at the mall when he got his termination letter.
Keith: You never found out about any supervision issues that came up on that trip? You heard Ms. Hilbun testify that she saw Mr. Stratton and Dr. Shaver and she got a call from Billy Crews. Are you telling me that no one in administration talked to you about it?
Ellis: The only issue discussed with me was that there was no teacher on (the bus ride home). Said there was no discussion about anything at the mall. Lee Stratton talked to him about it the following week (following their return). That was when he found out that it was against policy (that no staff member was on the bus ride back).
Hearing goes into closed session at 11:40 for discussion of student issues.
Hearing breaks for lunch. It will resume at 1:15 p.m., but it will still be in closed session when it resumes.
Hearing is back in open session at 1:23 p.m. It remained in closed session for about eight minutes following lunch.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, you testified before lunch that the first time you ahd heard about the mall incident was when you got your termination letter, only thing you had known about supervision issues was about there being no staff member on the bus (Back to Tupelo).
Keith hands Ellis a two-page document, exhibit 74.
It is an email between Ellis and Lee Stratton. March 28, 2011, 5:44 p.m. Directed to Lee Stratton and signed by Calvin.
Keith: First sentence said I am wanting to email parents to mention proper protocol for supervision. It said accusations about the mall have gotten me (unsettled?)
Keith: That you
Ellis: Not exactly. That was not the only mall that was visited. When we went to Birmingham we went to, I forgot the name of the mall, it was the large one where the Cheesecake factory. That was the only mall I went to.. When Mr. Stratton came to me (and talked about accusations of not supervising at the mall, I thought he meant that one. Ellis said he did not now Stratton was referring to the incident involving the Sound Wave girls).
Keith: Did Mr. Stratton mention to you that he was talking about anything other than the mall that the Sound Wave girls visited.
Ellis: He just said they were unsupervised at the mall. Ellis said he thought they meant the other mall not the one with Sound Wave.
Keith: Someone had told you about supervision issue at the mall. Who called you and told you about the fact there was a mall supervision issue?
Ellis: I don’t remember.
Keith: Let’s go to next page. Do you recognize that document?
Ellis said it is the letter that was given to him about the knowledge of that trip.
Keith refers to last graph saying that a school member must always be present. Further incidents of that could result in more serious action being taken.
Keith asks Ellis if he knew then about the need for staff members to be present.
Ellis said as of March 31, yes. “I want it to be known that prior to that date, where he was talking about a school official being on the bus, I would like it to be stated for the record that in many of the field trips that choir participates in and many other groups participate in there has been no proper training for me to know this or anyone else to know there. There was never any training that I was sat down and given field trip policy. At no point on the form we are given to fill out does it state that we are to have an administrator go on the trip or have all staff members. Administrators never went on any trips before I became directors. There have been plenty of examples when we went to Petal where my supervisor would stay overnight with her husband and we sent the girls back on the bus. If I was given any opportunity to implement this I would have done that.
Ellis also said he did not know about the incident involving the Sound Wave girls at the mall in Alabama until his termination.
Keith: Mr. Ellis are you testifying that even though you have taken students on many out of town field trips, you have never read the board policy on out of town field trips?
Keith: You expect someone to feed it to you?
Ellis: I know I am a teacher and I have responsibility. When I came coming to a job where the program is (so large). I was hired as assistant director. The new teacher meetings are to get excited about Tupelo but they don’t explain to you what you need to know for your particular job.
Keith: Mr. Ellis you are not a new teacher, are you?
Ellis: I have been in this district many years.
Ellis said he has not read the full policy on taking field trips.
Keith: What part did you read?
Ellis: After all of this occurred with MR. Stratton I think I have seen one part. I went back to check what the policy actually stated. I saw about the administrator for over night trips. I don’t remember everything else that was talked about
Keith: (After talking to Mr. Stratton) you went and read parts of the policy.
Ellis said he doesn’t remember going to the website.
Keith, as of that date in March, you knew of the policy. Ellis said yes.
Ellis is given several documents. Keith said they pertain to a trip the group was going to make to New York in 2010. The second page is an excursion request form. Keith said it talks about who is requesting it, the dates, the number of chaperones, staff chaperones, administrators.
Keith: Were you aware when that trip was being planned there needed to be a certain number of staff persons and administrators?
Ellis: I didn’t know anything about administrators. I knew from my example there needed to be a certain number of staff members.
Keith refers to where Ellis wrote for number of administrators, “1 hopefully.”
Keith is referring to an email Ellis sent to Dr. Fred Hill on assistant superintendent. It indicates that the trip had been cancelled.
Keith refers Ellis to a January email that notifies parents that the trip had been cancelled.
Keith asked if Ellis continued to fund raise after the trip had been cancelled. Ellis said he did.
Keith is there any reason why you waited until January to inform parents the trip had been cancelled?
Ellis: When we decided we did not have the money to take the trip, I informed the trip company that we were not able to attend for money reasons. Said that trip company was going to offer to assist Ellis to find ways to make it cheaper for the students.
“So I continued with the fund raising efforts because they had already been scheduled and I wanted to see how they were going to help us and I wanted to go back to Mr. Stratton to see if we could go now that it was cheaper.”
Keith said he didn’t inform the advisory board or Dr. Hill. Ellis said the day he emailed Hill was the day after the advisory board told him that they couldn’t go. He spoke later to the trip company and found out there was still a chance to go. He spoke to board member Tracy Hudson about it.
Keith said that Hudson was just one board member and that the rest of the board and the Tupelo administration did not know about Ellis’ efforts to continue.
This trip was going to be an amazing experience for these students. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure their whole year would not be crushed. That is why I went to this person. I wanted to get all of the information so I could present it to the board so they could make this decision with me. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky. Then I went to Mr. Stratton and he said we were not going to revisit that.
Keith asks if Ellis continued to work toward the trip without alerting his board.
Ellis: I am the artistic director. I need to oversee a lot of things. I wanted to be able to come back and say we decided we didn’t have the money this may help us. I’m sorry I didn’t go back to the board but I was highly frustrated with some members of the board. It seemed like every time we had a board meeting, it seemed like the trip costs were increasing. These were unnecessary expenses they kept adding on. I felt like there were a group of parents that did not want the trip to happen and a group that wanted the trip to happen….There was some frustration with the board because I felt like some members of the board didn’t want it to happen because they were adding on these frivolous things we didn’t really need.
Keith: Mr. Ellis this was the board you had put together to watch the expenditures of the show choir because of the problems the year before, you handpicked the people on the board. Now you are saying you had problems with that board.
Ellis: I did have problems with that board.
Keith: Which members did you have ill feelings toward.
Ellis: I didn’t have ill feelings. I felt like Louis Holmes was getting a lot of pressure from parents in the community. I felt like he was siding toward pressure he was getting from other parents and not looking objectively to the actual cost of the trip. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I felt like it kept adding up. It seemed like it wasn’t necessarily right.
Keith: Any other board members who felt the same way?
Ellis said Terri Stewart. HE said there were other board members who didn’t feel like it was a good decision to go financially but even those members were like why are we continuing to add on to the cost.
Ellis said there were eight members on the board. Said he didn’t know what the vote was to cancel the trip.
Keith asked Ellis about him leaving immediately after the vote. Ellis said he did so because he was in rehearsal. “I was disappointed. I wanted the trips to go on the trip. I wanted them to experience the opportunity. I was upset but I was mad and didn’t throw anything.”
Keith asks Ellis about the Petal incident he asks Ellis if it was true that Tupelo never went back to Petal. Ellis said it is not a fair statement because he never wanted to return to Petal.
Keith asks Ellis to explain the competition
Ellis said it is a show choir competition with groups from throughout the state and region. There are preliminaries and finals.
Ellis said his first year they did not go to Petal. His second and third year they did.
Keith: The third year was where you were approached by the principal there. He told you he had gotten some complaints about the behavior of your students. Ellis said he did recall that.
Keith: You recall that he was pretty upset about it.?
Ellis : I wouldn’t say he was upset. I would say he was concerned.
Ellis said he told the principal he would get to the bottom of it. He went to the room. He said in these competitions you get there at 7 in the morning and stay until midnight. They put you in this homeroom and you are there all day. There were guys laying on the floor and Ellis asked them what was going on and said he had heard form the principal. He said all of the guys said they weren’t doing anything inappropriate or undressing in front of girls. They did say a parent from Petal was being rude to them.
Ellis said that in these hallways there were two parents. In the Tupelo hallway, all of the parents from Petal were sitting near the Tupelo door. The students said they were being rude and they were letting other schools go by with water. Those parents from Petal did not like Tupelo. Tupelo is a rival for a lot of places and in show choir it was the same thing. I witnessed those parents being biased to our kids.
Ellis: I said guys you will not disrespect adults, you will not trash this room. I didn’t think the room was trashed. WE had guys and girls there all day with all of their stuff there. IT wasn’t clean but you have parents there to pick it up. It is not a trash room.
Keith: Did you say Petal was just jealous of your performance?
Ellis: I don’t remember saying Petal was jealous but I did notice a lot of animosity toward Tupelo. A lot of people like to watch Tupelo but there are rivals. It is part of the game. It is competition.
Keith asks if Ellis ever had a conversation with an administrator about that. Ellis said no. He said at the time Mr. Stratton was not the principal, Glenda Scott was. He said there were some issues going on. He did not inform any one or an assistant principal.
He said he did tell someone at Petal that people were being rude to his kids and he asked that person to pass it on to the Petal principal.
Keith: You did not think it was appropriate to tell an administrator (about your conversation with the principal)
Ellis said no, he did not think it was a big deal.
Keith asks if the Petal competition was the only state-wide competition. Ellis said there is also one in Ellisville.
Keith said that the year of the incident Tupelo finished second in close scoring. Ellis said yes. Keith asked if that Ellis did not share the scores with his kids. Ellis said he absolutely did share the results.
Ellis said they had a great year and a great show and that the kids were not upset by the scores.
Keith: Did you show the kids the scores after the Birmingham competition. Ellis said he doesn’t remember.
Butts objects saying it is irrelevant whether he was showing the scores.
Keith: Honesty, forthrightness, credibility are very important issues in this hearing. Keith said that earlier testimony said Ellis didn’t show the scores and Ellis had testified that it was something he always did. Compton allows it.
Keith is now asking about the Smith Lake field trip, a board meeting to discuss the trip. Meeting was held in June at Peppers. Keith said Ellis did not seek approval for the trip until July.
Ellis said they were in between principals. “Despite what Ms. Whitwell said yesterday, I had talked to Mr. Stratton in May about a parent wanting to take students to Smith Lake. She said it would be safe. It was not my idea, it was an idea by the parent. At first I had the idea to have cars go down and it being a booster sponsored trip, but I thought it would be a good idea since we would be rehearsing that day for us to all go down on the Golden Wave buses.”
He said he talked to Mr. Stratton and he said it was a good idea, just fill out the form. Ellis called Dr. Hill to check on the status and was told that he didn’t have proper form. Ellis asked if he should wait to resubmit it because they didn’t have a principal. He said he waited to submit it in July after Mr. Harris was assigned.
Keith refers Ellis to two emails. One was an email on July 11 between Ellis and Jason Harris that they would discuss approval of the trip. Another was an email from parents about the trip.
Keith asked whether Ellis told the parents in June that it was an approved trip. Ellis said he did so because Mr. Stratton had said it would be a good idea.
Keith: Mr Harris told you he had a lot of problems with Smith Lake because of the dangers and he told you to seek another forum?
Ellis said yes.
Keith: You went back and said the parents want me to clarify whether it makes any difference if it is a booster club event or school event. Ellis said he remembers that. Keith said is that because you did not accept his first answer and put it in terms of the parents wanting that. Ellis said the parents had come up with the idea and they wanted it to happen and he wanted it to happen. He didn’t mean to be insubordinate.
Keith: He told you the first time that he did not like the venue and to pick something else? Ellis said correct.
Keith: Why didn’t you tell the parents to pick something else?
Ellis said it wasn’t clear that he absolutely wasn’t going to let this happen. He wanted to make sure if there was any way he would approve this trip, if they would sign waivers clearing the school district of liability, would he allow it to happen? I just wanted to make sure. He said no, and that was the end of it..
Keith directs him to an exhibit 66.
It is an email from Ellis to Harris on July 12. One paragraph said he spoke to parents about need to move the trip. ….Ellis said in email that parents wanted to know if they could hold the event at Smith Lake as a parent-sponsored event.
Harris replied to the email that he will again say he will not approve field trip to Smith Lake. It is not against the trip it is against the venue.
Keith: There was nothing unequivocal about his statement?
Ellis: There was not, but (the parents wanted him to ask, so he did).
Keith asked Ellis’ next request, for an overnight activity at the PAC.
Keith: The first page is an email from Ellis to Harris on July 18. It asked if group could remain in PAC and have its retreat over night in the PAC. It said parents would be in and out and that kids would not be able to leave the PAC after sunset. It said kids would not be allowed to sleep there and would be kept up all night.
Harris responded that they could have a day retreat but that he was not comfortable with an over night retreat.
Ellis responded that a day retreat would not be effective.
Keith asks about Ellis disagreeing with Harris.
Ellis said he asked him….every year for many years we have tried to put together events that build camaraderie. This was an idea, and I wanted the retreat idea to be different than what they normally practice every single day. I wasn’t trying to say no, I just told him I didn’t think it would be effective. I also told him we would keep looking for an alternate venue. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Ellis is referred to another exhibit.
Ellis said it was the first event he was able to get going. It involved going to Mt. Fuji. It was a letter on Sept. 18 sent to parents of kids in the program. It said it would be first Wave Connection outing of the year. They would attend a performance; have dinner prior to the event and eat afterward.
Keith: This particular event, you did expect your students to attend?
Ellis: That can be answered not yes or no. Every event I plan I hope every child would make an effort to attend because it is difficult to build camaraderie without everyone.
Ellis said he is flexible. He said if students aren’t able to afford, they could come see him and he would help them. He knew football players couldn’t make it. But he does expect everyone to make an effort.
Keith: Your students knew they were expected to come unless they had a legitimate excuse.
Ellis said that is correct.
Keith asked about him not getting permission for the district. Ellis said he didn’t think it was required. They have cast parties without getting permission. He said many athletic teams go to dinner together. Such events are common, he said.
Keith asks if he considered it a booster club event. Ellis said he considered it a social event.
Ellis said he and his wife were the only adults with 35 to 40 students. He said there were a significant number who did not attend but most of them informed him, expect one or two. He said that he and his wife purchase happies for the students so he wanted to have an idea of who was attending.
Keith asks for a closed session because his next question would involve students. Hearing is now closed at 2:29 p.m.
Hearing is back in open session.
Ellis is referred to a document.
Keith asks about the sleepover for the Wave Connection girls at the Whitwell home on Sept. 30.
Keith: You did expect the kids to show up for this over night event?
Ellis: I expected the girls to be there because it was a tradition that we had always done. They needed to know how to do their hair and what their makeup is. I would expect everyone to make an effort to attend.
Keith asked if event had not been cancelled even though show had been cancelled night before.
Ellis said that is correct. He thought there would still be a show and the kids would need to know how to do their hair and makeup.
Ellis said his wife was in charge of planning the event. It was at the Whitwell home and there were no school officials there.
Keith asked if girls left Whitwell home to go to Walmart to buy items to prank boys cars. Ellis said yes, said his wife was with them. Said it was around 9 or 9:30.
Ellis: I didn’t know they had gone to Walmart. I knew my wife had spoken to me about the girls possibly pranking them. I thought it was fun. No, I didn’t specifically know they were going to Walmart.
Keith asked when Ellis specifically had conversation about girls pranking the boys.
Ellis said he and some students went to a performance at the Link Centre earlier in the afternoon. He said he thinks she may have told him then.
Ellis said that event was not required.
Keith: When you had that conversation about girls pranking the boys did you understand that would involve them coming to your house and pranking the boys?
Ellis said yes. He said he did not get any permissions from the parents for the girls to leave the Whitwell home and come to his house.
Ellis said it was not a required event for the boys to come to his house. It was impromptu. When the guys heard the girls were having Hair and Makeup night, they wanted to do something. It was late and late to get a parent. He said the guys would just be eating pizza and drinking cokes so he thought it would be OK. He asked every one of the guys when they arrived if it was OK and they showed him text messages from parents saying it was.
Ellis said there was no intention for boys to spend the night
Ellis said after the boys had their cars pranked they were in a vindictive state.
I was trying to get them to calm down. It was highly intense.
They weren’t upset, they were taken aback that the girls go them because they were watching for them. The first time they caught the girls trying to do it. The second time we were having a good conversation (And they were surprised)
Keith asked about the conversation about how they were going to get the girls back. Ellis said there was so much noise he didn’t hear any specific plans.
On the way to Walmart, he heard them talk about specific materials Vaseline, shaving cream, condoms, bananas and car paint.
Ellis said three or four cars of boys went to Walmart. He was in one of the boys’ cars. No adults were in the other cars.
Ellis: In the discussion in the car on the way, when they were talking about numerous things. Condoms specifically was mentioned. I did specifically say, I do not think that is a good idea and I really don’t think you should do that.
Keith: Did you tell the other cars that?
Ellis: No, I did not. I did not have that opportunity.
Keith asks Ellis if he was the only adult in supervision of the boys. Ellis said yes.
Ellis said there was a brief 35 to 40 seconds when he sat in the car (when they got to Walmart)
Ellis: My state of mind in going to Walmart with them, in hindsight I wish this whole thing never hapepned. My reason in going was their parents knew they were going to be there until midnight. This was before midnight (11:15 maybe 11:30). My state of mind was I want to go because what if I send them out in the community and something did happen and the parents think they are at my house. I was toying with whether or not I should go but I did go. When I got there I was toying with whether I should go in or not but here I am with teenage kids. Then I thought what if someone walks in and sees me in a students’ car. I was feeling uncomfortable. But I wanted them to go and I wanted them to have fun. (Said they were having a fun night, sitting around and talking, talking about guy things, talking about girls)
I wanted the night to be what it was designed to be to build them up. I am highly intense with them at practice and expecting a lot from them in practice. They never get to have a good time in practice, getting to know each other and have fun. That is what the night was designed for.
I decided to get out of the car, but I decided to go in and look at the magazines, that is what I did.
Ellis said he did not have any parent permissions for the boys to leave his house and go to Walmart but he did have permission to have them at his house.
Ellis said he walked in in close proximity to the boys.
Keith: When you talked to Mr. Harris about the event, you told him you stayed in the car?
Ellis: That is not what I told Mr. Harris. That is not what I told Mr. Meadows.
Keith: Did you tell Valerie Whitwell, you told her you stayed in the car?
Ellis: I did not tell her that.
Keith said you told Mr. Meadows about this thought process you had, but you didn’t tell that to Mr. Harris did you?
Ellis said he did.
Keith: You went to the magazine rack. In light of the fact that the boys talked about buying condoms you didn’t think it was necessary to make sure they didn’t buy condoms.
MR Keith I thought the kids understood that I did not want them to buy condoms. In hindsight, yes I wish I had supervised everything they had done.
Ellis said he did not look at items they were purchasing or purchase any items. He was just trying to hurry it up so they could get back home.
Ellis said he never inquired what the boys bought.
Ellis said he rode with the boys in the same car he went to Walmart in. They parked in the Bell Aire parking lot. Then they got back in the cars. He sat in the car while they performed the prank.
Ellis said the parking lot was at a golf course near the Whitwell home. They parked there while they were waiting for everyone else. There was discussion on how they were going to hide but not about anything else.
Ellis said that in that parking lot some of the boys got out of the car and he did too. Some thought they should walk to the house from there and some thought they should drive closer to the house. One or two cars drove closer and some decided to walk from there.
Ellis said the car he was in stayed there and he jumped into another car because he did not want to walk that far. He went to the top of the hill with the car that wanted to drive closer.
The car went to the top of the hill about 150 feet from the Whitwell home.
Ellis said he did not get out of the car, at first. He sat in the car. He did see a vehicle zoom by him and he got a little concerned. He waited a little bit because he didn’t know what it was about. His wife called him and said to come down because the girls were laughing and having a good time.
Keith: By this time it is after midnight?
Ellis said he wasn’t really sure because he wasn’t watching the night. HE thinks it was around midnight….I’m sure it was after midnight.
Keith: At that time, you didn’t have any permissions from the parents to be out after midnight
Keith: How long did you stay at the Whitwell home
Ellis: Maybe five to 10 minutes and the kids were having a blast, joking and having a good time. I went and say my wife and gave her a kiss goodnight and went home.
Ellis said he rode back in the car he was sitting in. He said some of the cars went home, some went back to his house to retrieve some things and then went home. He said it was 12:30 or 12:40 when they got to his house.
Keith asked if Ellis had heard any concerns about the event immediately afterward. Ellis said no concerns just praises. He said one parent said her son had a great night and thanked him for opening it up.
Keith: When did you find out what items the boys had purchased?
Ellis: I found out when I went down the hill and saw the prank.
Keith: What discussion did you have with the kids regarding your initial discussion not to buy condoms.
Ellis: It was a large area. When I saw condoms I spoke to two of the students and said I thought y’all weren’t going to buy this stuff. There were some girls there and they were trying to diminish that. I told them it wasn’t a good idea.
Ellis said about 8 boys were there and 10-15 girls.
Keith: When did you hear there was an investigation going on regarding those events?
Ellis heard on Tuesday afternoon. A student who had been interrogated came into his office flustered. Said I didn’t know what is going on but something isn’t right they called me into the office about Friday night.
Ellis Because everyone was having a good time except one student I had to ask what happened on Friday night. Everyone was laughing and smiling and having a good time.
Keith: On Monday morning, you saw no reason to report this event to your principal.
Ellis said no.
I saw there was a problem. In the grand scope of it, Mr. Keith, I wish I could have changed a lot of things if I knew it would end up like this. In the grand scheme of things I knew the intent of those boys was to do whatever they could to get the girls back in the most funny or gross way they could. I knew their intent was not to do anything sexual to make the girls feel violated or harmed any way. I told them I wish ya’ll hadn’t done that.
I learned from it. I would never do something like that again. I would be supervisory over every single detail. I didn’t think it was a big deal to report those guys because I knew what their intent was.
Keith: Until Tuesday you saw no problem with this event or your involvement with it?...
Ellis: No because other than the fact that my conscience was toiling with me as I was participating in riding to Walmart with them. My conscience was going. I did not feel totally free like I was doing the best thing possible. I just didn’t feel at the time it was such a horrible thing. The guys were trying to have a little bit of fund and that is what the night was designed for. I was torn. I sided with the kids and their fun and their enjoyment instead of the other side saying I am a teacher in the district and I shouldn’t be doing it.
Before it was reported I didn’t see a big problem because of the simple fact that all of those kids were laughing and having a good time.
Keith: Would you agree with me that was a tremendously risky event that took place that night?
Butts argues about the use of the term risky
Keith: Some adults left your house without parental consent…..you don’t think there
Ellis: Yes, I think there were risks involved and that is what I have said repeatedly that my conscience was toiling with me. That was the first time in my 10 year teaching career that I had ever done anything like that. I wish I had not done that. The only thing I do not regret is that that night is what it was designed to be, it was fun for those kids.
Keith: If your conscience was bothering you, why did you not report it to your principal?
Ellis: Because those kids had a good time and I didn’t think there would be an issue with any of it because I didn’t witness any specific kids being upset. I later found out that one kid was upset but I struggle with her intent in being upset. If we want to talk more about that, we would need to go into closed session, and I feel like we should.
Hearing goes into closed session at 3:33 p.m.
Hearing is back in open session.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, you said you didn’t report this to Mr. Harris because you really didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Is that correct? Ellis said yes.
Keith directs Ellis to document notifying Ellis he is being placed on paid administrative leave.
Ellis said he didn’t know exactly what they were talking about. He knew of the investigation being conducted. He knew what he had spoken to Mr. Harris about. When this letter was given to me, I asked Mr. Harris and Mr. Turner, What in God’s name have I done? Those were my exact words. They told me we can not tell you at this time but you will find out eventually.
Keith asks if Ellis disagrees with Jason Harris’ statement that it was clear to him that the investigation involved the events on Sept. 30.
Ellis said he completely disagrees with that statement. He knew there was an investigation but didn’t know what the specific allegation was.
Ellis met with Harris
Ellis said he didn’t know the specific allegation. He didn’t know if someone had said he had done something inappropriate with a student. He just knew there was inappropriate behavior. He didn’t know if he had done anything with a student that warranted him being placed on leave.
Keith: You were aware because you had to talked to students about what they were being asked.
Ellis: I knew I had talked to a student about being investigated (but said he didn’t know what was asked)
I was wanting something specific on the complaint. I didn’t know what all of the facts were, I just wanted to know what the complaint was, what had been said that I had done. That is what I wanted and that was not explained to me.
Keith: You met with Mr. Meadows on Oct. 13 for four hours. The next day you sent him an email for allowing you to explain all of the issues you needed to explain. Keith said Ellis spoke from a document provided by Butts and that he covered everything in that document. Mr. Meadows told you that based on the conversation, he told you he would need to do additional investigating.
Ellis said the only thing he knew was that there were investigations going on. He didn’t know the extent of what was said. He knew there were some issues. I wanted him to know there could have been some other motive to the allegation other than what he had heard from Tupelo High School. I did not know what the allegation was. In fact at the end of the conversation (he said it was difficult for him to go around town). I felt like a prisoner in my own town and I didn’t know what I did. I felt it wasn’t fair. I spoke to him about that and I spoke to him about my concerns about the motive behind it. I told him I don’t know exactly what the allegation is behind me. I just want to know what I did. He said to me, I didn’t know you didn’t know. He said to me the allegation was pranking and bullying a student. Those were his words. Why couldn’t Mr. Harris have told me that. What was the secret? Mr. Meadows was the first person who told me a week later why I was placed on administrative leave, why I couldn’t have my voice lessons why I was treated like a criminal and they took my keys away from me. I wanted a specific explanation of what I had done and he gave it to me a week later.
Keith refers to a letter from Harris said that it involves an event at Ellis’ house that pranked students. Keith said that was the only issue you talked to Harris about.
Ellis: He said inappropriate behavior. His communication wasn’t clear to me. Inappropriate behavior can mean a lot of things.
Keith: You didn’t think your actions on Friday night were inappropriate.
Ellis: In hindsight, but I didn’t think it was so horrible because it was fun for those kids
Keith: With the benefit of Monday morning quarterbacking, you can see that now?
I can see now that things can be taken in a way that can be perceived as a real serious problem and I would never do that again because I see that now. At the time it was a lapse of judgment. I was going to be honest about that. What teacher hasn’t had a lapse of judgment. Teachers have lapses of judgment all of the time. I didn’t think the end result was so serious that anyone got hurt, that anyone was harmed by it that it was so serious an issue to make a big deal out of it.
Keith asks if Ellis understood that Meadows would do a further investigation. Ellis said yes.
Keith asks Ellis about Harris’ concern over what would happen if there had been an accident.
Ellis: I remember saying I could see his viewpoint in that. That was part of the reason why my conscience was toiling with me on that night. My state of mind also said what if I did send them out and they got in an accident and their parents thought they were with me. I was toiling with that and I told him that.
Keith: Mr. Ellis you could have told the boys they weren’t leaving the house. You could have had them call
There are a lot of things, but couldn’t there be a reprimand and some advice before being placed on leave and making me believe there is something bigger in all of this. I feel like there could have been a discussion with my administration about how to prevent this from happened. I had never been involved with anything like this before
Keith: The school district can’t read your mind and decide what you were going to do in light of a lapse of judgment as occurred on Friday night?
Ellis: Not the school district can not read my mind.
Keith is talking about Suzy Williams interview and the fact that Ellis scored another candidate higher. Ellis said he contacted that candidate and told her he had scored her higher and he wished she had gotten the job.
Keith asked him about it being inappropriate to do that.
Ellis: That applicant is a friend of mine and I wanted her to know that I wanted to work with her. I encouraged her to apply for the job.
Keith: You divulged confidential information to one of the candidates.
Ellis: I didn’t realize my score or talking to her, I didn’t talk about Suzy’s score, I just talked about her score and that she was a better candidate for the position.
Keith: You don’t think it was inappropriate for one of the interviewers to have to discussion?
Ellis said no.
Ellis said he did not talk to Williams about the conversation or the fact that he did not score her as highly
Keith asks Ellis about changing the scheduling. Ellis said the master schedule was wrong. He said it was an administrative problem. He said the rehearsed the choir expecting the change to block schedule that never happened. HE said the schedule for choir has been the same for 20 years. Students in choir tended to be higher performing students and AP classes were offered in the morning.
“All of a sudden out of nowhere, this year first period is varsity choir (which meets at the same time as a lot of AP classes). Second period is Madrigals which had always been at the end of the day. It was a totally different schedule and it messed up a lot of students.
Ellis said he emailed Lee Johnson during the summer and asked if they could alter master schedule because there were a lot of problems. It was in the beginning of July. At that time Lee Johnson took on a new position and she never responded to his request.
“By the time I finally got around to scheduling, there were kids we were planning on being in chorus that weren’t in chorus, kids we were planning on being in show choir that weren’t in show choir. When I went back and tried to schedule with Mr. Harris and Ms. Topp we were told we would do the best we could but we could not change the periods.
Keith: You knew the schedule was set before the interviews
Ellis: I knew the schedule was set, but I talked to Mr. Harris about it being wrong.
Keith: Before the interviews?
Ellis: Yes. He said it was sometime between July 1 and July 13. He said he wished he had his email so he could go back and prove that.
Keith: In fact, we have a document,
It is an email from Ellis to Harris about an incident involving Whitwell.
Ellis said Whitwell called Harris and asked if she could sit in on interviews for choral department. Earlier that day there was a booster meeting and parents were inquiring. Ellis told them he knew some applicants personally and he would sit in on the interviews and everything would get figured out. He said Whitwell said that she would sit in on it and Ellis thought she was joking. When Whitwell called Harris about it, he apologized to Harris that she had done that.
Ellis said he never told Whitwell to do that and he thought she was joking.
The email asked Harris to tell the candidates that Ellis would not be the one making the decision on who would be hired.
Ellis said he was an acquaintance of all of the applicants and was friends with two of them, although one of those ended up not applying. Ellis said he sat in on four interviews.
Keith goes back to the email. In it Ellis refers to his frustration with the choral booster board.
Keith: Did you let Dr. Williams know that you did not prefer her for the position?
Ellis: I already let her know that I did not tell her.
Keith: What position was Dr. Williams interviewing for?
Ellis: Assistant choral director?
Keith: Do you know what her contract says?
Ellis: No, but I do know that is how Mr. Harris referred to it in the interview. How am I supposed to know what her contract said.
Ellis “Let me also state I don’t know what this is a charge. That I was claiming I was director of choral activities. I am not just the show choir director. When I came in I was the assistant choral director under Vicky Wilson(?) I sat in the meeting where she said you have been in that school, you are in that position and you are ready to move up. (Said Stratton understood that was his position and that every piece of correspondence that went out indicated that).
I had been there, I had put in the time, I knew the program, I knew what it was about. As a matter of fact, I was named by Mr. Stratton the chair of the fine arts department. Why would I not be the director of the choral department but I would be director of fine arts department. Why would that be known to everyone but the people at central office. Why would you refer to my supplement that said show choir director. Would you not agree that I (Also direct chorus).
Keith: Would you agree that your position is defined by your contract and not by people in the community.
Ellis: Yes but I think the administration my not know what is going on.
Keith refers Ellis to his contract It says his supplement is for THS show choir director. Ellis: Can you show me a legal document that shows anything different than that?
Ellis: No. I just can’t understand why. I had been in that department. When Vicky Wilson left she talked to me as if (he had moved into that position. Mr. Stratton talked to him as if he was in that position. He didn’t know he had to do anything to change his contract?) How am I supposed to know my contract is supposed to say supervisor of choral activities?
Keith: When you read that contract did you have any questions of Mr. Stratton or any other administrator?
Ellis: No, because I had already spoken to Mr. Stratton about my role as director of choral activities for the upcoming year.
Keith: After the schedule was changed, Dr. Williams from five classes to two. One of the classes taken away was Madrigals?
Ellis: I didn’t tell her that was my class. I told her of the problem we faced last year with the scheduling. Tow years in a row we had problems with scheduling. the first problem was when Ms. Vicky Wilson resigned in the middle of the schedule, the master schedule was already made. (He talked to Lee Johnson about reviewing the schedule. She told her that she could not change the schedule. He said that is why he and Atkinson co-directed and he would have loved to co-direct with Williams because that is a fun role and a fun group to direct)
He said knew Atkinson’s name was on the schedule and they couldn’t change it. I wasn’t trying to take over anything. It has always been tradition for director of choral activities to direct madrigals. He said he could have taken it over but he said to co-direct it. He said it isn’t his problem, it is an administrative problem with the schedule.
HE said he informed Williams of the problem they had the prior year with the schedule. He would be happy to co-direct but she did not want to co-direct.
Ellis said he went to Evet Topp and told her the problems with the schedule and the assignments.
The day after MS. Williams got hired, I asked her to meet at the school so I could discuss anything.
Keith said if they are going to talk about Williams’ character, it will need to go into closed session.
Ellis said it is important to note.
Hearing goes into closed session at 4:38 p.m.
The hearing has recessed for today. It will resume on Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Hancock Leadership Center. When it does so, Ellis will still be on the stand under examination by the district. The hearing will be in closed session when it resumes.