|January 31, 2012||Calvin Ellis hearing 01.31.12||no comments|
|January 30, 2012||Calvin Ellis hearing 01.30.12||3 comments|
|January 26, 2012||Tupelo School District Reading Fair||no comments|
|January 17, 2012||Tupelo School Board Meeting 1.17.2012||no comments|
|January 16, 2012||TPSD yard signs||no comments|
|January 02, 2012||"Bridging the Gap" series Online Conversation||15 comments|
|December 15, 2011||Mayfield essay contest finalists||no comments|
|December 13, 2011||Tupelo School Board Meeting 12.13.2011||no comments|
|December 07, 2011||Calvin Ellis hearing 12.07.11||no comments|
|December 06, 2011||Calvin Ellis hearing 12.06.11||no comments|
Updates will be posted to the bottom. Last update was at 5:01 p.m.
The fifth day of the hearing resumes at 8:40 a.m.
Valerie Whitwell is on the stand. She is a parent and is president of the booster club.
She said she volunteered to become president. She said she was the only one who sought the office this year.
She is asked about Mary Thomas, who used to be secretary of the booster club. Whitwell said that Thomas quit because she was upset about money. It involved a choreographer who would be coming to town. It had been agreed that she would be driving and that was changed at the last minute to having her fly in to town. That money would come from the booster budget for choreography. Whitwell said that was the reason Thomas left. She said there had been previous meetings with Thomas expressing her frustration with the way money was being spent. After the incident involving the choreographer Thomas told Whitwell the boosters had to put a stop to spending more money.
That was an email that went out to all of us on the board. Whitwell said they tried to put it behind them by being more intentional with Ellis about the budget.
Whitwell said she told Ellis they were trying to help him, they were on his side, whatever they could do, they were willing to be flexible.
Whitwell: This was one time she was already planning to come and it was already decided so we just needed to move some money around.
Stimpson: From your testimony I gather there were financial issues from the year before.
Whitwell said they talked about finances at every meeting and made sure they were only spending what they had budged for. She said it was a general understanding that Mr. Ellis planned his show and choreography and music within a budget he was given and they went through that at the beginning of the year that beings in June. She said he was aware of the various line items.
Whitwell said the new flying expense did not exceed the budget.
Stimpson: Were there any further discussions you had with Calvin about the email to Mary Thomas?
Whitwell: I think the only time we discussed it was that Saturday.
Stimpson: In essence, you were trying to support Mr. Ellis
Whitwell said she was a member of the booster club before becoming president. The year before she was on costume committee and the year before that she was on hospitality committee.
Stimpson is asking Whitwell about the trip to the state competition in Petal.
Has the Tupelo High School show choir been invited back to the competition in Petal since then?
Whitwell said no
Stimpson asked what she had heard about why not.
Whitwell: That there was a room trashed where they were getting dressed.
Whitwell said she did not see the room being trashed.
Whitwell is asked about the previous booster president, Tracy Hudson. Stimpson asks whether Hudson had any advice for Whitwell.
Whitwell: You have to watch the money and we need to make sure we are very organized. WE don’t need to be micromanaging Mr. Ellis. He is the artistic (arm?) of the organization and we need to make sure we are staying on task.
Stimpson: Did you have any concerns about Ellis’ forthrightness?
There was an issue in July where there was a trip planned to Smith Lake, it was going to be an outing for Wave Connection. Several parents had concerns about safety issues. (We asked Ellis if it would be a school sponsored trip). Mr. Ellis said it was. We were pushed by several parents (to make sure the trip had been approved by the school. The board asked and found out it hadn’t).
The board met at Atlanta Bread on June 20, 2011.
Whitwell said there was a lot of discussion at that time, there were 11 or 12 parents at the meeting. She said there was discussion about liability and life jackets.
Stimpson: Mr Ellis indicated it had been approved by the school district?
She said after that meeting calls were made to board members about concerns, fact water was very deep, wanting to know how many chaperones were there. She said that probably five parents called her and three or four each called some of the other parents. Said the biggest concern was the safety.
Stimpson asks what she did to find out whether trip had been approved.
Whitwell said she called Lee Stratton, then THS principal. He said the trip had not been approved and he had no knowledge of the trip.
Whitwell said she also spoke with Dale Warriner because she knew her. She asked her if central office would have record of that.
Stimpson: Were you worried about safety issues at Smith Lake?
Whitwell: Me, no.
Stimpson: Other parents had expressed their concerns?
Whitwell said Warriner told her the trip had not been approved, said it took her about 30 seconds to determine that. Whitwell said she called the other board members. In the meantime, Ellis spoke with Jason Harris and told the board that the trip had been cancelled.
Stimpson asks if Whitwell spoke with Ellis about being honest with parents
Whitwell: We had multiple conversations. She said was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. She said she talked to Ellis about keeping them in the loop. She said it was general
Whitwell: I didn’t know what communication problem there had been with Mr. Ellis or Mr. Stratton on the Smith Lake issue so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on that. Moving forward I wanted to make sure we were all clear on (What we were doing, how money was being spent, etc.)
Whitwell said the June meeting was at Peppers. The July 11 meeting was at Atlanta Bread.
Stimpson: At both meetings, Mr. Ellis talked to the group about the trip to Smith Lake?
She said it was after July meeting that she made her inquiries to administrators about whether trip was approved.
Stimpson: Was there any other trip Wave Connection took that summer?
Stimpson asks about a proposed trip to Disney World. She said she discussed with Ellis not to bring up the trip until it had been approved but that Ellis brought it up anyway, that he wanted to take a trip pending approval over Christmas holidays.
Stimpson: What were your feelings when he did announce the trip
Whitwell: He was in the charge as the director…I was willing to lean on his discretion on that, being that he was in charged.
Whitwell said she is there for having been served a subpoena and that she personally likes Ellis.
Whitwell said she attended a trip with the show choir to Alabama. She said she thought she was a district approved chaperone but found out later that she wasn’t, so she was just a parent volunteer.
The purpose of the trip was for the show choirs to compete.
Stimpson: Were there any issues with lack of supervision that came up on that trip?
Whitwell: Yes, when we were ready to leave, ….when the bus was ready to leave there was no one there for SoundWave girls to go back to Tupelo.
Whitwell said there were 15 to 20 girls and that there was no adult, no staff adult to ride the bus back with them.
Whitwell: We were trying to figure out who was riding the bus….
She said that most of the costume moms were planning to spend another night in Birmingham. One of the moms contacted Ellis and they were told Mr. Ellis had already left the competition. So another mom rode home with the students on the bus.
The girls were loading up the bus without any adult but the male bus driver and the costume moms who were not planning to go back on that bus.
The moms had a discussion and made a decision that one of the moms would ride the bus back to Tupelo. The bus came back to Tupelo without a staff member present.
Stimpson: Are you aware of school policy for supervision of students on school-sanctioned events.
Whitwell said she was not aware at the time but she is now.
Stimpson: Do you know what Debra Atkinson’s responsibility that day was?
Whitwell said her understanding that was that she would be accompanying the soloist, she accompanied the girls on the bus. Whitwell said Atkinson did not direct the Sound Wave show choir, Ellis did.
Whitwell said SoundWave performed mid morning and afterward the costume moms took the girls to lunch. She said she was not familiar with district policy about needing a staff member to be present. They went to Brookwood Mall, a couple of blocks from the school.
Stimpson: Were there any supervision issues at that time?
Whitwell: We basically let them off the bus, gave them a timeline where they could eat, they went to eat, shopped around and met back at the bus.
Stimpson: Was there any problem with loading up the bus?
Whitwell: We were reading to get back and we had a semiroster of who was there, had everyone look around. There were a couple of girls who were not back at the bus. That driveway was a one-lane one-way street. One of the moms got on the bus and three or four girls weren’t there, so Whitwell and another mom waited there for the other girls so they could bring them back by car. Those girls arrived within a minute or so and everyone made it back.
Stimpson asks Whitwell if she became aware of a copyright issue with Ellis.
Whitwell said yes. She said at September meeting Suzy Williams presented a bill to Teri Stewart about copyright. Teri said she had never seen a bill like that before and told Whitwell they need to talk about that.
Whitwell said they discussed it at the meeting, that Ellis was present at the meeting. She said Ellis said they were working to get copyright, that is was a new thing, that based on the Glee phenomenon they were really working to enforce copyright laws, that it was a new thing.
Stimpson: Do you know when Mr. Ellis first became aware that he needed copyright approval?
Whtiwell said according to an email she saw, he was aware in 2009.
Stimpson: Did he tell you how many copyright approvals he had at that point.
Whitwell: He thought he had four or five approval. Stimpson asked if that turned out to be true. Whitwell said, no, he had none.
Stimpson asks if Ellis appeared to be nervous about copyright and Whitwell said yes. She said they were on a time crunch to get the copyright for all of the music they would be performing.
Whitwell said she and Teri Stewart offered to help Ellis obtain copyright. They told him they would help him any way they could to get that expedited. They met with him on Sept. 14 and again on the following Friday in his office. They went through the list of songs to see which ones had copyright and which ones didn’t.
Stimpson: Was that when you realized that although he told you he had four or five approved, there were actually no songs approved. Whitwell said yes.
Whitwell said Ellis took her up on their offer to help. He emailed information to Teri Stewart for them to begin helping him.
Stimpson: Was there an indication that Mr. Ellis had began working on this in May or June? Whitwell said yes Stimpson asked whether Ellis was aware in May or June that he would need to get copyright permission and Whitwell said yes..
Stimpson: Did you inquire of him how much money it would cost?
Whitwell said it ranged $250 to $500 per song. 10 or 12 songs on a typical program
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis say what he would do if he did not get copyright approval”
Whitwell: He said he was doing the show any way.
Whitwell said parents said that wouldn’t happen because they would get copyrights and help him obtain them
Stimpson: Were you concerned Mr. Ellis would do the show any way?
Whitwell: No. Because there were too many people there that I knew that would be reported immediately.
Whitwell said executive board met to discuss the copyrights
Stimpson asks what the executive board decided to do. Whitwell said they took a vote and decided to talk to principal Jason Harris. They told him there was some discrepancy on whether they had copyright or not. They said they were close on three songs, all they needed to do was write a check. But there was some other language in those notes that indicated that Mr. Ellis had been talked to before about copyright. She said she was referring to email with Mark Greenburg saying there had been a problem in 2009-10 school year.
Whitwell is directed to an email, exhibit 9. It is from Ellis to Greenburg, dated Sept. 14.
Ellis asks Greenburg for help and advice, saying he became aware of copyright procedures at the end of the previous school year.
The email was sent at 9:01 p.m. on the night of their meeting, Sept. 14. It was sent after the meeting.
In the email Ellis asks what is the fine for performing songs without permission.
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis tell you he was aware of procedures of copyright law at the end of the last school year?
Whitwell said to her recollection she hadn’t had a conversation with Ellis about it before.
Stimpson: Tell me about that meeting with Mr Harris
Whitwell said they took the emails that Ellis had sent them. They had gathered that they were close to approval on three songs but because the show was so soon, they were not going to have approval in time for the show. She said Mr. Harris did not say anything indicating he was already aware of the problem.
Stimpson asked whether programs had been printed for the show yet
Whitwell said in the last five or six weeks you are doing your set and getting everything ready for the show. She said tickets hadn’t been printed but that was about the time they would be printed.
Stimpson asks Whitwell what her role was in helping Ellis gain copyrights.
Whitwell said at that point, it was more Stewart. She said Stewart was emailing different people to find out where money would need to be sent to get copyright paid for.
Stimpson: At what point did you realize show would not be going forward. Whitwell said a few days after that they knew should would be postponed.
She said Ellis asked for a meeting and that Harris said show would be postponed to give more time to get copyright. Whitwell asked him for a timeline for that and Ellis said he wasn’t sure and that it may or may not be before Christmas.
Stimpson asked if students had been rehearsing songs that did not have copyright permission and Whitwell said yes. Stimpson asked if they had copies of music that didn’t have copyright permission. Whitwell said she believed they did but she did not see their folders.
Stimpson asks about Jauna Ellis. Whitwell said Ms. Ellis had an integral role in helping the show choir. She said that Jauna did not attend booster club meetings. Stimpson asked who made the decision on purchasing costumes. Whitwell said a costume mom with Jauna.
Stimpson aksed whether Ellis contacted her after he was dismissed.
Whitwell said he contacted her that night, told her he had been put on leave and would not be able to contact anyone and asked them to keep working on obtaining copyrights.
Call came the day Ellis was put on administrative leave.
Stimpson: So he contacted you to tell you he wasn’t supposed to contact you?
Whitwell: yes (voice sounded reluctant)
Whitwell said she spoke with Tracy Hudson, that she had received a couple of phone calls about the fact Ellis had been put on leave. She called Tracy and asked if she had heard about Ellis being placed on leave and Hudson said she had. They said they shouldn’t be talking about that but should keep working on obtaining copyrights. She said Hudson indicated that other parents had also been contacted.
Stimpson: After he was terminated did you have contact with him?
Whitwell said yes. She said those conversations were about copyright and other issues.
Stimpson: Was it fair to say he was asking you status on copyright approvals?
Stimpson: Did he ever tell you he assigned the task of obtaining copyright approvals to anyone else?
Whitwell said she told Ellis she knew he had known about copyright before and there was a discrepancy about when he really knew. Whitwell said they had seen and understood Ellis knew before he told the boosters. Ellis told her he knew in June and that he was the one who told Suzy Williams that they needed copyright. Whitwell said they had words for a moment over the fact that they didn’t have copyright. She said there was some confusion over the fact that he thought he did have copyright approval on those songs.
Stimpson asks Whitwell about two issues: Ellis thought he had copyright on songs that he didn’t and that he indicated he knew about copyright at a different time than he actually did. Whitwell said that was correct.
Stimpson: Did he send an email to the parents cancelling the Wave Connection show?
Whitwell: Delaying it, postponing it, yes.
Stimpson refers Whitwell to an email.
Stimpson: What is the Glee phenomenon
Whitwell: I think Glee, I’ve never watched it, is a television show about show choir. It brought more attention to show choir programs and it was looked at more closely in terms of copyrights.
Stimpson: Do you know when it was he told you that the show was going to be postponed?
Whitwell said she did not know. She said he told her before he had snet out an email to parents about it.
Thursday Sept. 29, he sent out email show would be postponed. Next night, Sept. 30, you are hosting hair and makeup event at your home, is that correct?
Whitwell said yes.
Whitwell is given an email, exhibit 70. An email she sent to Wave Connection parents that they would be having a sleepover and they would be doing hair and makeup at her house beginning at 4:00.
Stimpson: Jauna Ellis is not an employee of the Tupelo School District, why was she planning this event.
Whitwell: This is a tradition of Wave Connection. As far as I know this is a tradition they did every year where they got together and did their hair styles for the show (discussed makeup and what would need to be purchased) and had a sleepover.
Stimpson: My question is, why is Mrs. Ellis planning this instead of Mr. Ellis. Do you know?
Whitwell reads a sentence, “Jauana said girls were free to leave any time Saturday morning.” Stimpson stops her, asks if this was an event that Jauna was overseeing. Whitwell said yes.
Stimpson asked what the boys would be doing at that time
They were going to have a team building time with Mr Ellis
Sitmpson asks whether any other chaperones would be there, with Mr. Ellis. Whitwell said she had no idea.
Whitwell said there were some conflicts with the date because it was a home football game and there was a dance that several girls wanted to attend and that she thinks there was an ACT that Saturday. Said it seemed to be the best date.
Stimpson: For Mrs. Ellis?
Stimposn asked whether it seemed to be a mandatory event, and Whitwell said yes. Whitwell said she talked to Jauna Ellis about rescheduling the event and that Mrs. Ellis said no that they would do it that day.
Stimpson: you were taking direction from Mrs. Ellis?
Whitwell said the girls came over to her house, that Mrs. Ellis was there and that she was conducting the events. She said the girls were working on their hair for the show. Someone was there showing hairstyles and makeup and how to put that on.
Stimpson: Did the girls go to Walmart that night?
Whitwell: They did
Stimpson: Did they go with Mrs. Ellis?
Whitwell: I do believe she went with them.
Stimpson, was there any feeling if you didn’t participate (you would be penalized)
Whitwell: I think it was the feeling of the students that this was a required thing they needed to attend.
Stimpson: What is your understanding of ramifications if students didn’t participate in events planned by Mr. Ellis.
Whitwell: There were a couple of parent that have brought emails between Mr Ellis and that parent that strongly encouraged them to participate and be a team player
Stimpson: Were there any emails that went further than encouraging
Whitwell: One email I saw asked directly, are you part of this team or not
Stimpson asks what time the girls went to Walmart
Whitwell said the girls came back from the football game about 9:30 p.m. and she went to bed. She said she doesn’t know for sure whether Mrs. Ellis went with the girls to Walmart . When they went, it would have been around 9:30.
Stimpson asks what they bought while they were there.
Whiwell said they went to buy shaving cream and Vaseline and different things to prank the boys cars. Toilet paper, car paint. Said there was nothing destructive and nothing sexual.
Stimpson: What did the boys do after that?
Whitwell: The boys came over after the girls had pranked their cars and the boys had used condoms and Vaseline, bananas, shaving cream, car paint to prank the girls cars
Stimpson: Was Mr Ellis with the boys
Whitwell: I was told that he was.
Stimpson: Were you ever told he wasn’t
Butts objects to Stimpson calling the event a condom prank night. He said that is not appropriate and was a prejudiced word. Stimpson said she agreed that it was not appropriate for teenagers to be pulling a prank involving condoms. Hearing officer John Compton said they could call it something else, since there was only one night in question. They could just call it prank night.
Stimpson: We are going to call the Sept 30 evening, prank night
Did you have any conversations with Mr. Ellis about that event.
Whitwell: WE generally talked that some of the boys had been called to the office to be questioned. At that point, Mr. Ellis had not been talked to at all. (Said she encouraged Ellis to talk to Jason Harris to find out what was going on. That conversation was Monday or Tuesday).
Stimpson: When you first learned what happened that night, what was your feeling?
Whitwell: This was not going to be a good thing.
At 10:00, hearing goes into closed session so student names could be discussed.
At 10:36, hearing is back in open session. David Butts is cross-examining Valerie Whitwell. He is asking her about the level of performance of the show choir over the years. Whitwell said she would consider their level to be very good. Asks about when Sound Wave made the finals and talks about how rare it was for an all-girls group to do that.
Butts: You have not problems with Mr. Ellis in his ability to direct show choirs. Whitwell said that is correct.
Butts said he understands that there were some budgeting and other issues and that he is about to talk about those.
Talking now about copyrights, that meeting on Sept. 14, 2011.
Whitwell said before that meeting she did not know about the need for copyrights, the subject was just not out there, they hadn’t talked about it.
Butts: At Sept. 14, at the board meeting, what did you learn about a quote copyright problem.
Whitwell said Teri Stewart came to her with a bill she had just received concerning copyright. Said she had never seen that before and that they needed to talk about it. It was a bill for one of Williams’ numbers for her Sound Wave show.
Butts: Were you aware that Suzy Williams was only using Steve Anderson as the arranger for all Sound Wave songs?
Butts: I don’t think we’ve seen that bill. That was a bill about a copyright, that is all your know, correct?
Butts: And Teri Stewart was concerned about it?
Whitwell said yes. She said they didn’t know about copyrights and that it was a question they needed to ask Ellis and Williams.
Whitwell said the board was at the meeting as was Ellis and Williams. When copyright was discussed, it was a general discussion among everyone. Whitwell asked if we were working toward copyright for Wave Connection and Ellis said he was. Whitwell said her concern wasn’t as much the copyright but the fee that it would cost.
Butts: That is what you are worried about all of the time, for sets, costume, travel, food, correct?
Butts: As you have said, your concern was the cost, and Mr. Ellis represented to you what about the copyright?
Whitwell: He said he was unsure, it varied in range. I said earlier it was $250 to $500. When I read this email, maybe it was $150.
Butts: You had a bill for a copyright permission on one song, and you don’t know who it was from?
Whitwell: Right, I think it was Steve Anderson. I wasn’t sure.
Butts: Was this a bill or was this a contract?
Whitwell: This was a bill that I saw. Said it looked like an invoice.
Butts: Was it from an individual or from a company.
Whitwell: I don’t recall
Butts: What I am trying to get at it this. Teri Stewart mentioned to you a problem with copyright. What did she indicate?
Whitwell: She didn’t indicate there was a problem with copyrights, she indicated this was something she hadn’t been involved for before and that this was something new we needed to discuss.
Whitwell said Stewart’s biggest concern was money. She said they discussed the copyrights for each song.
Butts: Ms. Stimpson asked you a line of questioning about Mr. Ellis not being forthright in regard to copyright. What were your concerns about him not being forthright.
Whitwell: What I didn’t think was forthright, when we decided to start helping him, we didn’t have copyright secured on any of the songs and the way it was perceived from the meeting, that this was just something new that was a Glee phenomenon, when we saw the email that he had known about copyright, we weren’t sure what was going on as a group.
Butts asks Whitwell about what a copyright permission looks like,
Whitwell said she can not read music and she is not a musical person. She said the sheet music she saw that had been copyrighted was a document from Steve Anderson that had copyright attached to the bottom.
Butts: What I am getting at is this, a copyright permission is submitted to companies like Hal Leonard and other companies. Did you know that?
Whitwell: I have some little knowledge of this, yes.
Butts: You understand that if you are looking at a sheet of music that is not a copyright permission.
Butts: When Mr. Ellis said he had copyright permission on four or five songs, was it possible that he had four or five songs cleared by the copyright holders.
Whitwell: That was not what he said at the meeting. He said there were four or five songs that we had copyright on.
Butts: But you had not paid for any copyrights. Is it your understanding that copyright is not granted until the fee had been paid.
Whitwell: I believe that is correct, yes.
Butts: Let me direct your attention to exhibit 24, in this stack. Six pages, first page carries name of Cherry Lane music company. Second paragraph says licenser hereby grants permission to Steve Anderson. Would it be your understanding that the company is granting permission to an arranger?
Butts: Look two pages over, Hal Leonard corporation. IT grants permission to Steve Anderson. So they appear to be granting permission to Steve Anderson, would that be your understanding.
Butts asks about derivative works, the fact that an arrangement by an arranger is a derivative work. Whitwell said she is not familiar with that.
Butts directs her to the first page. A notation in handwriting circled in lower right-hand corner, says mailed check. The person who would have written that would be Teri Stewart. Date is Sept. 8. Butts directs her to a check, paid by Teri Stewart on Sept. 8.
Butts said on fifth page, another check. Your board meeting was September 14, so these checks were issued a week before your board meeting.
Yet Teri Stewart said she was never seen this before.
Whitwell: This is a check for arranging music not copyright music. As far I understood it, this was two different fees….My understanding was that we had not paid to have copyright permission before until that bill was presented to me.
Butts: This is not a payment to Steve Anderson, arranger, this is a bill to Hal Leonard and Cherry Lane for copyright. Right?
Butts reads paragraph where licensor is not Cherry Lane
Stimpson: We sat through three hours or more of testimony from Mark Greenburg about copyright permission and permission to arrange and that they are not the same thing.
Butts: The claim was that Calvin Ellis was not forthright about copyright permissions. Is it possible there was a misunderstanding about what he meant by approval.
Whitwell: I guess that is possible.
Butts: The sense I am getting from your testimony is before Sept. 14, 2011, you had no knowledge about copyrights, need for copyrights for show choirs, you had never dealt with copyrights before, is that correct?
Butts: Y’all do talk with Mr. Ellis about this copyright situation, but your major concern was the additional cost?
Butts: Then after Mr. Ellis asked you to help him secure copyright permissions, you see emails that indicate Mr. Ellis had known about need to secure copyright permissions at the end of the last school year.
Whitwell: Yes and (an issue from 2009-2010)
Whitwell is directed to email from Daniel Peters at Hal Leonard to Ellis on July 13, 2011. Hal Leonard is saying they are in possession of requests from Ellis and Atkinson for requests for new copyright permissions to be arranged by Steve Anderson.
Butts the second paragraph refers to arrangements made by David Alderman for Tupelo High School. Copyright was not obtained for these songs. Peters said he sent Alderman an arrangement to get copyrights for these songs with a small fee for violating copyright. Peters said they will need this payment before considering other songs for THS.
Butts: Would you agree that nowhere in that email does that it say that Mr. Ellis violated copyright law.
Stimpson objects, saying email speaks for itself.
Butts: Ms. Whitwell testified that based on this email, she knew that Mr. Ellis had had copyright issues going back to 2009. WE have gone back to that email and I am saying does this document not say that Alderman violated copyright.
Stimpson objects, sustains.
Butts: Did you get from this document that Calvin Ellis was required to secure copyright for the two songs in this email.
Butts refers to email from Eillis to Greenburg, dated Sept. 14, the same day as meeting.. Butts said in that email, Ellis asks Greenburg for advice, said we became aware of issues of copyright law and end of previous school year and wasn’t aware that this was something every arranger must obtain.
Butts: From reading this email did you get the impression that it was Mr. Ellis who needed to obtain the copyright permission?
Butts moves to exhibit 5. He directs attention halfway down the page. Email from Alderman to Ellis. Alderman tells Ellis he got the message on the phone and that there was a mixup from Hal Leonard on Ask the Lonely. Since some time went by, he sent permission to Hal Leonard and was told they don’t handle that song any more. Alderman said he thought they were in the clear until Hal Leonard told him that he was in violation of copyright laws.
Whitwell said she doesn’t believe she had seen that email before. Said there was a pile of emails Stewart had printed and she didn’t read every document.
Butts: Do you know whether or not it is the obligation of the arranger or the performer to obtain copyright permission?
Whitwell: I do not.
Butts: Now, did the Tupelo choral booster club adopt a new set of bylaws this year?
Whitwell said they were written before she came on and adopted at her first meeting, in August. Whitwell said she didn’t have anything to do with the bylaws. She said some of them were amended and there may have been some new ones added to that.
Butts: Were there any material changes to the bylaws?
Whitwell: The copy she was given was the new set. She does not have a copy of the old set so she hadn’t looked at those.
Butts: You testified about a trip the show choirs took to Birmingham where the Sound Wave bus came back without a staff member. When was that?
Stewart: End of January or beginning of February 2011. It was at Homewood competition. Mall was about a half mile from the school.
Butts: Were you present when the Sound Wave bus went to that mall?
Whitwell said she drove over there in Kim Karen’s car.
Butts: All of Sound Wave members went on the bus.
Whitwell said most of them did, a few stayed in cafeteria. Whitwell said no Tupelo staff member was on the bus when it went to the mall. She said she knew Lee Anne Webb was an approved chaperone and she thought she was.
Whitwell said she had been fingerprinted at the high school and thought she was cleared because she had been fingerprinted and had an FBI check. She didn’t know they had to go through a separate process at the school.
Butts: So when you went to the mall, you thought you had three approved chaperones there?
Whitwell said that was correct. She said that at the same time Ellis was at the hotel preparing with Wave Connection.
Butts asks how many approved chaperones were there? Whitwell said she doesn’t know but there were a lot of parents.
Whitwell said Ellis have Lee Anne Webb permission to take the Sound Wave bus down the street to eat lunch. She said the girls could have eaten lunch at the high school because there was a cafeteria.
Butts: Why didn’t they eat there?
Whitwell: The girls wanted to go to the mall.
Butts: Once you get there, you turned the girls loose in the mall is that right?
Butts: Did you think it was appropriate to give the girls a timeline, let them get lunch and be back at the bus at a certain time?
Butts: Two or three girls didn’t make it back?
Butts: There was a problem where the bus was parked?
Whitwell: It wasn’t where the bus was parked, it was where it was to pick up the kids. It was one lane, there was a constant flow of traffic and you couldn’t block it.
Whitwell said two or three girls weren’t there but the bus had to move. Butts you decided you and Kim Karen would stay for the girls and the bus would go back with Lee Anne Webb. She said the other girls showed up shortly after that and they drove them back to Homewood high school.
Butts: Did you feel those girls were endangered or threatened in any way?
Butts: The charge against Mr. Ellis was that he had endangered students by leaving them unsupervised. Do you think that charge is true?
Whitwell: He was never on the bus so he didn’t leave the kids behind.
Butts: Those girls were not left behind at the mall, were they?
Butts: Did you think anything about that incident at the time?
Butts: You have also testified that the Sound Wave bus left and came back to Tupelo without a staff member on it. You rode with Kim Karen. Was Debra Atkinson the staff member in charge of Sound Wave.
Whitwell: She rode the bus over with the girls.
Butts: Did you expect her to ride the bus back with the girls?
Whitwell: No, because she said she was not going to be doing that when we had talked earlier in the day….She said she was staying another night in Birmingham so I made the natural assumption that she would not be on the bus.
Butts: On this trip to Birmingham, staff members were Mr. Ellis, Debra Atkinson and Ms. Bullock.
Were you concerned (Debra Atkinson wouldn’t be on the bus)?
Whitwell: Not at the time of that comment, no.
Butts: What time was Sound Wave bus about to leave?
Whitwell: It was about 9:00. There was a time issue that the bus had to be back around midnight so we didn’t have to pay for another day.
Butts: At about 9:00, where are you?
Whitwell: I was in the classroom where the girls had gotten dressed earlier in the day, cleaning up and packing up their stuff.
Butts: When di you become aware there was not a staff member aware to ride back with the girls.
Whitwell: When we were loading stuff on the bus and we noticed and Lee Anne asked.
Butts: Was there some concern there was not a staff member there.
Whitwell: Yes, it was a huge deal.
Butts: Wehre was Mr. Ellis.
Whitwell: He was not there. I was told later he was at Bufalo Wild Wings.
Butts: He was with Wave Connection?
Whitwell: As far as I knew.
Whitwell said Ellis was contacted by another mother, she doesn’t remember whom. IT was related that he was already at Bufalo Wild Wings and that Lee Anne was to ride the bus home with the girls.
Whitwell said that Webb was not concerned about it at that time.
Butts: Did you have concerns about that at that time?
Whitwell: AT the time we were having the conversation, Lee Anne said there is supposed to be a Tupelo Public Schools person on the bus with us, it shouldn’t be just a parent. (At same time, knew they needed to leave. Ms. Bullock was on Structure bus and Mr. Ellis was with Wave Connection).
Butts: In your opinion, were the girls endangered because Lee Anne was riding back with them?
Whitwell: Lee Anne was a responsible adult so I knew she could handle that but it was a violation of policy.
Butts asks whether before Whitwell became president she had been involved in discussions about various trips. He asks whether it was normal procedure for Ellis to gauge interest first.
Whitwell: I think that would be a fair statement before the trip to New York and everyone was disappointed that didn’t happen.
She said that as a board they decided it would be better to lean on the side of making sure the trip was approved first so there wouldn’t be that disappointment.
Butts asks if there is value in determining interest in a trip before going to administration?
Butts: As far as Smith Lake trip is concerned, you said you had no safety concerns?
Butts: There were several questions put to you by counsel for the administration couched in discussions you may have had with Mr. Ellis about him being forthright.
Stimpson objects about the characterization of her questions.
Butts: Do you think Calvin Ellis is a liar.
Whitwell: I think there were times when there was a little bit of discrepancy about things where we couldn’t get a clean understanding of if a communication problem existed with us or with someone else.
Butts: Have you accused him of being a liar?
Whitwell: I have never accused him of being a liar.
Butts: In these conversations with Mr. Ellis, what did you want from him?
Whitwell: A presentation of how he was going to spend the money.
Whitwell said that in budget there were some items that were subject to change but that you also had to be careful to not go way over.
Butts: You could understand he couldn’t walk into a board room and say I’m going to spend X-number of dollars on music this year?
Whitwell: We were hoping what we would see was what his plan was for spending the money in advance before spending the money.
Butts: So you would know how much money you needed to raise?
Whitwell mentioned a $3,000 bill that came in late from February, 2011. Ellis said he had lost the bill. She said when you get that, you have to find a way to get that money. There are issues you didn’t anticipate. Copyright is another one.
Butts: Impression I am getting is that none of this is written in stone, everyone is trying to do the best they can in the means they have.
Whitwell: I guess that is a fair statement.
Butts asks Whitwell if she was at Tupelo High School for laptop distribution. She said she was. She said she had a conversation with Mr. Harris at that distribution. She did not know the date she was there or whether it was before the meeting on Sept. 14.
Butts: Did you discuss copyright permissions with Mr. Harris at that time?
Whitwell: I don’t recall.
Butts finishes his cross examination.
Stimpson begins redirect.
Stimpson: Did Ellis indicate at (the Sept. 14 meeting) that there were any problems with him obtaining copyright approval?
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis ever inform you that you were not an approved chaperone.
Stimpson: Would it have been his responsibility to tell you whether he was approved?
Stimpson asks whether Ellis encouraged her to keep the girls at the school cafeteria or whether he had any (unease) about them going to the mall. Whitwell said no.
Stimpson: Would you expect Mr. Ellis to be honest with you?
Stimpson: Were there occasions were he was not honest with you
Stimpson: Would you agree the choral program was in disarray?
Butts objects, acts what disarray means. Overruled.
Whitwell: I think it could have been a little better organized and that is what we were trying to do as a choral board.
Stimpson asks if Whitwell would expect Ellis to spend money wisely. She said yes. Stimpson asks whether she expected him to have copyrights. Whitwell said, yes, given what she knows now.
Stimpson: Does hair and makeup night require a trip to Walmart to purchase prnaking items?
Whitwell: Not that I am aware of.
Stimpson: Who do you look to make sure copyright had been obtained?
Whitwell: We would have looked to Mr. Ellis for Wave Connection and Ms. Williams for Sound Wave.
Stimpson: When you offered to help with obtaining copyright permissions, Mr. Ellis turned over all of his emails and all of his contract relative to copyright approval?
Stimpson: In your opinion, how well organized were those documents relative to obtaining copyright approval.
Whitwell said it took him about an hour to sort through documents.
Whitwell is directed to exhibit 11. Email on Sept. 23 from Elis to Greenburg at Tresona. It ends with “I am truly in a mess.” Stimpson asked whether Ellis had turned that email over to her.
Whitwell said that was not one of the emails she looked at that day. She said she did not have any conversations with any companies regarding copyright. She said she thinks Teri Stewart had some.
Stimpson: Who do you look to be sure copyright would be obtained?
Whitwell: Mr. Ellis
Stimpson: Why did you feel the need to help him in securing that?
Whitwell” Because our show was approaching in seven weeks. We knew he had started that process in August and we were in a time crunch. He told us 30 to 90 days to obtain copyright. Because he was teaching full-time jobs, we were available to help.
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis tell you what was left to do to obtain copyright permission when he turned everything over to you?
Whitwell: No. We were going to organize the documents and email the companies to see where we were.
Stimpson finishes her questioning. Butts asks for permission to ask a follow-up
Butts: Ms. Whitwell, you testified you expected Mr. Ellis to spend the money allotted to him wisely?
Butts: And that you expected every committee member to spend the money entrusted to them wisely?
Whitwell is done testifying.
Hearing recesses for lunch at Noon. It will resume around 1:15.
Hearing resumes. Lee Anne Webb is the witness
Webb said she is here because she received a subpoena. She said she has a child at the high school involved in choral activities.
Stimpson: Would it be fair to say you would prefer not to be here today?
Stimpson: You like Mr. Ellis, don’t you?
Webb: I love Mr. Ellis.
Webb said she took Tracy Hudson’s place in November as a Wave Connection representative on booster club board.
Hearing resumes at 1:20 p.m. Lee Anne Webb is the witness
Webb said she is here because she received a subpoena. She said she has a child at the high school involved in choral activities.
Stimpson: Would it be fair to say you would prefer not to be here today?
Stimpson: You like Mr. Ellis, don’t you?
Webb: I love Mr. Ellis.
Webb said she took Tracy Hudson’s place in November as a Wave Connection representative on booster club. Last year she was not a representative in booster club.
She is a costume mom. She said costume mom works with Mrs. Janua Ellis. Helps get costumes together for show and competitions. Also accompany girls to their competitions.
Stimpson: Did you say you help Mrs. Ellis?
Webb: Mrs. Ellis is not a staff person. She does the costumes out of the benevolence of her heart.
Stimpson asks whether Webb had any regard with budget for costumes. Webb said that probably would have gone to Terri Stewart. Webb said as a costume mom she has nothing to do with budgeting.
Stimpson: Have you have any conversations with Mr. Ellis since the point of time he was placed on administrative leave?
Webb: Briefly I spoke with him here in December.
Stimpson: Here, meaning the hearing?
Stimpson asks about any other contact she had with Ellis after he was placed on leave.
Webb said she texted Mr. Ellis in late October on the way to a parent meeting held at the Link Centre. She said she went as a parent and that she texted MR. Ellis on the way asking for some support for the Wave Connection show that we were still trying to put on stage.
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis respond to your text?
Stimpson asks whether Webb had texted Ellis before he was put on administrative leave. She said she had received a text from Ellis. After he was placed on administrative leave, he needed some information for the hearing and he contacted her. Said it was after he was terminated.
Stimpson asked whether texting was a common way she communicated with Ellis?
Webb said she did text but usually she spoke with him in person.
Stimpson: Did you think it was odd when Mr. Ellis did not respond to her text.
Webb said she did not think it was odd. It was probably controversial for him to speak with her and he may have been advised by his attorney not to speak with her.
Stimpson asks whether Webb was ever instructed not to speak to Ellis.
Webb said no.
Stimpson: Did you attend the show choir trip to Birmingham, Alabama.
Webb said she did. It was the third weekend in February.
Stimpson: Were you a chaperone on that trip. Webb said she was an approved chaperone. She said the process was that she went by security office, was fingerprinted, filled out some paperwork.
Stimpson asks about the morning when the buses were loaded on that trip.
Webb said they loaded all of the girls. She was on the bus with Ms. Atkinson and the choreographer. Mr. Ellis was not there. The choreographer tried a couple of times to get him and couldn’t reach him by phone. They had to be at the school in 20 minutes so the decision was made to leave.
Stimpson: At the appointed time on the itinerary, Mr. Ellis was not present?
David Butts said he doesn’t understand this line of questioning because it does not relate to any of the charges. Compton overrules.
Stimpson: So the decision was made to go to the high school even though Mr. Ellis had not showed up.
Stimpson asks Webb about process of checking students in for the competition.
Webb said she got off the bus with Ms. Atkinson. Children followed escorts off the bus and met in the lobby. They began sign-in process. Mr. Ellis came within about 10 minutes and helped finish the process.
Stimpson: Was he late showing up?
Webb: He was behind us, he was 10 minutes behind us.
Stimpson: After Sound Wave performed that morning, were you with the girls after their performance?
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis come to speak with them?
Webb said Ellis left after that. She said there were performances by other schools until lunchtime. She thinks his plan was to leave with the Wave Connection kids and go back to the hotel to change.
She said that Mr. Ellis had asked them to stay and watch Wave Connection. She said they wanted to do that. It was getting to be around lunchtime and they asked Mr. Ellis if they could take the girls to Brookwood Mall, which was about a mile down the road. He gave them permission, she said.
Stimpson asks if he gave them any other instruction. Webb said they needed to be back at a certain time to get in at a reasonable time before their performance.
Stimpson: Was Dr. Atkinson with you at that point in time?
Webb said she was not. That she was playing for the solo competitions.
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis give you a list of girls in Sound Wave to keep track of them while you were at the mall.
Webb said she had a list.
Stimpson: Mr. Ellis did not ask you to create that list?
Webb: He asked me if I knew who was going.
Webb said that about half of the girls went with her, half of about 50.
Webb said none of the girls on Mr. Ellis’ instruction were allowed to leave the premises without him knowing it or Webb knowing it. So she made a list of the girls who wanted to go eat lunch at the mall.
Webb said she gave the girls a specific time and location to meet her.
Stimpson: Were all of the girls present?
Webb: All of the girls were present. The bus was in a two-way thoroughfare and was blocking traffic so we had to move the bus. Three girls did not get on the bus, butI had a parent behind me and she took those girls in her car.
Stimpson: What was the reason those girls did not get back on the bus.
Webb: The bus was blocking traffic and we had to move the bus.
Stimpson: Whose car did they return to the high school in?
Webb: Mrs. Valerie Whitwell
Stimpson: Was Mr. Ellis aware of the fact that three girls were riding in a private vehicle?
Stimpson: How did Wave Connection perform?
Webb: I thought they did great.
Stimpson: How did the judges determine how Wave Connection performed?
Webb:They did not place in the finals.
Stimpson: How did that affect your plans?
Webb: That meant we would be departing Homewood High School early
Webb said some girls from Sound Wave would be leaving with their parents and she had a list of the girls. Stimpson asked whether Webb was there when she kept that list of who was going with parents and who was going on the bus. Webb said no. She kept that list on her own.
Stimpson asks why Webb prepared a list.
Webb: I needed to know which children were with me and which children were leaving with their parents. I needed to know where those children were.
Stimpson: After some period of time, did you go to the bus?
Stimpson asks what time it was, Webb said it was around 9:00.
Webb said they wnet out to the bus and some girls needed to get luggage off the bus beucase they were going with parents. Some girls needed to get on the bus to come back. Also in the parking lot were buses for Structure and Wave Connection. The Sound Wave girls left over, Wave Connection, Sturcture, costume and stage crew kids came out to the busses. Ms. Bullock was there, herself, maybe five other cotume moms, but she did not see Mr. Ellis.
Stimpson: Where was he?
Webb I had someone call him to see where he was, and he was eating at a restaurant.
Stimpson: Was an inquiry made why he wasn’t with the children at that time?
Webb: I did not have that conversation.
Webb said that Ms. Bullock was the only Tupelo employee there.
Of the three buses, one bus was returning to Tupelo, two were staying in Birmingham. Sound Wave bus was returning.
Stimpson asks about any conversation they had about the return.
Webb said they couldn’t send the children home by themselves and there was no one else there to ride the bus back so she made the decision to ride the bus back. She said no one else could do it because the other moms had made plans. They left around 10. The bus driver was a male. There were about 13 girls on the bus.
Stimpson asked about what happened once the bus left. Webb said the girls were hungry and they went to Chick fil-A to eat.
Webb said Mr. Ellis did not give her any of the field trip permission forms or medical authorization forms.
Stimpson: Did a child get hurt that evening?
Stimpson: Once a child got hurt and you did not have any medical authorization forms, what did you do?
Butts makes an objection that nothing is in any of these charges about a child being hurt or Mr. Ellis not providing medical authorization forms. Even if board considers this to be relevant, how can he be prepared to examine witness on this when this is the first time he has heard this. He said it is a total surprise and he has no knowledge of any of this.
Stimpson said she is relating it to charge of general failure to supervise.
Stimpson said the witness was present during the Alabama trip. She said it relates to charge number 5, charge number 6. Compton overrules objection because it does relate to those two charges, failure to supervise.
Butts said he would like the record to reflect charge is on No. 5, specifically explains that three students were left at a mall while other students left on buses. Butts said he took that to relate to incident of three students
He said number 6 is for lack of supervision. That it says neglected students in Alabama and that students were neglected without adult supervision and were left to themselves to buy food. Butts said this is the first time he has learned that when the children left on the Sound Wave bus some child got hurt and he failed to give a medical authorization to Lee Anne Webb. We object.
The question was what did Webb do when the child got hurt.
Webb: She hit her knee. Webb said she called the parent. She got that number from the child.
Stimpson: Was there a need to get medical attention.
Webb said no. She attended to it by icing her knee. Said no other incidents occurred. Webb said the buses arrived at 1.
Webb said all of the parents were there except one. She waited with that child until the parent came about 15 minutes later. That was after the bus left.
Stimpson: Did you have any knowledge about why Dr. Atkinson was not with Sound Wave in the afternoon and evening.
Webb: Said Atkinson had told her there was a schedule change with her husband and that she had told Mr. Ellis and he had excused her.
Stimpson asks about competition at Petal two years ago. Webb said Wave Connection was in the finals but they did not win.
Stimpson asks if Webb heard anything about Tupelo High School trashing a room at Petal High School.
Webb said she heard that but she didn’t see that. She overheard a conversation of parents saying that a room had been trashed.
Stimpson: Were you present when Mr. Ellis addressed the kids after the competition was over?
Webb said she did not hear when he addressed Wave Connection.
Stimpson: Do you know what reason Mr. Ellis gave about not returning to Petal.
Webb said that she didn’t know.
Hearing goes into closed session at 2:06 p.m. to discuss a student matter.
Hearing is back in open session. Butts is cross examining Webb.
Butts is asking Webb about the trip to the mall in Homewood.
Butts: According to what information I have, I guess this is the charge, as contained in number 5. MR. Ellis is charged with failing to supervise students on a trip to Alabama. It says that “Three students were left behind at a mall when you and the rest of the students departed on the buses.” Is that true?
Webb said she did not unknowingly leave the students behind.
Butts: Mr. Ellis was not there?
Webb: No sir
Butts: The charge was that he endangered the students. Were these students endangered?
Webb: I did not think that the children were in danger.
Butts asks Webb about a conversation they had on Nov. 15 outside Lee County Justice Center. At the time Webb said she spoke with Mr. Jim Turner at Central Office that the charge was untrue. What did you tell Mr. Turner?
Webb said she gave an oral statement. She said the way it came up, she was speaking with Ms. Valerie Whitwell. She said that she had given some testimony about the bus situation coming back from Birmingham. They said they needed to make sure everyone was clear on exactly what had happened. She was not supposed to be watching blogs but her sister called and told her this charge was made. She called Ms. Whitwell and said that wasn’t correct. So she went to Central Office and spoke with Mr. Turner.
Webb said Mr. Turner strictly took her statement. He took notes on her statement.
Stimpson objects and Compton sustains. Compton said the board will rule on whether or not this charge was factual.
Butts: Were you satisfied with your meeting with Mr. turner?
Webb said he read her statement back to her and that it was correct. She said that her statement was the same as what she testified about today.
Butts: You also testified that Sound Wave bus left at 9:00. Did I hear you that Debra Atkinson was not riding the bus back?
Webb said yes.
Butts asks where Ellis was at the time. Webb said he was eating at a restaurant. Butts asks whether Ellis was with Wave Connection. Webb said no.
Butts: Where was Wave Connection?
Webb: Standing in a parking lot with me.
Butts: How did you come to ride the bus back?
Webb said she knew that no one else was available to ride the bus back. Out of the mothers with her, she was the only one who had not made plans to stay over night. She knew on her own that a parent would need to ride the bus back and that would be her.
Butts: You knew earlier in the day?
Webb: I knew that.
Butts: Was this a surprise at 9:00?
Webb: A surprise to me, no. The surprise was I went out there and did not see Mr. Ellis.
Butts: He was in a restaurant, do you know where?
Webb: Wild Buffalo Wings.
Butts: Did you talk to him? Webb no. Butts: Who talked to him?
Webb: I don’t remember, I’m sorry.
Butts: How did you get to Birmingham?
Webb: I rode with Ms. Terri Stewart in her vehicle.
Butts: Did you talk to Mr. Ellis about you riding back on the bus?
Webb: We had a discussion at some point. When, I don’t remember, but he knew I was riding the bus back….
Butts: Did this happen hours before?
Webb said she didn’t know if it was made hours earlier, but she knew it before.
Webb said Ellis did not force her to ride back. There wasn’t anyone else to ride back. She volunteered herself.
Butts: The sense I had earlier was that you were standing in the parking lot and all of a sudden it was a big surprise that you had to ride back (but it wasn’t a surprise that you had to ride the bus)
Webb: Yes. The surprise was that Mr. Ellis wasn’t there.
Butts: You expected Ellis to be there, why?
Webb: To get the kids on the bus, make sure we had everybody.
Butts: He had entrusted you before and he was entrusting you again
Butts: Tell us about the child getting hurt on the bus
Webb: She slipped and hit her knee and it swelled up.
Butts: It was nothing that required taking her to an emergency room or anything like that?
Webb: No sir.
Butts: You testified earlier that you love Mr. Ellis. Why do you love Mr. Ellis?
Webb: He is a wonderful person. He has been great to my child. I’ve had a sister and a niece involved in the program. He is an encourager who is a motivator. He gave my child an opportunity. Pushed her where maybe someone else wouldn’t have, and he has been a good personal friend.
Butts: How would you characterize his treatment of the other children?
Webb: I would say in my estimation he is mostly a fair and equitable person with the kids. He is a huge fan of the underdog. I think he gives kids who wouldn’t have opportunities otherwise, situations where they can win. He is great with the kids and they love him.
Butts: How long have you had personal contact with him?.
Webb said probably four or five years. Had a child in the program about three years. She said he is very hard working.
Butts: Tell us about Janua Ellis
Webb: I worked with Mrs. Ellis for a year and a half on costumes. She loved the children. Had great ideas for costumes and for brining that whole beautiful aspect to the costumes. She always had a diverse group (working on the costumes. She was careful to have women who were good working with the kids). She was hardworking as well and tried really hard to help Mr. Ellis realize his aspirations for his show.
Butts: Is being a costume mom a hard job?
Webb: Yes. Lot of hours. Especially as you get closer to the show, there beforehand, make sure you get everything set up for the children. Also help out with the costume kids, getting them ready to go. We go with them, have to stay with them on the road, feed them.
Butts: Would you say you admire Calvin Ellis as a person?
Butts: Do you respect him?
Webb: I think a lot of Mr Ellis
Butts: How do you think the show choirs have performed under his direction
Webb: Sometimes success is not always measured with a score or a win at competition. The only reason I say that is I grew in choral. I graduated 30 years ago from this director under a fabulous director. Success is not always measured by how you rate at the sate competition but by the influence you have on the children and how motivated they are to work for you. Taking diverse, different kinds of children who wouldn’t work together on the outside to work together as one. To me that is enormously successful as a choir director. I think the icing on the cake is when you go to competition and the hype surrounded by Tupelo about to be on stage and everyone cramming into to arena to watch Tupelo.
Webb said she is glad her child has had this opportunity and that she is sorry she didn’t get to do that this year.
Stimpson begins her redirect
Stimpson: Ms. Webb, setting aside your love and admiration of Mr. Ellis would you argree there are problems with the running of the show choir at the high school?
Webb: Specifically with evidence to my testimony there was that specific incident, the lack of supervision on the bus ride home. That would be the most glaring observation I made from last year.
Stimpson: The decision with regard to the bus stopping and where to eat, those decisions were turned over by Mr. Ellis to you?
Butts objects because she was a certified chaperone.
Stimpson: When you testified on cross examination that you were surprised that Mr. Ellis was not in the parking lot with 150 students, you were surprised because you thought he would be supervising those students?
Stimpson: And he was not there?
Webb: No he was not there.
Stimpson asks if she is aware of a school district policy relative to supervision of students
Webb said she knows there has to be staff present supervising on a field trip
Stimpson: You were aware that Mr. Ellis was violating that policy?
Stimpson asks Webb about students having to run laps about the PAC.
Webb said her daughter was one that had to do that. She said she does not know if she was being supervised at that time.
Stimpson: Are you aware of any copyright issues with regard to Mr. Ellis.
Stimpson asks about her awareness
Webb said that they did not have suitable copyright permission for the performance of their songs.
Stimpson: Are you familiar with school policy relative to supervision on field trips?
Webb: School policy is that an administrator has to be with the field trip, I don’t know how many different administrators but I know there has to be an administrator.
Stimpson: I was just wondering if you are familiar with the school policy
Webb: I know there need to be administrators and staff present on field trips. I do not know how many there need to be.
Stimpson is done with her re-direct. Webb's testimony is complete.
Next witness will be Debra Atkinson. She will appear via online video. A computer is being moved over to the witness stand.
Dr. Debra Atkinson is sworn in.
Atkinson said she is located in Biloxi, Miss.
Atkinson said she received a subpoena to testify.
She has an attorney there with her.
Atkinson is currently working at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Jefferson Davis campus in Gulfport. She has been there since August 2011. She is director of choral activities and instructor of music. She has bachelor’s and master’s degree from Delta State and a doctorate from the University of Mississippi.
Atkinson was employed with the Tupelo School District in 2010-11. She was a choral director. She was the assistant to Mr. Ellis for the two show choirs, she directed the advanced women’s chorus she assisted varsity choir and she assisted Ms. Bullock with one group and she assisted with Madrigals. She received a supplement for helping with the show choirs.
Stimpson asks Atkinson what her responsibilities were. Atkinson said she helped select music, took role, accompanied choirs. Basically she was accompanist for varsity choir and concert singers. Sometimes she was accompanist for Madrigals. She was accompanist for two show choirs and she accompanied Ms. Bullock’s choir.
Atkinson said Ellis and her were co-directors of concert choir, varsity choir and Madrigals. She directed Advanced Women and Ms. Bullock directed freshman choir and Atkinson accompanied the two show choirs. Atkinson said she replaced Vicky Wilson at the high school.
Atkinson said before working at the high school, she knew whom Mr. Ellis was but she did not know him personally.
Stimson: When you started your employment with the district, did you meet with Mr. Ellis?
Atkinson said yes. They talked about how they would divide the choirs. Because she did not have experience with a 50-voice show choir, her pervious choir was smaller and all girls. She told Mr. Ellis she was not comfortable being director of the show choir at that time. She wanted to accompany and watch until she felt comfortable.
Stimpson asks Atkinson if she was familiar with the title or amount of Mr. Ellis’ supplement. Atkinson said no.
Stimpson asks Atkinson about her relationship with Ellis
Atkinson: Things started off very well, very amicably. We had very similar tastes in music. It appeared we would have a good working relationship.. Somewhere along the lines that relationship went south. There was no communication from about the time Sound Wave started getting prepared for their show on campus and getting ready for competition. Things started to get not so good.
Stimpson: What was the reason the relationship disintegrated?
Atkinson: I’m not really sure other than he didn’t like the way I ran some things. He said I corrected him in front of students. He said his method for dealing with something when he didn’t agree was to shut down. (We basically didn’t talk except to communicate about what we were doing in a rehearsal)
Stimpson: What was your understanding of your responsibilities?
Atkinson: I thought we would co-direct but there was not much directing that I was allowed to do.
Stimpson: Did you wind up doing what you thought to be secretarial work for Mr. Ellis?
Atkinson: I did. There was a lot of paperwork issues that needed to be done. Money needed to be taken up. Students needed to be given a folder and that needed to be taken up. Mr. Ellis did not have a free period and then he taught voice lessons (From time school was over until 9:00). He didn’t have time left over to do paperwork so I took that job on myself.
Atkinson said there ware some things Ellis asked her to do and some things she volunteered to do because they needed to be done.
Atkinson said they did not have many department meetings as a choral department. She doesn’t remember many times the three of them met together. She said there was no sharing of information within the department. She said she found things out when Ellis announced them to his show choirs during rehearsals. It was not discussed with her before it was discussed with them.
Stimpson asks about the trip to Alabama. Asks Atkinson about her responsibilities that weekend
Atkinson: The only responsibility I was given was to accompany the tow show choirs and accompany the (students who were auditioning? that weekend)
She said she asked Ellis before the trip, because he had not discussed trip plans with her at all, whether she was supposed to ride the bus back with Sound Wave or if she was supposed to stay back with Wave Connection. He said I don’t care what you do, I have plenty of chaperones, do what you want to do.
Atkinson said she discussed it with her husband. She lives in Columbus. If Wave Connection would make the finals, it would be 2 or 3 in the morning before she got to Tupelo and then would have to drive back to Columbus by herself. She didn’t think that was a wise thing to do so she decided that her husband would drop her off in Tupelo and then pick her up in Birmingham.
Atkinson said she accompanied students who auditioned for solos and then accompanied Wave Connection in the afternoon. After that performance she did not have further responsibilities that she was given.
Stimpson: Did you become aware of a supervision issue that weekend?
Atkinson: I did. I understood that some students went out on the bus at lunch and that some students may have been left and needed to find another way back to the school.
Stimpson: What was your understanding?
Atkinson: I understood that Lee Anne Webb was going to ride the bus back with Sound Wave. That she was going to ride the bus with the girls that went back.
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis discuss that with you?
Stimpson: How did you know that?
Atkinson: I talked to Lee Anne Webb that morning. It was my understanding that she would be riding bus to Birmingham and back. I found out I was the only adult riding the bus there. I
Atkinson said she asked Webb if she needed to make changes in her plan. She said that Webb told her that she would ride the bus back.
Stimpson: When it was time to leave the hotel for the competition, were you present with the Sound Wave girls?
Atkinson said she was and Ellis wasn’t. She said they tried to call him. They didn’t know if he had gone ahead with the equipment people or where he was. They decided to go to the school hoping he would be there when they got there.
Atkinson said Ellis was not there when she got to the school. She got off the bus with Webb and began the check in process. Mr. Ellis eventually showed up 10 or 15 minutes after they had already gotten registered and had gone to warm-up room. Atkinson said they were beginning to warm up and he came in and took over that process.
Stimpson: Did you have any discussions with him regarding chaperoning of girls home from Birmingham?
Atkinson said Ellis sent her a text on the way over asking if she was riding bus back. Atkinson said no she was going back with her husband, but she could change her plans if needed. She never received a reply. When she got to Birmingham, she spoke to Ellis and said she could change her plans and Ellis said she didn’t need to because they had enough chaperones.
Atkinson said she spoke to Lee Stratton on Monday because she talked to a personal friend of hers who said she could be in trouble for not riding the bus back. She wasn’t aware of any policy requiring her to do so. She said she wanted to tell Stratton that she did not ride the bus back and that she was not told she needed to ride the bus back.
Atkinson was in her first year in Tupelo. She had been in a college situation before that and she was not aware of all of those policies, which she said had changed quite a bit.
Atkinson said when she received her schedule the Madrigal class was on her schedule.
Stimpson asked if she ended up teaching that class
Atkinson said she co-directed it with Ellis. It was mostly her accompanying Ellis.
She said Ellis told her that he was director of choral activities and that as director of choral activities, it was his choir to direct and that it was a mistake that it was on my schedule.
Atkinson said that Stratton asked her about her duties. She told him that her schedule said she was supposed to be director of Madrigals but that wasn’t the way it ended up.
Stimpson: Were there any other issues regarding scheduling or the students assigned to your classes?
Atkinson: When I met with Mr. Ellis in July, he gave me a list of all of the choirs and the student in every choir. That list had a little over 60 women listed in advanced choir. On the first day of school, she ended up with 28 in her choir. The only explanation she got was that it probably didn’t work out in her schedule. She said that explanation came from Mr. Ellis.
Stimpson: Did you ask him what happened with the other 32 students?
Atkinson said she did not
Stimpson asks about Alabama trip. Atkinson said that Ellis had sent her an itinerary a day or two before. She said she did not have any input on the itinerary.
Stimpson: In relationship to your working relationship with Mr. Ellis, was there a period of time where Mr. Ellis did not speak with you?
Atkinson said that about November communication all but stopped between them.
Stimpson: What was conversation like if you had (concerns?)
Atkinson: That probably led to why we didn’t talk. Mr. Ellis does not like to be challenged in any way or disagreed with in any way. If you don’t agree with him, his method is to back away and stop talking.
Stimpson: Asks her about her understanding of copyright.
Atkinson said it was new to her about needing to get copyright permission for arrangements done by special arrangers for show choir. She was new to show choir and when she took over reigns and contacted an arranger to do her show, he told her she would need to get copyright permission from a publisher for him the arranger to make an arrangement of the song I chose.
In a college situation, when you are working with things that are already copyrighted, the university (handles it differently)
Atkinson said after she spoke to the arranger she told Ellis that the arranger wanted her to get permission for the songs she chose. Ellis said he had just heard the same thing. He told her about process, going to Hal Leonard website, make request and then Hal Leonard will let you know whether you get permission or not.
That conversation was in April 2011.
Stimpson asks Atkinson if she had any copyright courses in music education. Atkinson said it is discussed in one of the music education courses, where you lean about what is fair use. She learned about that in her master’s and doctoral programs.
Atkinson said she doesn’t know if there was anything that talked about arranging for a show choir but it talked about the need to secure permission to do a derivative of an arrangement or a copyrighted work.
Stimpson asked if that was covered in any workshops.
Atkinson said she did not attend any such workshops but she is sure there are workshops that were held about copyright.
Stimpson: Are you familiar with the offering of courses on not braking copyrights being held by the American Choral Directors Association.
Atkinson: I don’t think the American Choral Directors Association has it on its web site, (mentions another resource)
Stimpson asks if there are resources available if you don’t understand copyright
Atkinson said yes there are. Mentions that several textbooks explain it and said there are resources available if you don’t understand it.
Stimpson asks if Atkinson is aware of the money that goes through choral booster program?
Atkinson said every student in show choir paid $650 and every student in choir paid $30. IF you multiply $650 by $150 students, that is quite a lot of money.
Stimpson asks about the amount of money spent for lights and set for the Birmingham competition.
Atkinson said she heard a figure that it was $8,000 for lights for the Birmingham competition.
Stimpson asks if she heard any figures to compare cost to other schools.
Atkinson said some schools used computer graphics on their set but no other schools had the elaborate lighting that Tupelo used.
“They had to redo our set because it was too big and too heavy to carry.”
Stimpson: Did you think there was an excessive amount of money spent for lights and or set?
Butts objects saying that Ellis was not in charge of lights or set, he was in charge of music or choreography. Also said that there is no charge that relates to that.
Stimpson said there has been testimony of money going through choral boosters and Mr. Ellis’ oversight of that money.
Compton overrules the objection.
Court reporter re-reads question
Atkinson: I watched every group perform at that competition for the mixed group and watched most perform for the women’s division and I did not witness any with as elaborate a lighting or set as Tupelo had.
Stimpson: Did Tupelo win that competition?
Atkinson: No they did not.
Stimpson: Following the Birmingham trip and after you went to Mr. Stratton to advise him of supervision issues, did you work with Mr. Ellis on any other events?
Atkinson said two other events, honor choir trip to Jackson and state choral festival. Atkinson said she made the rooming list and the list of the buses and made sure the role was checked and that everyone was present and accounted for on those two trips.
Atkinson said she got involved on those two trips because she did not want to have herself in another precarious position of being blamed for not supervising students properly.
Stimpson: Did Mr. Ellis discuss with you possibility of taking students on a trip to New York?
Atkinson said she was told when she was hired in July that Ellis had been invited in April of 2010 to take those show choirs to New York.
Stimpson: Did you have any comment to him about that?
Atkinson: I was excited they were going to get to go to New York.
Stimpson: What about the cost, did you have a discussion about that?
Atkinson: I believe they were supposed to pay $200 a piece and both trips I took (previously with students) the students had to pay considerably more than that. He seemed to think they would have enough fund raisers and it would be no problem to get the funds raised.
Stimpson: What happened with regards to getting approval for that trip?
Atkinson: It became evident by time first payment was due that we didn’t have enough money to pay that first payment and parents were being concerned that money was not being raised way it should have. Parents were concerned they would not be able to make obligation of next payment.
Stimpson: Are you aware of existence of show choir board.
Atkinson: Yes. Mr. Ellis told me he had formed a board when he had been invited to New York to help him with the planning and the logistics of all of that,
Stimpson: Did the trip to New York occur?
Stimpson: Why Not?
Atknison: Because it became apparent that they were not going to be able to raise the funds to go, so it was decided that it needed to be cancelled.
Hearing goes into closed session at 3:50 p.m. for testimony concerning students.
Hearing is back in open session.
Atkinson is directed to an email she sent to Terri Stewart from May 23, 2011. Subject is regarding music.
Email said, “This is appalling.” It lists who arranged various songs for Sound Wave. Some of the songs were also not performed. One was copied directly from a musical score. Another was something Atkinson said Ellis had copied, another one she said probably required about an hour of work. She then listed several more songs that were not performed. Email ends, “This has got to stop now.”
Atkinson said her understanding is that the songs listed in the email were ones that Ellis had billed the boosters for arranging.
I could not understand how he could be billing them for songs that were (not used or were copied from other sources).
“I thought it was a misuse of the funds that were available for him to be paid for this.”
Atkinson said this was at the end of the school year so there was nothing she could do for the 2010-11 school year but she would do what she could in the coming year to make sure funds would not be double dipped.
She said that around that time they were working on budgets. One of the choral booster officers told her Ellis had been paid $7,400, she thinks that was the figure, for arranging for the prior year. Atkinson questioned that because she knew she did not have music in her folder he had arranged except for one piece.
Atkinson said she did not have discussions with Terri Stewart after sending that one email.
Stimpson: When was the last time you talked to Mr. Ellis?
Atkinson: Mr. Ellis called me a week ago Friday.
Stimpsn: What was the purpose of that phone call?
Atkinson: He told me he had spoken with a friend of his who teaches at another community college. Mr. Ellis’ friend had tried to question me about the Tupelo job and why I left it. I told him I needed to be back in a college situation. Mr. Ellis was calling me to thank me for not badmouthing him
Stimpson: Why did you leave your job at Tupelo High School?
Atkinson: Because when I got to the high school situation, I realized I was better suited to a college environment. I was not really comfortable with the show choir being such a huge thing in Tupelo. I felt like the choirs needed to be a bigger part. When the job came open at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College I wanted to be back in a college situation.
Stimpson asks Atkinson of a Facebook post. Atkinson said Ellis accused her of lying on her job application for Madison Central High School by saying she was co-director of choral activities. Ellis said that was a lie because he was director of choral activities.
Stimpson asks about the apology. Atkinson said that Ellis said he did not know what my contract said.
Stimpson: So when he accused you of lying he didn’t have the facts straight, is that correct?
Stimpson: Was there a point in time where Ellis was texting you every day?
Atkinson: I don’t recall that.
Stimpson: Was there anything that led up to the date you decided to quit your job at Tupelo High School?
Atkinson: No other than the fact that I felt I was better suited to a college situation. Tupelo was not where I needed to be.
Stimpson finishes her examination. Butts begins his cross.
Butts asks about a previous conversation between her and Butts. Butts tried to talk to her. Atkinson said she wanted to speak with her husband first. Butts still asked her a question.
Atkinson said Butts asked her if she recalled a trip to Birmingham. She told him her duties were to accompany the two show choirs and to play for accompanist.
Butts: What else did we discuss?
Atkinson: All we discussed was the Birmingham trip….There was one other thing I remembered. You asked me about girls being left at the mall. I said I had heard that but I was not with them. You asked why and I said I was at the school accompanying solos.
Butts said he has been uninformed and misinformed for a great portion of this proceeding.
Butts asks Atkinson relative to a note whether she is a handwriting expert (note likely came up during closed session)
Atkinson said she is not. She said it appeared to be his signature but she is not saying it was.
Butts: Did the note come into your possession or was it in someone else’s possession while you were looking at it (Atkinson answers the latter).
Atkinson said she looked at the note, read the note and saw the signature. She said she never had the note in her possession. The student was holding it up for her to read.
Butts: Ms. Atkinson, you said there was an occasion not long after you started at Tupelo High School, were you were confronted with this issue of having to obtain a copyright permission.
Atkinson said that is not correct. She did not have to start thinking about copyright permissions until she took over Sound Wave in April 2011. She left her job in May 2011.
Butts: In April 2011, you are beginning your preparations for the Sound Wave program for the coming fall, is that correct?
Butts: How did you first become of aware of the need for a copyright permission
Atkinson said she contacted an arranger and he emailed her back that she would need to secure permission from the publisher for him to arrange the song. The arranger was Steve Anderson.
Butts: You were familiar with how to do that?
Atkinson: No sir. I was not familiar with that process. I went and asked Mr. Ellis how do we go about doing the copyright. He told me the procedure was to go to the Hal Leonard web site where they had a section for requesting permission to arrange. You submit it and Hal Leonard would get back to you about what next steps would be.
Butts asks her about her earlier testimony about being knowledgeable about copyright.
Atkinson said she was knowledgeable about copy right but she had never had to arrange for a song before.
She said she had been in music education for eight years. She said in the college situation, the school pays a royalty to an organization and they pay the copyright holders the fees for performing those works. She had not had experience with asking for permission to arrange a copyrighted work.
Butts: All of your experience prior to Tupelo High School had been in a university setting?
Atkinson said she had four years at a private high school. She said she used works that had been already published.
Butts: What do you mean by a derivative work?
Atkinson: An arranged work. If you take a piece of music that has a copyright on it …and you make an arrangement just for women’s voices that is a derivative of that work. (Said that if you do that, you need to obtain copyright permission).
Discussion of Atkinson’s conversation with Ellis before the Birmingham trip about whether or not she would ride bus back from Birmingham. Atkinson said at that time she was not aware of school district policy to have a staff member ride on bus.
Butts: Didn’t the school tell you that you needed to be aware of its policies?
Atkinson: They probably did say I needed to be aware of them but if you have tried to maneuver that website and look at the myriad of policies trying to find the policies relative to your job is difficult to do. MR. Ellis was supposed to be my mentor (and if there was a policy she needed to know, she expected him to tell her)
Butts asks her whether the district had training for her concerning policies.
Atkinson said there was day before the year that mostly talked about Tupelo schools and how wonderful they are but it did not deal with anything relative to her job. “IT was a waste of my time. It was not things I needed to know to do my job.”
Butts: The tupelo Public school district gave you no formal training for policies relative to your job.
Atkinson’s attorney objects and says Birmingham trip is irrelevant. Compton said Birmingham trip is very relevant, but maybe the information about the policies is not.
Butts asks her about her conversation with Stratton. Atkinson said the reason she went was that she didn’t know about what happened on the way back from Birmingham. She was concerned that she was told other adults would be on the bus with her and she was the only adult on the bus with 50 girls. She was told that a teacher should not be alone with students and there should be other chaperones present. Because I got there and Mr. Ellis told me I did not need to ride the bus back, I felt Mr. Stratton needed to know I was told I didn’t need to ride the bus back and he needed to know my side of the story.
Atkinson said she did not know it was required for an employee of the district needed to be on the bus. She knew a chaperone needed to be on the bus but she didn’t know a school district employee needed to be on the bus.
Butts asks if she knows what action Stratton took. She said she didn’t. Also didn’t know whether Stratton ever talked to Ellis about it or disciplined Ellis for it.
Butts asks about Atkinson’s schedule being changed from 60 students to 28 students. Atkinson said she is not implying that Ellis was responsible for changing the schedule. She does not know how it was changed.
Atkinson said Anderson was the only arranger she worked with and thus the only one who spoke to her about copyright issues.
Butts asks her if she consulted any sources of information to help her deal with her Sound Wave copyright issue. Atkinson said it never got to that point because she left the school district early in the process. She did not look at any of these resources because she did not get to that point in the process.
Butts asks her about her testimony that no other group had as elaborate of lighting as Tupelo. HE asked if Attache was there. She said it was but that they did not use the elaborate lighting that Tupelo used. The used some computer graphics. She said she has not idea how much Attache spent on its computer graphics.
Butts asks about an email exhibit 71. An email from May 23. He asks what launched her into determining which songs arranged by Ellis were performed and which ones weren’t. Atkinson said she had a parent from the choral booster board trying to determine why he was paid that much money for arranging songs. Atkinson said the parent was Tammy Harrington.
Butts said from the looks of the email it looks like you spent a considerable amount of time gathering the information. Did she ask Ellis about this?
Atkinson said she did not
Butts asked if it would be fair to ask Mr. Ellis about it.
Stimpson objects. Compton overrules.
Atkinson said you are probably right. I probably should have approached him and asked him why he felt the need to charge the boosters for music he did not perform. She said their relationship was one that she did not feel comfortable doing that.
Butts: Did Terri Stewart ask you to do this?
Atkinson: Yes she did.
Butts: Did she make any other allegations against Mr. Ellis.
Atkinson said she did not. She wanted a copy of the check register because she was concerned about all of the money that had been spent. When she saw it she became concerned and asked Atkinson about Ellis being paid for songs that were not used.
Butts asks if she took her concerns to the choral booster board? Atkinson said she did not. She sent her findings to Terri Stewart and that is as far as she went.
Butts: When you put in this email that Mr. Ellis may have written some brass parts, what you are saying is that he is billing….what are you saying?
Atkinson: I mean that I had seen the book that the music was copied from and I was playing from that piece of music in my notebook. That was exactly what was copied and handed out to the students. From the book there were no brass or guitar parts. There were guitar chords. What I am saying is I don’t remember where the brass played on that arrangement, but he arranged some brass or woodwind parts for that song.
Butts: Did you ever find out why these songs that you noted, they did no do, which I take it means that the show choir did not perform, did you ever find out why they did not do them?
Atkinson said she did not.
Butts finishes. Stimpson re-directs.
Stimpson: As a new teacher to the district, did you rely on Mr. Ellis to be my mentor. She said he was assigned to her as her mentor. She said she relied him to advise her about any policies and supervision duties that would be relative to her position. She said he did not do that.
Stimpson refers her back to that email to Stewart, exhibit 71. Stimpson said that Stewart had sent her an email first and that Atkinson responded about an hour and a half later.
Stimpson: Do you have any information that Mr. Ellis sought copyright permission when he arranged music.
Atkinson said she has no information on whether she did or did not seek permission when she arranged.
Stimpson finishes her questioning. Atkinson is done.
The hearing will now recess until 8:30 on Wednesday morning.
(Note: Unlike last time, I will add updates to the bottom, so scroll down to see if there are updates. I thought that might be easier to read. Last update was at 5:13 p.m.)
NOTE: References to competition at Pearl High School should have instead referred to Petal High School.
Calvin Ellis' personnel hearing is about to resume after about a six week recess. It was recessed on Dec. 7.
Rachel Murphree, the assistant finance director for the Tupelo school district, is on the witness stand.
School district attorney Kelly Stimpson asked if the hearing could begin earlier in the day and end later in the day in order to expedite it.
David Butts, Calvin Ellis' attorney said he does an objection to that. He said he will try to expedite the process but that he has an extensive witness list from the district and that he needs some time to be able to prepare for the hearing. "I am asking for some flexibility because of the difficulties I face" because of not having been given information from the administration. He said he doesn't mind going later tonight.
Stimpson we want it to be stated we are willing to expand our hours to get this thing concluded. She said it has been numerous weeks since the district presented Butts its documents and that the district also won't know what witnesses Butts will be calling.
Hearing Officer John Compton said they will look and see how each day goes.
Worked for the district for 3.5 years
assistant finance director
Murphree said that part of her duties are to do a review from time to time of booster clubs of extra-curricular organizations. She said that she did a review of the booster club finances but did not know then that a personnel issue was involved. She said that she did not know Ellis at that time.
She said it was important that she did not have the information (about Ellis’ personnel situation) so that she could have “clear eyes” and be objective.
She met with the booster club treasurer, Terri Stewart, in October 2011. She said that Stewart brought her books and that Murphree asked generalized questions about the books. Stewart told her that she did not have receipts from some charges, such as payments from the credit card. Murphree said that was the first time that Ellis’ name came up.
Murphree said that she was told Ellis had had the credit card but that the card had been lost and it had not been replaced. Murphree said she was not told why the card had not been replaced. They discussed the process for bills to be paid, invoices would be addressed to Stewart and she would cut a check.
Stimpson asked whether any other issues came up.
Murphree said: There were some odds and ends papers stuck in a flap in the binder. She tried to make sure she asked her about them because she wanted to be sure to get all questions asked while Steward was there.
There were some applications for permission to arrange music in there that had been copies that had not bee received back.
Stimpson: Why was that odd
Murphree: It was odd stuck in the binder and not having who the checks were to.
Stimpson asks if there were any other issues
Murphree: I saw some contracts that were signed by Mr. Ellis as employer of Tupelo High School and that bothered me.
Stimpson asked if the contract was binding and Murphree said yes.
Stimpson asks why was that a problem
Murphree: We had a board policy related to contracts that only allowed superintendent, someone in finance or bonding agent to sign contract committing the district to spend money.
Rachel Murphree said she asked Stewart whether she had issued any 299s and that Steward said she had only issued one.
She said the only other issue came up with the credit card. The charges would be multiple uses for food or gas. Murphree said she asked her if that was something the booster club approved. She was told sometimes yes and sometimes no.
Murphree said she read the booster club bylaws. It said that no booster club member is to receive compensation.
All routine expenses are supposed to go before the club.
Murphree said she had concerns that Ellis was being paid to do things he was already being paid to do in his supplement.
She said that numerous individuals were being paid to arrange music and some were being paid for the same songs that Ellis arranged.
Murphree said that at that point in the in the middle of October, Steward told her there was an issue with copyrights.
Stimpson: Had it appeared that Ellis had ever applied for copyright permission in the past?
Stimpson: Did Stewart say why she paid credit card fees without receipts
Murphree said Stewart said she did it to avoid late fees and also if there was an arranger in town, she wanted to pay then in order to maintain good relationships between the district and the arrangers.
Murphree said she never saw Ellis’ termination letter.
The district presented Murphree with an exhibit. It is one of the contracts Ellis signed as employer of Tupelo High School. It is between Calvin Ellis as employer and Jamie McMahon (spelling?) as employee. Amount of contract was $2,750 plus incidentals, meaning expenses. Murphree said Stewart told her she paid it.
Murphree said her main issue was that Ellis was representing himself as employer of Tupleo High School, which he is not authorized to do.
Murphree is now reading another contract between Ellis and McMahon. This one was for $750 plus incidentals. She said it appears that Ellis signed the contract. She said her issue is that Ellis is representing himself on behalf of high school as employer.
Another exhibit is a program from Wave Connection. It has handwritten notes from Murphree noting who had arranged which song for and how much had been paid for each song. For three songs, Ellis and another arranger were both paid. There was a fourth song that Ellis was paid to arrange but there was no written record of that song being arranged.
Looking at another program. Song “Crush crush crush” Ellis and another arranger were both paid to arrange it. Another song “I drove all night” Allegro Music Arranger was paid to arrange that. Stimpson asked whether there was an issue with that. Murphree said she doesn’t remember.
Murphree is reading an email from Ellis to Stewart from June 2011. In it, Ellis asks for the club to pay an arranger. Murphree said her concern was that they were pre-paying for products and services they weren’t getting the benefit of.
Butts objects that he was not given the current exhibits. Stimpson said the district does not have any obligation to provide documents.
Murphree is speaking of an excel document she created that filtered information she received from Stewart. It contains invoices Ellis had submitted to the district for arranging and the money he was paid.
It lists invoice dates of June 16, July 14, Oct. 15 and Nov. 30. All 2010. $7,400 was paid to Ellis for arranging music.
She has the same information for 2011. It also contains a submission for “gas for Gail.” Murphree said that she doesn’t know what that was for.
Ellis was paid $450 for arranging music. Total was $557.81, including the amount for gas.
Invoice dates were June 7, 2011, July 14, 2011 and July 27?, 2011.
Murphree is mentioned another Excel document for 2010. She compared each of the songs provided on the invoice to the programs of music performed by the groups. She put Xs if the song wasn’t performed. Other notations are for songs not arranged at all or for songs that had multiple arrangers or songs for which no formal music was produced.
On page 1. June 16, 2010. Eliis was paid $2,400 for arranging music. Stimpson “Tell me about each song and what you found.” One song was performed, one was not performed, two were not arranged, one had someone else also paid to arrange some song, one was printed from musicnotes.com, two were not performed.
Stimpson: That bill for $2,400 represents songs he arranged, was paid for and were not arranged or were arranged by someone else?
Murphree: That is correct.
Now she is referred to an entry from July in which he billed about $3,000
One had no formal written music, one not performed, one someone else paid to arrange same song, one not performed, another not performed, another had someone else paid to arrange same song, one not performed, one he billed twice, another one not performed.
Now referred to an entry from August. It has a few songs that an arranger billed the district to arrange and Ellis was also paid to arrange same songs.
Now referred to an entry in which the treasurer paid Ellis by there was no description in the check for what he was being paid for.
Now referred to a payment made to Ellis in November, 2010. It has several songs that Ellis was paid to arrange and someone else was paid to arrange the same song.
Now an entry from 2011. One song was not performed, one song someone else was paid to arrange some song as Ellis and another someone else was also paid and it was never performed.
Murphree said Stewart gave her the programs so that she could double check which songs were performed.
Murphree is referring to another document she created. Said she learned that many other songs were arranged without permissions to arrange them.
Now exhibit 64, the one 10-99 that Stewart had prepared. She said that no 10-99 was prepared for Ellis. She said that the threshold is that 10-99 should be issued for $600 in a calendar year. She said that it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to report income even if he doesn’t have a 10-99.
Stimpson asks Murphree if she recalls a receipt for expenses for gas for a Laurel trip. Murphree said she does and that she was concerned because there was no receipt for that. She learned that Ellis charged for gas for going to Laurel to serve as a judge for a choral competition that Tupelo was not performing in. She said that he went as an independent judge but that he charged the booster club and that he did not get pre-approval for that expense. She said she did not know whether Ellis was paid for judging.
Murphree said the problem with not securing a 10-99 is that the burden of reporting income is on the taxpayers. Without a 10-99 the IRS does not have a record of income.
Murphree is referred to a contract from an arranger to Ellis. Contract said that copyright permissions would be obtained that the responsibility to obtain the copyright permissions was on the district and not on the arranger, Anderson.
Second page is an email from Ellis to Stewart in August 2009. It said he is trying to find two invoices and asks what happens if he’s lost them. There is also an email from Anderson to Ellis. It says that an invoice for the season was attached. Muphree said that Steward pre-paid it for $1,100.
Stimpson completes her examination of Murphree. Butts is about the begin his cross.
Butts asks Murphree why this is the first time she has audited the books of the booster club books and why this was the first time. Murphree said that this wasn’t an audit but was a review. She said that she had reviewed the books before, three separate times.
Butts: you have been employed with the district for 3.5 years in those 3.5 years how many reviews of booster club records have you performed.
Murphree said she has just done one review, this review of choral club booster club financial record. She had done reviews before of other booster club. She said that Finacne Director Linda Pannell asked her to review the records. She didn’t know why but generally she is asked to do a review when there are problems.
Butts: Is it your understanding that no public funds were involved within operation of booster club?
Murphree said that is correct.
Butts: We are not talking about tax money levied by the school district, we are talking about funds raised by the booster club? Murphree said that is correct.
Butts asks Murphree if the district has any authority over how booster club spends its money. Murphree said not over how they spend their money but that fundraisers and the goals of the club do come before the board.
She said that if something wasn’t an approved activity by the board, then they couldn’t spend their money on an activity that wasn’t pre-approved.
Butts: Otherwise, the board of trustees and the district doesn’t exercise any authority over day-to-day spending of funds by booster club?
Meadows said that is correct.
Butts said, we are not talking about one cent of public funds, right?
Muphree said that is correct.
Murphree said that the booster club has a board that is supposed to approve funds spent by booster club.
Butts: We can draw that any and all expenses were approved by board of choral booster club.
Murphree said she doesn’t think so. She said that if a check is paid before club approves it doesn’t mean that they approve it.
Butts said that all expenses were approved by Stewart. He said that Ellis did not write any checks.
Butts: The process is that Mr Ellis would either get approval for an expenditure and Ms. Stewart would pay it or with a credit card, he would submit it to Teri Stewart and she would pay it?
Murphree said that was correct.
Butts: We have not seen anything where board or a member disagreed with any of those payments.
Murphree said that to her knowledge she hadn’t seen that.
Butts refers to the exhibits. Said, you claim that Mr. Ellis exceeded his authority by signing a contract to Tupelo High School or the district. Murphree said that is correct.
Butts: These two contracts are between Ellis and Jamie MacMAhon. It is your contention that that phrase, Calvin Ellis of Tupelo HS constitutes him being a signee for the district.
Murphree said that is correct. She said that item A
Butts: It does not maintain that McMahon is an employee of THS.
The questioning is asking why Murphree took the contract to mean that Ellis was signing for the high school.
Murphree: If I am not mistaken, the employment contracts they have at the high school doesn’t say by, it just has a line where they sign for the high school.
Butts: Is there anything in there that specifically says that Mr.Ellis is obligating the district to anything.
Muphree said that in item A it says he is engaged in the business of high school show choir.
Butts: You maintain this is a contract where Mr. Ellis improperly obligated TPSD to a contractual obligation, what payment did district make to Jamie McMahon.
Murphee: IT did not but if the booster club hadn’t paid Ms. McMahon for her services, she would come to the district for it because it has Tupelo High School on the contract.
Butts: Is it pure speculation by you that she would have come to the district?
Murphree: Yes sir.
Butts refers Murphree to an exhibit, Ellis’ contract. He directs her to portion of his contract that deals with supplemental pay. Murphree said it covers anything associated with show choir duties. Butts asks how she knows whether arranging is included in show choir director duties.
Murphree: I don’t know if we have anything that spells out what duties are involved in any supplement.
Butts: Do you know if arranging duties are covered by Mr. Ellis’ supplement.
Murphree: I don’t have a fact in front of me that says that….I can give you an opinion and I can give you a fact. My opinion is that it covers arranging. The fact is I don’t have anything in front of me that says that.
Butts: What leads you to that conclusion?
It say THS show choir directing. It leads one to believe that any duties involved with show choir directing falls under that.
Butts: Let’s say this covers his time after school with students. Do you whether or not while he is arranging songs, he is with students?
Murphree: I do not.
Butts: A significant portion of your testimony deals with credit card documents and credit card receipts. Do you have a document showing how much we are talking about in undocumented credit card receipts.
Murphree: I do not.
Butts: Were you not interested?
Murphree: I was but most expenditures that did not have documentation had students involved, whether Mr. Ellis took a group of students to eat or something of that nature.
Butts: Correct me if I’m worng, I took your testimony to mean Mr. Ellis improperly charged some expense to credit card, is that correct?
Murphree said it is correct.
Butts: Are you saying that in your opinion, Mr. Ellis improperly charged whatever amount to booster club credit card?
Murphree: That is correct.
She said she could go over those if she had everything in front of her but that as part of her work she didn’t compile those charges.
Butts: You can’t tell us what those charges are or how much they are and that you don’t have any documentation to back that up?
Muphree said that is correct.
Butts asks if this is for booster club credit card and that it does not involve any public funds. Murprhee said that is correct., that she answered that earlier.
Butts asks if she had ever seen any record where boosters asked Ellis to pay something back. Murphree said that is correct, she answered that earlier.
Butts asks Murphree if she knows anything about music education or show choirs and about whether arrangements or choreography need to be redone to fit in a show. Murphree said she does not know.
Butts: What do you know about financial end of show choir.
Murphree: I do know how to look at a set of books and review them.
Under questioning, Muphree said she wouldn’t know whether an arranged song could not be used because show had changed.
She said that any copyright that had been paid would have been paid by booster club, not by the school district. She said that she would not know whether Ellis or the booster club even had to apply for permissions for any of these songs.
Butts: You have testified about bylaws and constitution of booster club, on one occasion, Mr. Ellis was paid some $7,400 in 2010. It is your contention that Mr. Ellis should not have been paid that because by-laws said members should not be compensated. What directed your attention to that?
Murphree said she requested the bylaws as part of her review.
Butts said that booster club, not district, paid Ellis and that any objection to that payment would be made by booster club not by district.
Butts is asking about the 10-99, saying that it is the individual’s responsibility to report to the IRS. Asks if she has seen
Murphree said she had seen his tax return because it was on his school-issued laptop when he turned it in. She accessed his tax return for the 2010 year.
Butts: How did you find it?
Murphree: It was on his desktop.
Butts asks if she went through every file and she said she didn’t. He asks how she came across that.
Muprhee said she looks at every laptop when it is turned in. Since she had done this work, she saw the tax return on there and looked at the tax return and saw that income was not reported.
Murphree said she got a legal opinion from Stimpson if it was OK to look at the tax return. She said she got that permission after she looked at the document.
Butts asks if there were other personal documents on that computer. Murphree said there were some pictures. Butts asks if they were printed out. Murphree said she didn’t know.
Butts asked whether Muphree knew whether Ellis filed an amendment to his return. Murphree said she did not and that she did not know whether to tax return on the laptop was the one that was filed.
Butts asks about exhibit 65, a contract from Steve Anderson. Date is August 10, 2009. No signature is on there. He asks if she has any knowledge of obligations of music arrangers to obtain copyright permissions. Murphree said she did not.
Butts asks if there were other such contracts. Murphee said there were, said she does not know why this one contract was brought up and others weren’t.
Stimpson is about to begin re-direct.
Murphree said when she finished her review she wrote down conclusions and presented them to the superintendents. Stimpson summarized the conclusions, including, Ellis’ conflict of interest, that it did not appear to be a 10-99 issued to Mr. Ellis and that the Constitution of booster club maintained that no member could receive contribution and Ellis did
Stimpson asks does district have the duty to ensure district employees act in a trustworthy manner with its booster clubs?
Murphee said it does.
Murphree is asked about the acceptable use policy. She said that all employees must sign it when they are given their laptops. She said the policy states that any information on those computers is district property.
Stimpson asked a question about the supplement for the football coach and other coaches, but I didn’t catch the question.
Stimspon completed her re-direct of Murphree.
Hearing begins a 10-minute break.
Next witness is on the stand. It is Suzy White Williams. She is choral director in Tupelo. Hired by Jason Harris at the end of July. She said she was interviewed by Harris and Niki Peel and that Ellis sat in on the interview.
Williams: Said the job was enticing to her, it was to direct Sound Wave, the women’s show choir and another advanced women’s choir and that it did not involving teaching Wave Connection, which her daughter was in at the time. She said she did not want to teach Wave Connection.
She said when she was hired her schedule stated that she was a coach assistant first period, taught Madrigals second period, Women’s choral third period, coach assistant fourth period. Also had a homeroom class, a keyboard class and advanced women’s choral.
Stimpson: How much time between the time you were hired and the time classes started?
Williams: The offical word I was hired was bout July 17 and the formal paperwork began at that time. She said she reported to work on August 1. She first saw the schedule on that day. Students reported on Thursday of that week.
Stimpson asked if she spoke to her principal about that schedule. Williams said she did in order to be prepared for those classes. She asked Harris if those were the classes she would be teaching and he told her they were.
She said she received phone calls from several parents that she was scheduled to teach their children’s classes.
She said she did not have anything to do with the schedule she was given and that she never asked anyone to alter the schedule. She said she spoke with Ms. Bullock, the other choral director about the fact that the women’s choir had been hers to teach. Williams said she just wanted to know what she was expected to teach so that she could be prepared.
Williams said the schedule did change before the year began. She said she continued to be concerned that Thursday when roll around and she would not be prepared to teach the classes she was supposed to teach. She continued to check with counselors about the schedule and that she learned that Wednesday her classes had been altered. New schedule had her coach assistant, off period, coach assistant, coach assistant, home room, keyboard class and advanced women’s choral.
Stimpson: You went from teaching five classes on original schedule to two classes.
Stimpson: What does coach assistant mean?
Williams: My experience has been that person has you in there if they need you or otherwise not.
Stimpson asksed if Williams disussed her schedule with Ellis. Williams said she did. She said I just need to know what I am teaching so I can be prepared. She said Ellis told her the schedule was not correct and that Madrigals was his class and he ahd the right to teach it. She said Ellis told her he was the director of choral activites and that he decides who teaches what.
Williams said she spoke with Debra Atkinson the person who had her position before her. She said Atkinson told Williams that her class roster had been changed and that she was essentially a secretary and an accompaniest to Mr. Ellis and that she should be careful she did not end up as a secretary and an accompanist.
Williams said she was also choral director at the Tupelo High School in 2000-01. Mr. Mac Curlee was her principal then.
Prior to acception the job, she spoke with Curlee about tutoring. She said she was a late hire because person who held the job vacated late in the summer. At the time, she had 47 private voice students. Curlee told her that if she came to work, she couldn’t teach any student privately she taught during school day. Williams said that resulted in her giving up most of her students, she could keep younger ones or ones not in a class she taught. Said Curlee told her it was a conflict of interest.
Stimpson: Are you aware of any tutoring by Mr. Eliis.
Williams said yes and that it was during school day. She said she was aware Mr. Ellis had a private voice studio. Said she noticed during her eight-period class, students would go in music library to have lessons with Mr. Ellis. Williams said she had one conversation where Ellis accused Williams or turning her in. Williams told him she did not turn him in but that she did think it was a conflict of interest.
Stimpson: Did you ever speak to your principal about Ellis tutoring.
Williams said she was asked abut the tutoring and she said yes, but that she did not initiate the question.
Public was dismissed at 11:19 a.m. because Williams would be testifying about a matter that involved students.
Hearing is recessed for lunch until about 1 or 1:15 p.m.
Hearing resumes with Suzy Williams on the stand.
Williams said she has a docorate in vocal pedagogy. Her undergraduate degree is from Southeastern Louisiana and her master’s and doctorate are from Ole Miss.
She said she did learn about copyright in her classes. She said she learned about it both through music education and church jobs. She said it is illegal to make mass copies of choral music. She said when she was chairman of Charity Ball they were using a piece from Phantom of the Opera. They purchased the music. Junior Auxiliary is a non-profit. She printed out all pertinent copy right laws to be sure they were safe.
Williams said when she met with Ms. Atkinson before the school year began some of their connection was about what plans had been made for Sound Wave. Some of that involved agreement made with Steve Anderson to arrange 4 to 6 songs. She then put that on hold when she knew that she was leaving and a new director was taking her place.
Williams said she knew copyright permissions took time to obtain and she used a few different songs. She said at a mid-September booster club meeting, she reported which songs she had obtained copyright for. She said Ellis was at that meeting and reported that he was still in the process of obtaining copyright.
Williams said someone brought up you could do it if you are not charging a fee and that there was discussion about doing it anyway and asking for forgiveness later. She said many people were talking. Several people were trying to help come up with solutions for what could be done for Wave Connection to be able to have their show in October.
Stimpson asks if she was involved with any booster meetings with Ellis following that meeting? Williams said she was not.
Stimpson: When you were hired by the school district, did you execute an employment contract?
Williams said she did. Said she didn’t read the contract. Said she was familiar with the Mississippi Code of Educator Conduct being in the contract and that she read and signed it.
Stimpson finished her direct exmanition.
Butts will be asking questions concerning students, so hearing goes into closed session at 1:16 p.m
Hearing is back in open session. Williams is still testifying.
Butts is asking Williams about her previous employment. She said she has worked at ICC previously. Butts asked Williams about her employment. Stimpson objected. Lawyers conferred and hearing went back into closed session at 2:02 p.m.
Hearing resumes at 2:10 p.m.
Butts: We’ve established that Mr. Ellis did not recommend you for the position but that he recommended Danielle Freerer. Did you hold any resentment against him because of that?
Williams said no.
Butts asks how long Williams has known Tupelo High School Principal Harris. Williams said about two years. She said he has never visited her house.
Butts: You said your schedule changed so that several of your class periods were defined as coach assistant. Coach assistant means what?
Williams: Helper, I guess.
Butts: When you took the job, did you understand you were to teach or instruct Madrigals?
Williams: There was no discussion about that.
Williams said she was told she was to teach Advanced Women’s Choir and Sound Wave.
Butts: When you talk about new schedule, operating under (a different schedule, changed schedule)….You attribute that change to Mr. Ellis?
Williams said she doesn’t know who changed it.
Butts asks what helper means. Williams said she doesn’t know what coach assistant means. She said that during her interview process she said she wouldn’t care to co-direct. Said she thinks it is confusing for students to have two directors, thinks it causes problems. She said that she is off first period, Madrigals second period, coach assistant for women’s’ choral, Sound Wave, assists MS. Bullock with a group, homeroom, key board, advanced women’s. After school she does Sound Wave.
40 students are in Sound Wave now, she said. They will have a public competition in April and will go to a competition this weekend. Williams said they are going to two other competitions.
Butts: Concerning Mr. Ellis’ double dipping, as you called, are you aware of any board policy that teachers should not tutor students they teach during the day.
Williams said she doesn’t know if a policy exists or not, she just doesn’t think it is appropriate.
Butts asks whether she saw Ellis tutoring students on school time. Williams said she did at least two. Said she doesn’t know for how long and that she did not report that to Ellis.
Butts: Do you know how it came about that one of the charges in his termination letter is double dipping and tutoring students on school time.
She said she does not.
Butts asks Williams how much training she has in copyright. Williams said she learned it as part of her music education classes at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Butts asks whether she has ever previously directed a show choir. Williams said she directed Spirit of Ole Miss show choir in 1993 when she was in school. Said she was on a fellowship with choral department at Ole Miss.
Butts: From 1993 until this year, you have not had any direct involvement in directing a show choir?
Butts: When you were chairman of Charity Ball, was it Phantom of Opera song.
Williams said yes. Said they were exempt from needing to get copyright permission because they were a not-for-profit organization.
Butts: In preparing for Sound Wave performances did you obtain copyrights for songs that would be performed?
Williams said yes. She said contract she was working from was signed by Ms. Atkinson with Steve Anderson as arranger. Contract said THS would have to get the permission.
Williams said she used pre-done arrangements by a guy named Jeff Bowen. He puts out a book of arrangements he had done in the past. They had been previously approved.
Butts asks if Williams worked with any other arrangers/
Williams said she called Bowen. The choral boosters paid for the copyright and the arrangement. Said they paid Treysona for the copyright and Bowen for the arrangement.
Butts: If it turns out it was not necessary for Sound Wave to get any copyright permissions would you consider the money spent to get those permissions squandered?
Stimpson objects to the question.
Butts: I would like for you to assume Sound Wave did not need to get any copyright permission. If that is true, the money spent by the booster club would have been wasted or squandered money?
Williams: I would agree.
Butts completes his cross examination.
Stimpson begins redirect.
Williams said she took hair and makeup night to be a school event, not an optional event. She said it was her understanding that in such events girls should be keeping students under control. Williams said she was told that Ms. Ellis accompanied the girls earlier in the night. Said there were no sexually-suggestive items used when the girls pulled a prank on the boys’ cars.
Stimpson completes her re-direct of Williams, ending her testimony.
Hearing takes a break at 2:30 p.m.
Tupelo High School Principal Jason Harris is the next witness on the stand as the hearing resumes.
Harris said he has know Ellis since July, 2011. Since he started at Tupelo High School on July 1.
Harris is asked about his hiring of Dr. Suzy Williams. Said Dr. Atkinson left before he started and he needed to fill that position. Said he and assistant principal Niki Peel conducted her interview.
Butts said it would be helpful to know what charges Harris would be dealing with so he could determine the relevancy.
Compton said he has never seen anyone have to outline that before. Overruled.
Keith: How did Mr. Ellis come to sit in on that interview.
Harris said he invited him to come in more as a courtesy since they would have to work together. He thought it would be beneficial.
Harris said that Ellis didn’t make a preference to him but said that he knew everyone who had interviewed for the position.
Keith asks what Harris knows about the schedule change.
Harris said he knows there was a schedule change made for Ellis to take Madrigals. At the time, he would not have known the difference if he was the director or not. He said the schedule was set before Harris came on board.
Harris said they try to make as few changes to the schedule as possible. He said Ellis made the changes that occurred to Williams’ schedule.
Harris is given a document, exhibit 66. Said document is email correspondence between Ellis and himself on July 12 with follow-up on July 13. Said subject is to thank him for sitting in on the interviews. Said he spoke with parents concerning the retreat and that they wanted to take trip as a parent-sponsored activity. Ellis asked if they could take trip as a booster-club sponsored event rather than a school-sponsored event.
Keith: What trip?
Harris: They wanted to take a trip to Smith Lake with Wave Connection group. Said Ellis brought the trip to him originally. Harris said he was not comfortable with the venue. Said the lake is really deep, there is a lot of liability with taking a group of high school students to the lake.
Harris said in the email he would not approve the field trip to Smith Lake. He was not against the trip but was against the venue. Said he also would not approve it as a booster club trip.
Harris said as a follow-up he had a request for students to spend the night in the PAC as a Wave Connection bonding event.
Keith asks Harris what issues he expressed.
Harris said he had an issue they would stay up all night. He said he was not comfortable with the students staying up all night at the school.
Asked about a trip to Disney.
Harris said permission was requested for a trip to Disney in December. Said the trip did not occur because of revenue and the boosters not being able to meet the need of students requesting scholarships.
Keith asks Harris about the pranking incident on Sept. 30. Keith asks how that matter came to Harris’ attention.
Harris said his first notification came on that Monday, mid-afternoon. He said Meadows contacted him, said he received a phone call about an event that happened over the weekend that caused some concern. He said Meadows said a parent would be coming to see Harris to advise him about what happened. Harris said the following day, two parents came to see him.
The parents told Harris they had an event on Friday night. Girls got together at a parents home and boys went to Mr. Ellis’ home. Some pranking occurred where inappropriate items were purchased at Walmart. Vaseline, condoms, bananas and car paint. Harris said earlier in the evening the girls left where they were and went to where boys’ cars were parked and wrote different things on the cars. The boys found out and wanted to retaliate and go to where girls were staying and re-prank them.
Keith asked Harris what he did.
Harris said he notified Meadows he received the report and started an investigation to find out what happened. Said he went to students who ahd been involved and have them write out a report of what occurred.
Keith said they will now need to talk about student names, and hearing goes into closed session at 2:58 p.m.
Hearing is open again.
Harris said he was asked during the investigation to call principal at Petal High School to find out why Tupelo show choirs hadn't been invited back there. Harris said he called and learned that Tupelo students hadn't acted appropriately. Said the Petal principal told him that Tupelo students had trashed a room there and that Petal parents did not want them back. The principal said that he called and told then Tupelo principal Lee Stratton about that. Harris said that Tupelo has not since been invited back.
Jim Keith finishes his examination of Harris.
Butts is about to begin his cross.
Butts asks Harris about scheduling in choral department. What is his knowledge about Mr. Elli’s involvment in Williams’ schedule.
Harris said when he arrived master schedule had been completed. When they interviewed for Williams’ position they had the schedule listed. Ellis would have later changed it. Harris said he would trusted Ellis to know if there was an error in the schedule that needed to be adjusted.
Butts: Had you been aware of other scheduling problems with master schedule in previous years?
Harris: Not really, but I know in scheduling there are a lot of conflicts because it is a domino. I was not aware of anything prior at Tupelo High School.
Butts: School starts and then in early October you get a call from Mr. Meadows that you should expect a call or a visit from a parent. Harris said correct.
Butts: You started two parents came to visit you?
Butts: From that you began your investigation, you were identifying all of the kids who were there. How did you do that?
Harris: Said he went to master list. He asked first kid he spoke to to list who was there. Then he asked other students.
Butts asked if it was a school-sponsored event.
Harris said if you had a gathering like that with a staff member, it was a school-sponsored event. Harris said he did not know whether such events had happened in the past and had not been considered school sponsored events. Harris said he never told Ellis it should be a school-sponsored event.
Butts: To be a school-sponsored event, you need to get it approved by administration and then need permissions from parents. None of that occurred here?
Harris said correct.
Butts asks whether anyone asked whether it has been considered a school-wide event in the past. Harris said probably Mr. Meadows. He said he investigated everything he was asked to investigate and then turned everything over to Mr. Meadows.
Butts asks if Harris has seen Tupelo city curfew law. Harris said he had seen it but couldn’t remember last time he had seen it. He said his understanding of it is that you have to be in your residence unless you have permission from your parents. Butts asks whether Harris investigated whether students had permission from parents. Harris said he did not speak to the parents but some students said they had left because they had a home curfew.
Butts asks if children stayed out after midnight with permission of parents they did not violate curfew law. Harris said he does not know.
Butts: Lets get back to your investigation.
Harris said he interviewed all of the boys but not all of the girls. Butts asks why not all of the girls. Harris said they were working through exams and he was able to get enough of the student statements. Going through exams and it was hard to get with the timeframe.
Butts: After you gathered these statements from the students, what did you do with them?
Harris said he turned the information in to Mr. Meadows. Also kept a copy.
He said Ellis emailed him and he came and they discussed it. Harris said Ellis’ quote was that his biggest mistake was that he did not look in the bag to see what was in the bag.
Butts: He asserted that he did not know condoms would be used in the prank?
Harris said he reported to Meadows exactly what Ellis said.
Butts: By the time Ellis was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6, …Refers to a letter, exhibit 27. Asks Harris to look at it.
Harris said he and Personnel Director Jim Turner wrote the letter. It was the letter that told Ellis he was being placed on administrative leave.
Harris said reason why Ellis was being put on administrative leave was not expressly said in the letter. He said that he and Turner had met with Ellis and told him why he was being placed on administrative leave.
Butts: You are telling him we are putting you on administrative leave because of incident that occurred on Sept. 30 and you are to follow these instructions, is that correct.
Harris said yes.
Butts said that letter said that Ellis was to have zero contact with students and with students with whom he was conducting private lessons. Asks Harris to explain.
Harris: Mr Ellis was giving lessons to students on campus. We knew that would be a conflict because her couldn’t interact with students. Said Ellis wrote down the names of students he was giving voice lessons to and Harris contacted them and said Ellis would not be able to tutor those students at school while he was placed on administrative leave.
Harris said he could not tutor his high school students while being placed on administrative leave. Harris said he wrote a letter to those parents and then personally called them.
Butts said that Harris also told Ellis not to come on school property, not to have contact with students, not to have contact with district employees other than Meadows, Harris or Tuner. Also not to have any retaliatory measures.
Harris said that he wanted to make sure as they were conducting investigation Ellis didn’t have any interaction with students.
Butts said you told Ellis to contact Turner’s office every day at 3 p.m. to discover whether investigation had been completed. Said Ellis had to turn in ID badge and keys and to get any of his property off THS campus.
Butts: Did you determine to put him on administrative leave or were you instructed to do so?
Harris said the superintendent made that decision.
Butts: At the meeting with Mr. Ellis, what was the allegation against him at that time?
Harris: It was not an allegation, we were conducting an investigation.
Butts: It does say of recent allegations, what were the recent allegations?
Harris: That he had students at his house at an undesirable hour.
Butts: Was Ellis given opportunity to discuss this situation fully?
Harris No. Said only conversation with Ellis was the previous one in his office. Said there was no conversation with Meadows to his knowledge. Said he had no conversations with Ellis between the date Ellis was placed on leave and the date he was terminated.
Butts: Is it part of procedure that you give teacher an opportunity to defend himself before you take administrative action against them?
Harris said he has seen it done different ways. Sometimes there is a concersation. Sometimes person is put on leave and brought back and has a conversation later. He said that is the superintendent’s decision.
Harris said that he is not aware of an opportunity Ellis was given to meet with anyone in the administration and go over all of these charges.
Keith objects saying it would be speculative.
Haris said he did not have any knowledge. The last time he had spoken with Ellis was that day, Oct. 6.
Butts: One would think that a school district and its principals, administrators superintendent would work to afford its teachers a full opportunity to explain any concerns that come up with his job before taking administrative action against him.
Keith objects, speculative.
Butts: Is it a part of the Tupelo Public School District’s policy to afford accused teachers an opportunity to give an explanation before disciplinary action is taken.
Harris said he is not sure whether there is a written policy. Said it probably lies under the discretion of the superintendent.
Butts: Are you aware of any policies that a superintendent should give an accused teacher an opportunity to (defend self) prior to any disciplinary action being taken.
Harris said he is not aware.
Butts: Have you worked in other districts?
Harris said yes.
Butts asks if Harris is aware of policies in other districts that give teachers an opportunity to defend selves before action is taken.
Harris said he doesn’t know.
Butts asks Harris about Ellis being able to sit in on interviews for choral directors job. Harris said Ellis was there and that he did not make a recommendation about whom he would prefer.
Butts: During those interviews, did you and Ms. Peel and Mr. Ellis complete score sheets?
Harris said they did. He said that Ellis scored someone beside Ms. Williams higher than he scored Williams.
Butts directs Harris to an email between Harris and Ellis. In it Harris said Tupelo High School would not authorize a performance with songs that do not have copyright permissions. Butts asks Harris his familiarity with copyright law. Harris said he is not a copyright guru but during his time at Columbus High School they did have a show choir and it would not perform songs without copyright permission.
Butts: Did you assume Mr. Ellis needed copyright permission for all songs to be performed by show choir.
Harris said he needed permission for every song to be performed. He knew that from his time at Columbus High School and his principal there telling him.
Harris said he consulted Ms. Stimpson about that and that he remained convinced that Ellis needed to have copyright permissions before the show could go on.
Butts: Are you familiar with whether or not Tupelo Public School District has ever expended public money to get copyright permission for any song.
Harris said he knew they had gotten permission from J.W. Pepper before.
Butts: The booster club pays for the copyright permission is that your understanding?
Harris said for some but that the school has bought some copyright permissions, from J.W. Pepper, this year.
Butts: Are you aware of potential of other copyright violations that may occur at your high school.
Keith objects on relevancy.
Butts: I want to find out if there are other alleged violations other than this one, what are you doing about it?
Harris said he is not aware of any alleged violations. He said he checked with others, checked with the band. They told him they are not violating copyright.
Butts asks Harris about his conversation with Petal High School principal.
Butts: His statement to you was that some Tupelo students had trashed a room?
Harris said correct and that their behavior was substandard. He said he did not go to that competition.
Butts asked if he had talked to students or parents involved. Harris said many of those students had graduated from the high school because it had occurred two years earlier.
Butts asks if Harris knows whether Lee Stratton took any disciplinary action against Ellis. Harris said he did not know.
Butts: Are you aware of any situations where a teacher has been fired without being disciplined first. If you have notice of some misconduct on the part of the teacher, would you fire them without instituting any discipline first.
Harris: I don’t know of any. That would be whatever supervisor makes that decision.
Harris said he has never fired a teacher, that is superintendent’s decision.
Butts: We talked about the statements you gathered from many of the students involved. Would you agree with me there is nothing in any of those statements that indicate Ellis knew condoms would be involved in the prank.
Harris: No, it just said that he went to the store with them, but none of them explicitly wrote that he knew exactly what they were buying.
Butts asking about termination letter. Asks Harris whether he met with anyone from booster club about allegation Ellis had squandered booster funds. Harris said no.
Butts: What about allegation of improper conduct in allowing show choir members to run laps around the PAC?
Harris said he did not.
Butts asks about Harris having conversations with parents about other charges. He said he did speak with booster club treasurer Teri Stewart.
Harris said he did not do any investigation into allegation of telling students to skip class. Said he didn’t investigate charge of coercing students to skip class.
Butts: As I understand, really the extent of your investigation is getting the statement of these kids involving this pranking icncident. Beside the copyright.
Butts: In your judgement, should Mr. Ellis have been given an opportunity to address these charges before he was fired.
Harris: I think he was affored an opportunity, I think he met with the superintendent. Said he was not there for that.
Butts ends cross and Jim Keith begins redirect.
Harris said he has concerns about how other school districts view Tupelo High School. Said he was concerned by what Petal High principal told him about substandard behavior.
Keith asks about copyright. Haris said Ellis told him that he had four songs at the time, said ‘no news is good news’ and that he felt confident he would be able to obtain copyright.
Harris said Ellis never told him that there was no need to get copyright. Said Ellis said this all came about from Glee phenomenon. Told Harris he was working to get permissions.
Keith asks about Williams’ interview.
Harris said that Williams scored the highest of the candidates interviewed. He said that other candidates would not know about how they scored.
Harris is referred to a letter placing Harris on paid administrative leave. Keith asks if Harris was still a paid employee of the school district at that time. Harris said yes.He said the letter was given to Ellis the day after he and Ellis had a conversation about the event.
Harris said Ellis told him he stayed in the car the whole time but students said Ellis had gone into Walmart and looked at magazines. Said he was not getting a consistent report from Ellis and students.
Keith asks Harris why it is helpful to place an employee on administrative leave during an investigation?
Harris said it helps by removing them from the situation and taking them out of the situation.
Keith: Was it your belief Mr. Ellis knew exactly why he was being placed on administrative leave?
Harris said yes. He said Ellis didn’t ask him why he was being placed on administrative leave.
Keith: What concerns did you have when Mr. Ellis told you that his biggest mistake was not looking in the students’ bags?
Harris: The biggest thing was being in a car with high school students at that hour and if an accident had occurred not being able to defend that.
Keith: Was his biggest mistake not looking in their bags?
Harris: Probably his mistake was being in the car, period.
Keith: Did any parent tell you their child had permission to be out with Mr. Ellis pranking other students’ cars?
Keith asks what understanding Harris had about hair and makeup night and whether or not it was optional for students.
Harris said he did see an email a concerned parent showed him, an email from Ellis asking whether her child was in or out.
Keith asked Harris whether the fact that approval was not required in past years for the event made it appropriate to not get permission this year?
Harris said no.
Keith: What authority did Ellis have to change the schedule?
Haris: Teachers can’t change the schedule.
Harris said when condom pranking event happened, Ellis never came to him to talk to him about it prior to Harris beginning his investigation.
Keith asks Harris if he is Ellis’ direct supervisor.
Harris said he is.
Keith concludes his redirect of Harris. Harris is done testifying.
Tammy Harrington is called as the next witness. She said she has children in Tupelo school district and her daughter is in choral department.
She said he child has been involved since 9 th grade. She has known the Ellis’ since her daughter was in seventh grade. Mrs. Ellis was her daughter’s theater teacher in seventh grade.
Harrington said she was booster club secretary in 2009-10 and 2010-11. She also served as parent rep for the Madrigal group. During that time, Tracey Hudson was president, Beth Holliman was vice president and Teri Stewart was treasurer.
Stimpson: After Mr. Ellis’ termination, did you have conversations with any other parents about the charges that resulted in his termination.
She said she did not recall any conversations. She said she did read them in the newspaper but that she doesn’t remember specifically talking about them with anyone.
Harrington is directed to an exhibit. She said it showed that the club didn’t have any money left to get any additional music or additional choreography.
Sitmpson asks if Ellis had contacted her after he had been placed on leave?
Harrington said she got a phone call and text message, saying he had some questions he wanted answered. Harrington said it was after his dismissal. She said he texted him back and said she was hesitant to get involved if she didn’t have to be because it had become such a hostile topic in the community.
Harrington said she was familiar with show choir board but that she was not on it.
Hearing goes into closed session at 4:38 p.m. because Harrington's testimony will involve a student matter.
Harrington completes her testimony, most of which was done in closed session.
Hearing is recessed until 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
The Tupelo Public School District held its annual reading fair today at the Civic Auditorium. Below are the winners of each division:
A– 1st: Dillion Ruth Dorsett, Carver; 2nd: Dayla Wright, Thomas; 3rd: Carter Newsom, Parkway
B– 1st: Lindsay Hopkins, Thomas; 2nd: Lydia Wood, Joyner; 3rd: Lily Riddle, Parkway
C– 1st: Emerson Love, Parkway; 2nd: Evie Crawford, Thomas; 3rd: Turner Leathers, Joyner
D- 1st: Lauren Williamson, Lawhon; 2nd: Erin Ruth Waters, Pierce; 3rd: Reid Hardison, Rankin
E– 1st: Jolia Pongetti, Rankin; 2nd: Maddie West, Pierce; 3rd: Nygil Owens, Lawhon
F– 1st: Olivia Collier, TMS
H– 1st: Anna Calhoun, Milam; 2nd: Timothy Locastro, Pierce; 3rd: Taylor Johnson, Rankin
J– 1st: Gray Shettles and Meri Alan Wolfe, Joyner; 2nd: Campbell Kellett and Elizabeth Gaines, Rankin; 3rd: Pedro Aguilar, Bo Burroughs, Zoe Hendrick and Henry Loaeza, Carver
K– 1st: Olivia Gibens and Liza Lesley, Rankin; 2nd: Abbey Russell and Victoria Waller, Pierce; 3rd: Haley Barker, Sidney Bigham and Bella Sykes, Lawndale
M– 1st: Kathryn Meredith, Rankin; 2nd: Ruth Ann Seale, Joyner; 3rd: Andrew Miller, Thomas
N– 1st: Annaka Shumpert, Lawndale; 2nd: Zeta Mooney, Pierce; 3rd: Averei Mata, Rankin
Meeting just began. Board will discuss its agenda at this meeting but will not vote. It will vote at tonight's meeting at Thomas Street Elementary at 5 p.m.
School board vice president Eddie Prather just spoke about the superintendent search. He said that Mike Waldrop of the Mississippi School Board Association will make a presentation to the school board during a specially-called meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 10:30 a.m. The MSBA is the firm conducting the search and the report will outline all of the candidates who have applied. Prather said the report will be lenghthy, which is why Waldrop asked present it during a specially-called meeting when he would be the only item on the agenda.
Prather said that the board would begin conducting interviews after Waldrop's presentation.
The board is discussing two options for next year's school calendar. A link to both options is available on the agenda: https://v3.boardbook.org/Public/PublicAgenda.aspx?ak=1000114&mk=50043021
Board members Rob Hudson and Beth Stone said that the disadvantage of option A is that students would have to take thrid-quarter exams immediately after spring break. Interim superintendent David Meadows said that the staff would review that.
Parents can give feedback on next year's schedule by taking this survey on the district's web site.
Testing coordinator Lea Johnson is presenting a new program this year in which nine retired teachers are tutoring Tupelo High School students who have failed the state test. The students who have worked with the retired-teacher tutors have passed the state test at a 30% rate, while those who have previously failed the test and weren't tutored passed at a 10% rate. Johnson said that the district is also saving money by using these retired teachers instead of the outside experts the district used in the past to help these students.
One algebra student went to seven sessions and raised her score from basic to advanced. Another tutor saw every student that she worked with on the writing test pass that test.
TPSD testing coordinator Talina Knight said that three students who had previously graduated as completers have come back this fall, passed their state test and received a diploma.
Knight said that as the group of students who have failed the state test gets smaller, they will try to use these tutors to help students who have not previously taken the test but need extra help.
Johnson is speaking about analysis the district did on its achievement gap from its common assessment that it gave to its students during the fall.
Meadows said he appreciated the attention that has been called to the district's achievement gap.
"I appreciate calling attention in our community to a real problem our principals and teachers are working to address," Meadows said. "Sometimes we forget the main thing."
Meadows said that on the common assessment the district has begun to see a slight decrease in the size of the gap. He notes the work teachers did over the summer to rewrite the curriculum and create guides to pace teachers as they teach that material.
Meadows: "There are areas we don't need to be proud of such as our fifth-grade science test. What I am happy about is this shows we have started that focus. We are in recognition of that achievement gap that exists among subgoruos of our studnets." Further we are in recognition that we must strive for excellence that will help all of our children achieve at high levels. (That last sentence may be a slight paraphase. I didn't get it precisely).
Meadows said that he believes the district will rise from its level of acadmeic watch.
Johnson said that the average gap in the district is 29 percent. She said some teachers didn't have a significant gap and the district can learn from what they are doing. The data showed a gap in science and the district needs to look at that, she said. "It is what are we doing as a whole group and what are the weaknesses that we can all work on," she said.
Johnson said it is important to have this in front of the district to cause them to focus on it.
This achievement gap data looks at the economically disadvanted subgroup. Meadows said he believes it important to focus on this subgroup because these students often have less access to vocabulary words and educational resources.
Johnson notes efforts two schools have done in addressing their gap. At Pierce Street, they have a program called "Gap time." At Rankin, they have assessment tests to measure students every week.
Rob Hudson said that he feels the board should set the achievement gap as one of its goals because it would be a good marker of student achivement. Stone said at the same time, it must look that it is not just closing the gap but that it is also moving up students on the top. Hudson said he'd like to see achievement gap data with each common assessment. He also asked about science experts that can be brought into the district to help improve its numbers.
Johnson said that the scince teachers felt the way they structured the test each semester may have played a role in why those scores were lower. In other words, most of the science objectives on this test were the ones that are the harder objectives they will encounter throughout the year, more of the inquiry-based objectives.
Hudson said the district is using data differently than it has in the past, not just looking at it but using it as a guide in making decisions. He cited how Rankin principal Paul Moton has used it with teachers.
Meadows: "I can't say enough about what teachers are principals are doing in using data and translating it into teachable information...The Tupelo Public School Distirct is moving forward thanks to the teachers and principals working to get us there."
Prather said he wants the district to communicate what it is doing to close the achievement gap. Meadows said part of that will be continuing to bring reprots. He wil also ask principals to make connections with what they see in high-performing and star districts.
Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill is talking about changes to the graduation policy. Changes would be to allow students in the district's alternative programs to follow state graduation guidelines rather than district guidelines. The district requires 26 credits. The state requires 24 credits and also allows parents to choose an opt-out clause that allows them to graduate with 21 credits. The alternative programs are for student mothers and for those who have fallen two academic years behind their age peers.
Board will vote on the policy tonight.
Hill is also asking the board to approve to out of state field trips. One is for the band to compete in a competition in San Antonio. Another is for the THS cheerleaders to compete in a national competition in Orlando. Board will vote on them tonight.
Board goes into executive session at 1:57 p.m. to discuss personnel matter.
The board will meet again tonight at 5 at Thomas Street Elementary.
Last week, I covered a meeting at the Link Centre in which several Tupelo school parents and citizens expressed their frustration with the Tupelo Public School District Administration. You can read that story here.
One thing that occurred at the meeting that did not make my story was that John Sanders, who led the meeting, offered those in attendance a new yard sign that they could post as a sign of their dissatisfaction. The sign reads
Ask your School Board and City Leaders"
Sanders said it notes the recent white flight out of Tupelo. He said that the group is supportive of the school district but that it has lost confidence in the administration, which he says has led to the system's decline.
Good morning. I will be taking questions this morning about the Daily Journal's "Bridging the Gap" series that ran between Dec. 27 and Dec. 29. The series looks at the school district's educational achievement gap, the critical need to address it and strategies for the school district and community to work together in doing so.
I will be answering questions here between 10 and 11 a.m. You can also leave questions throughout the day and I will answer them periodicially.
I look forward to the conversation. You can leave your questions in the comments section.
Posted is a photo of the finalists in the Kenneth Mayfield essay contest. I wrote a story about the contest in today's paper. The first- second- and third-place winners will be announced on Saturday night.
Front row, from left: Laura Patterson, Bria Burt, Tarsha McKinney and Chickory Copeland
Back row, from left: Andrew Blake Sullivan, Elijah Cortez Atkinson, Joseph Rebentisch, Margaret Ann Horton, Maya Angelou McClinton, Taylor Austin Floyd and Aaliyah Agnew.
Not pictured are Lynn Marie Dunnam, Kelli Collins, Annie Rena Kendrick, Brittany Grayson and Josh Seay
Congratulations to all of the finalists.
Board approves agenda.
12:14 p.m. Board approves previous minutes. Those include meetings for special called meetings Nov. 14 (approve hearing officer for Calvin Ellis hearing) and Nov. 16 (address suit filed by David Butts against the board of trustees on Calvin Ellis hearing).
Representatives from the University of South Carolina are presenting about an archeological dig they want to do on the Pierce Street Elementary campus. The dig will be about the Battle of Achia.
South Carolina rep called it one of the most important battles in turning the tide from the French to the Brittish.
Dig would include a sweep of the area with metal detectors. They are looking for musket shot and ornaments the Native Americans were weraing. They will dig small holes and refill them. He called it a low-scale, low-intensity dig, not very intrusive.
He said they would also return to provide information about the battle and the dig to the students.
He said they will immediately refill the holes after they dig.
12:23 p.m. Rob Hudson made a motion to allow the dig, and the board approved it 5-0.
12:42: I have fallen behind on the blog. You can also follow updates on twitter @chriskieffer. Eddie Prather made a presentation about the superintendent search, Brent Waldrop spoke about a new AEE award for high performing teachers and Diana Ezell spoke about the process of developing the district's calendar. I'll put more information about that out after the meeting.
12:44 Brenda Meriweather is talking about the district's efforts to add more broadband. The district currently gets 100 MEGS from the MDE. It receives all of it through one pipe from the MDE that is currently maxed out. One option could be going directly though AT&T.
If they got 250 MEGS directly from AT&T, they could bypass the "pipe" from the MDE that goes to all school districts and often has bottlenecks.
Resources like electronic textbooks and Smart boards have put more stress on the system.
Meriweather: Every year we don't find out until the last minute whether the state fill still fund (online services for the districts). She said that several districts have begun funding it on their own, including Lee County, Oxford and Columbia.
Mary Ann Plasencia said that the option that looks best would increase bandwidth from 100 MEGS to 250 MEGS. Would cost an additional $25,000 per year beyond what is being paid now.
Meriweather said that going away from getting the Internet from MDE would not have any effect on MSIS. She said the state has also cut back on its technical assistance.
She said district is already doing its own filtering and firewall.
Meriweather said that right now teachers are limited in being able to use online resources with videos becasue there is often not enough bandwidth.
Testing coordinator Lea Johnson:
With common core, plan is for those assessments to be online. Asks how they will have bandwidth to do that right now?
No changes would be made until July 1. This would be a budget item for next year.
Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill is now making a presentation about the MDE's new "Pathways to Success" initiative.
It allows three pathways options to graduation: career pathway option, traditional pathway option and district pathway option.
New state law requires all districts to offer career pathway option beginning next school year. It allows students to graduate with 21 credits with career and technical course requirements.
Traditional pathway is the standard pathway. The state requires at least 24 credits; Tupelo currently requires 21 credits.
The district pathway option can be offered by districts to students. It could allow students to graduate with 24 or 21 credits.
Hill said offering the district pathway would have the biggest impact for students in alternative programs – High School Advancement Academy (upper grades), School Aged Mothers program and Structure Day program (alternative school). Under the traditional option, 16 of 75 graduation-eligible students (21percent) would be able to graduate year. Under district pathway, 39 of 75 (52 percent) would be able to graduate this year.
Tupelo will be able to offer nine of the 16 career clusters identified by the state.
Hill said career pathway prepares students for tomorrow's jobs. He said that student doesn't have to leave after 21 credits, noted that they can choose to take more rigorous courses their last year-and-a-half.
Hill said this could also allow for more dual enrollment opportunities between THS students and community colleges, perhaps ICC.
Hill addressed several questions about the initiative.
• IS TPSD lowering its standards by reducing credit requirements for graduation?
No. It is not a matter of losing credits but choosing credits. Three options are available for students to choose at any time, but if students start by choosing one of the lower requirements and change their mind, it might require them to extend their stay to get those five credits….Said they are not decreasing the rigor.
Hill said students could change their mind about their pathway or career cluster. They would talk with counselors to plan.
Hill said district pathway gives students at risk of dropping out an opportunity to graduate high school with fewer credits.
Hill said that most schools he has researched increased their credit requirements from 26 to 28 when they switched to block scheduling.
Hill said culmination requirement will still be there. He said diploma will not look different for each pathway. Diploma will look the same. Difference will be noted through transcript.
Hill is showing the board a video from the West Point School District, which offered the graduation pathways last year.
Hill said students will began to develop their ICAP, individual career plan, as early as sixth grade. They will chose their career cluster in eighth-grade but will have flexibility to change it.
He said there would be training provided for counselors. He said that counseling program won't need to be restructured, they will just need to familiarize the counselors with this process.
Every student will have an ICAP.
Rob Hudson asks about the career pathway, 21 versus traditional. I understand it is a strategy to help those kids who might not graduate. Is there any data whether that option is encouraging students to move from the traditional who shouldn't move from the traditional.
Hill said he hasn't seen any data from districts that are already employing these pathways. Hill said district pathway would help students in alternative programs.
Hudson said students would remain on traditional path if college is in their plans.
Hill said the idea is to capture those students who want to focus on career path. Said this is one of Mississippi's major ways to reduce dropouts.
David Meadows talked about having rigorus courses available to challenge students, such as a large number of advanced placement courses and a possibly International Baccalaureate curriuclum.
Board member Lee Tucker said that even with rigorous courses available now, many students choose to merely coast to graduation.
Hill said that the district option would be only for students in alternative programs because they are at risk of dropping out. He said career pathway is careful to make sure students are work ready and post-secondary ready when they leave high school.
Hill said district option pathway would help to capture students who are old enough to graduate and (fall short on credits.)
Evet Topp will now speak about the career pathway. Topp is an assistant principal at THS and director of the career technical center.
Topp: "My goal as career center director is to bring in as many programs as possible."
Christy Jordan is speaking about the Career Pathway Experience plan, which will replace the co-op program.
Co-op now serves 48 students and under career pathwy expeiernce, it will stay with 48 student.
It will become a one-year program instead of a two-year program.
Under the new Career Pathway Experience, students will have four different work options; paid, volunteer, career and technical center intern (teacher’s aid) and apprenticeship.
Topp is asking the board to approve a digital media technology program, course and teacher.
Enrollment would be 72 students. Interest surveys reveald 82 THS students and 152 TMS students who said they were interested.
MDE has already improved a teacher unit, which means 99 percent of the salary would be paid by the state. The state would need to pay 1 percent of the salary and fringe benefits. Total amount would be $53,869, but with the state covering 99 percent of it, the district would need to pay $4,357 plus benefits and insurance, total of about $17,000.
The class would use the room now used for the Apple Tech lab. It would not require new technology.
Topp is now speaking about "Teacher Academy," a pathway designed for high school students interested in the education field. Goal is to prepare students to become teachers. District's lone cost would be teacher salary. Topp is not requesting approval of it today but is providing information for consideration.
Topp said the district may also want to consider adding hotel/ restaurant management, especially if they do not add "Teacher Academy."
Jason Harris will now speak about THS's possible switch to block scheduling.
Harris said they have been spending time during the fall studying Star districts in Mississippi trying to get Tupelo High to that level. He said that of 26 Star High Schools, 20 of them are currently on block schedule and one is about to switch to it.
123 teachers surveyed about block scheduling. 117 voted in favor of it (95 percent) and six voted agianst it.
Harris said block schedule could encourage more students to take advanced courses. Now, if students are in two AP courses, they have to focus on both throughout the year. Under a block, they could take one each semester and focus on one at a time.
Now, on state tests, students need to recall in May what they learned in August. Under block scheduling, they would take the test after a semester.
Harris is outlining a training schedule that could prepare teachers for the block schedule, starting in January. He said money was already budgeted this year for that training. There could be additional costs for next year because it could require additional staff.
Harris said they will look at the possibility of requiring additional credits for graduation if they switch to block. Core classes would remain the same but more electives may be required.
Harris said goal is to get every student their schedule before they leave in May so everyone could be better prepared.
Harris said no research is either for or against block, but that it is what seems to fit. He said a lot of principals he has talked to that are on block, they said, it is more the testing aspect. He said the college board is pushing to make AP tests available in December too, not just in the spring.
He said teachers would be able to get more depth than they can now in a 50-minute period.
Harris said this would open up more opportunites for students because they can gain eight credits in a year instead of seven. He hopes this will encourage students to take more rigorous couses, noting that many seniors now "let up on the gas."
Question about long gap between math classes, taken in the fall of one year and the spring of the next.
Harris said there is no guarantee with that but he thinks they can work it out. He said that is one of the drawbacks.
Meadows said this would be the fourth time he has had the opportunity to help a district transition to block scheduling. He said he has several prediction equations he uses to make a staffing equation to determine how many teachers would be needed for block.
Harris said he is talking with Kristy Luse about how they will work out sharing staff members for music and band.
Julie Hinds is now presenting about long-term capital project plan. She said she spoke with principals about needs and talked with maintenance about issues that would need to be fixed. They also looked at roof warranties and what would need to be fixed.
Funding comes from annual budget, currently $1.26 million. She said they also have money from the $2 milllion short-term note approved this school year. There is still some QSCB, stimulus money.
Hinds said one of the big things is trying to find a site to consolidate Carver and Church Street kindergarten to second graders on one site. Right now they are looking at renovating or adding onto an existing site to do that. She said there is a group at Mississippi State they can work with for advice.
Another item is new structural space for vocational program.
Under athletics is either renovation of current baseball facility or building a new facility on campus of Tupelo High. Current facility needs a big overhaul. That would require $300,000 for that work or $3,000,000 to build a new one.
Hinds said the field is in great shape, it is the area around it that needs work and that it is not on the high school campus. She said that with the $300,000 overhaul, it would be enough that the facility would be set for years.
Another atheltic project is resurfacing of track at Tupelo High School, which would cost $170,000.
Hinds said they also talked about a few other possible items, potential of soccer field at THS, upgrade visitor lockerroom at the stadium and possible field house at the high school.
Board asks for a future list of these projects prioritized according to the district's mission.
Board approves transfer report.
Board considering personnel report, which includes five additional Nationally Board Certified Teachers.
Personnel report approved.
Board approves claims docket.
Board will look at new policy on teachers tutoring students. Policy would not allow employees to tutor for pay (or private lessons for pay to) students they work with during the school day. It would allow teachers to work with students in those programs that are funded by grants.
Rob Hudson said he understands the possible conflict but he worries about setting best tutors to the side for students who might need that tutoring. He said the conflict exists for lots of reasons and teacher may create the conflict for other reasons than being paid for tutoring (know the family, go to church with them, etc.). He said he worries about teachers who are breadwinners and need all available income. He said when he puts potential for conflict against other things negated by policy, he doesnt know if what we lose is worth what we gain.
Diana Ezell said that she doesn't know of any teacher, if there is a student having problems in algebra, more than one teacher can address that. She said that a coach can work with players before and after they got on the team but while coaching them they wouldn't be able to work with them for pay.
Lee Tucker said district also needs to look at protection of teachers for avoiding appearance of what is evil. It seems funny that every time someone pays that teacher to tutor, they start getting A's and B's.
Ezell said when she was teaching, she didnt want it to appear that her students were failing because she wanted to tutor them after the school day.
Heyer said the district appreciates all of those teachrs who stay after and tutor students not for pay.
David Meadows said that this policy is common through most distircts. It also takes the educator code of ethics into consideration.
Hudson asks about upper-level courses where only one teacher teaches that course. Ezell said perhaps the district could get a grant to allow for that teacher to get paid for tutoring. Hudson said he doesn't want the tutoring need to go unment. Ezell said that the district also needs to look at how it is differentiating instruction. She said she thinks there are ways to work to make sure district is doing the best things for their students.
Ezell said teachers have families and need to be compensated for time after school. She said that is one reason why the district has paid programs avaible during the summer (through grants).
Hudson asks if language is needed for what triggers the grant, if there is only one teacher available in an AP course, could they get a grant? Ezell said that if 50-percent of the students in such a class are failing, the principal needs to look at why those students are struggling.
Meadows said there are public funds available that can help compensate the teacher for those duties.
Ezell said there are also tutoring opportunities available online.
Board approves policy 5-0. Eddie Prather made the motion and Beth Stone the second.
Fred Hill is now presenting a policy that tweaks graduation requirements.
Policy would allow district pathway option for students in the district's three alternative programs, High School Advancement Academy, School Aged Mothers and Structured Day Program. Those students would be able to graduate with 21 credits.
Board will vote on that policy in January.
Meeting has now lasted three hours.
Linda Pannel is making presentation about bank bids.
She said she is surprised teh district got the rate it did with the economy as it is.
Recommending district go with Renassant Bank for three years. She said it may take until end of January to go through logistics of switching banks. She said that the one-year rates are really small.
Meadows said that based on information available now, they believe this is the right thing for school district.
Hudson said most agree that the two-year outlook is pretty flat. He said district would be limiting its risk only to year three.
Board approves Pannel's recommendation on bank bids.
Board approves Career Pathways Experience Plan, which includes a digital media program for the career center.
Board approves 2012 meeting schedule.
Board goes into temporary executive session to discuss a personnel matter.
Hearing is recessed until Jan. 30 at 9 a.m.
That was the soonest that the attorneys and the hearing officer could commit to an entire week. Compton said the hearing would continue through that entire week, if needed.
Kelly Stimpson is now conducting re-direct questions
Stewart said that Ellis
Stimpson: You said there were fewer students involved in Wave Connection, Sound Wave and Madrigals. DO you know why?
Stewart: At the beginning of the year, we had the same number in Wave Connection. Some have quit the program since Mr. Ellis has been gone. Sound Wave chose fewer students. They used to have 50 and only chose 40 this year. Madrigals had several students leave after Mr Ellis left.
Stimpson asks what happened to the credit card.
Stewart said some how between Deborah Atkinson and Mr Ellis it had gotten misplaced. She said Ellis had told her it had been lost. Stewart said Ellis thought it would be reissued but the board chose not to. Stewart said she was concerned about not getting receipts. She thought maybe there could be a better check system
Stimpson refers to the document that Stewart prepared for a parent. Asks if there is anything wrong with a parent requesting that
Stewart said no, she has always encouraged an open book.
Stimpson: Who chose the costuming for the show choirs
Stewart said Jauna Ellis usually chooses it.
Stimpson asks what information she was given about how much money she had to purchase the costumes?
Stewart said they showed her how much was available in the budget. She said they purchase from someone in Hattiesburg for one show and from someone in Tupelo for the other two.
Stimpson directs Stewart to exhibit 24. The email from Hal Leonard, permission to arrange for three different songs.
Stewart said this was the document she had referred to previously that Ellis had sent to her that she had gotten his signature and passed it along.
Stimpson: The money that was raised for the NY trip and the Alabama trip. Refers Stewart to year-end financials. Looking at exhibit 45 and money that was spent on the New York trip, you said you (didn’t like using money in this fashion, did that have to do with putting Sound Wave in the deficit?)
Stewart: I felt like SW could not spend another night because we didn’t have the money, also talked about going over and coming back on the same day. Every bit of that $13,000 that we could keep would make us a stronger choral program the next year.
Stewart said Ellis did not get permission
Stimpson: Do you know whether any person who receives money for services rendered has a responsibility to report that to the IRS?
Stewart: I believe that is correct, yes
Stimpson: You have testified that you don’t have a personal problem with Mr. Ellis, correct?
Stewart said that she does not have anything against Mr. Ellis.
Stimpson asks if her only problem was with how the money was spent? Stewart said yes.
Stewart's testimony is complete.
Butts: We were talking about (redoing choreography for songs) did you think that was squandering money?
Stewart: I never used that word squander, I just don’t think it was good management of the money.
Butts: Do you know where this charge squandering the money came from?
Stewart: No sir
Butts: Is redoing choreography unusual?
Stewart: I have no idea
Buts: Then how can you say it is a misuse of money?
Stewart: To me, if you pay two choreographers to do it.
Butts: You wouldn’t pay two choreographers to do the song the same way?
Stewart: Why would we need two different dances for the same song?
Butts: Whether or not a piece of choreography had to be redone was not in your realm of knowledge?
Stewart No sir
Butts: But you deemed it to be a misuse of funds?
Stewart: Yes sir
Buts: You are characterizing this choreography to be misuse?
Stewart: I didn’t think we needed to hire two choreographers to do the same song.
Butts: Are you qualified to make that judgment
Stewart: As far as the choreography no, as far as the money, that is part of my job to make sure we don’t waste money.
Butts asked if Stewart had previously seen redoing of choreography. Stewart said she doesn’t know what songs the choreographers are doing. She just pays the bills. Until she was asked to create this document, she had never looked at the (redo question).
Butts: Asked if she discussed the document with Tammy Harrington
Stewart said they had a couple of sentences, maybe in an email. Maybe at church. Butts asks if she still has that email. Stewart said probably not.
Butts: Why did Tammy Harrington ask you to send this to her?
Stewart: She had read in the paper that one of the charges was squandering money and she wanted to know (about money spent this year)
Butts: Did Tammy Harrington express to you that she had believed it to be misuse?
Stewart said she said it was in an email. She said she and Harrington email often and that she does not know if she still has the email. Said she probably doesn’t.
Butts: When did you give this document to the administration?
Stewart: The week after it came out in the paper. I am not sure when I gave it to them.
Butts: Did you ever feel compelled to talk to me as Calvin’s attorney
Stewart: No sir
Butts: Did you think it would be fair to give Mr. Ellis the benefit of these documents and your concerns as you had done with the administration
Stewart: Every document I have looked at today, he has had access to through emails, through meetings. This document is the only one I have created since he has not been at the high school except for balancing the checkbook. Most of the documents I have talked about today have been emails (between the two of them).
Butts He wasn’t given access to the records, which were placed in a vault in central office.
Stewart: I am talking about a notebook full of invoices I have paid. That is the records I am talking about. As far as the records at the end of the year, he has been given those, not since he has been terminated, but he has access to those…..Ellis has never looked at the invoices….That is what the Tupelo School district has is the notebook of my invoices.
Butts: Even if this is this one document or what has been on your zip drive, did you ever think it might be fair to come to Mr. Ellis and say this is what I have?
Stimpson objects, noting that she just testified that she has all of the documents except (the one document). Butts said the credibility and bias of a witness is always a question in cross examination.
Compton: Did you think it was fair
Stewart: I do not know the answer to that question. I know that while he was on leave he was to have no communication with parents or students. I knew he had his computer which had access to everything.
Butts asks how Stewart knew he was to have no communication. Stewart said she guessed it was hearsay. She had no idea who told her that. Said it was the talk of the town that he was to have no communication between parents or students. She said that Stimpson, Keith, Harris, Meadows, Susie Williams, Tami Harrington did not tell her that. She said Valerie Whitwell may have been the one who told her. Stewart said Calvin told Valerie Whitwell he was supposed to have no communication with parents or students while on leave.
Butts: This document has to do with copyright standards?
Stewart: This document was created at the request of a parent after it came out in the paper that we had squandered booster money (Said that copyright isn’t the only reason some of those songs weren’t used. Said there were other reasons. Said that the song “More” by Cory wasn’t being used because it has been redone..)
Butts: “Why was there an asterisk next to “Written in the Stars”?
Stewart: No copyright
S: Redone by other choreographer. We don’t have copyright on it either
S: It is being redone and we don’t have copyright
S: Fire has been denied copyright
B: :Run The World”
S: We have no copyright
S: We have no copyright
Stewart said that was as of the day the document was created. Doesn’t know what the status of those five songs is as of today. Stewart said she doesn’t not have permission today.
Butts: How do you know those five songs require copyright permission?
Stewart: Mr. Ellis emailed to me a request for permission to obtain copyright….Said this year is the first time she had ever done anything with copyright.
Butts: You had never been concerned with copyright before this year?
Stewart: No sir
Butts asks purpose of the permission for copyright permission form. Stewart said Ellis sent it to her so she could send it to the arranger to sign it.
Butts: Before this year had the booster club ever paid for copyright permission to anyone?
Stewart: No sir
Butts: Going to last year, had the booster club paid any copyright permission fee, whether it was a fine or copyright permission fee or retroactive fee or anything of that nature?
Stewart: No sir
Butts asks if she was aware of Hal Leonard demand to retroactively obtain permission for two songs.
Stewart said she was familiar with email from Mr. Ellis that they could get in trouble but she did not know how much they could have to pay.
Asked by Butts, Stewart said the Tupelo Choral Booster Club did not pay that $1,000. She said she doesn’t know what he is talking about (in reference to the permissions)
Stewart said this year they have paid $1,300 for five permissions. Butts asked how many permissions they would need to get. Stewart said on one program there was 15 songs.
Butts: That would be 30 between the two show choirs.
Stewart said she has paid for some Sound Wave copyright this year but she does not know how many because she hadn’t created a document about that.
Butts: Do you know for a fact whether any of those five songs required Tupelo to get permission? Do you know whether getting a permission was even required under the law?
Stewart: No sir.
She said we requested permission for those five songs, so she would think if we would request permission, we needed it.
Butts: But did you know under your own knowledge whether the request was needed?
Stewart? No sir
Butts: Do you know whether Mr. Ellis knew on his own that copyright for these songs was required?
Stewart: I would assume if he requested copyright on a song, he knew he needed to get copyright.
Butts you just assume if he requested it, the law must require it.
Butts: Do you know what fair use it, educational use, unintentional infringement?
Stewart no to all question
Butts: You don’t know on your own whether these songs would require a copyright permission?
Stewart: No I am a parent volunteer and I believe that would fall under someone else.
Stewart said she did not ask Keith, Stimpson or anyone else for legal advice about whether copyright was required.
Butts: Yet you made this document saying that it was required?
Stewart: Yes sir
Butts: Did you also send a copy of exhibit number 42 to Susie White Williams?
Stewart said she did not, did not discuss it with her and does not know whether she got a copy of it. Butts asks if they are friends. Stewart said they are.
Butts: Do you want to see Mr. Ellis fired from his job?
Stewart: I want the school district to do what is right in this case
Butts finishes cross examination
Butts holds up a document and asks when Stewart created it She said she created it at the request of a parent who had read in the paper that the booster club had squandered money and wanted to know about the money that had been squandered.
Butts: Who was the parent?
Stewart: Tammie Harrington
Butts: What did she ask you?
Stewart: She said do you know of a figure we have paid for choreography and music that is not being utilized.
Butts: When did she ask you this?
Stewart: After she read in the paper about the booster club squandering money.
Butts: At her request, you prepared this document?
Stewart: Yes sir, as my normal procedure
Butts: What does this document tell us?
Stewart: How much we spent in choreography between July of this year and today
Butts: It says $11,787.45. That is the total amount on choreography. Is that correct?
Butts: Next to that is a notation that the budget was $10,000. Is that correct?
Butts: What do the do asterisks mean next to “Written in the Stars”
Stewart: Wave Connection did not have permission to perform that song
Butts: As of what date?
Stewart: When this document was created
Butts: When was that?
Stewart: When she read in the paper about money (being squandered)
Butts: Which I would assume would be same date we released the charges to the press?
Stewart: yes, sir. That was the only way we knew the charges
Butts: How did she ask?
Stewart: She wanted to know how much money we had spent on choreography this year.
Butts: You have five other songs down here, I take it at the time of the creation of this document had not received copyright permissions but you did not know when copyright permissions would be received if they ever were
Stewart: Not exactly true, if you look at “More” we brought choreographer back in to redo the song.
Butts: So the asterisk indicates when you created this document copyright permission had not been received. You didn’t know when you were going to get it. What did “More redo” mean?
Stewart: Calvin Ellis came in and redid the song “More.”…That song did not have copyright either….Redid the choreography for that song….The first time we did it was a waste of money for the choreographer because we redid the choreography because Mr. Ellis didn’t like it.
Butts: Is it unusual to redo choreography?
Stewart. I have no idea….I didn’t understand why we flew a choreographer in to do a song and then we flew in another choreographer to do the same song.
Butts: You paid Cory (sp?) $2,000-plus on choreography on three songs. Then Kellis is paid (I didn’t catch the figure) to redo some of the songs that Corry had done.
Stewart: Yes sir.
At 2:45 p.m, hearing takes a 10-minute break.
Butts: Are you aware it can be a felony to not submit a 10-99 under certain circumstances
Stewart: I did not.
Butts: I take it you told this lady that you did not issue a 10-99 to Mr. Ellis, if she asked that question?
Stewart: Yes sir
Butts: But you went over the fact that (Mr. Ellis) had been paid for choreography?
Stewart said yes and that others had been paid for arranging and had not received 10-99s. She said she was advised that she should have issued 10-99s.
Butts asks how many meetings Steward has with the district lawyers. Three meetings at central office. Steward said Diana Ezell was also there and David Meadows came in during discussion about copyright and Linda Pannel.
Stewart said Meadows was not at the meeting but they had a question about copyright contracts and he came in to sign one.
Butts: I understand the three meetings you had with Ms. Stimpson, there were four of you in there, to the best of your recollection?
Stewart said her records were at the financial office and were not there when she met with Stimpson for the first time. First, she met with Rachel Murphree and Linda Pannel at the financial office. Kelly Stimpson was not there.
Next meeting was late October at central office. Diana Ezell, Kelly Stimpson and Linda Pannel were present. The third meeting was recently, after Thanksgiving.
Butts: Last week?
Stewart: It was the week after Thanksgiving
Butts: Where did this meeting take place?
Stewart: At central office
Butts asks who was present, but Stewart said she can’t remember. She thinks Valerie Whitwell was there, booster club president.
Butts asks about Whitwell’s knowledge of the books, Stewart said not extensively but she has some knowledge. Stewart said Whitwell as at one meeting but not necessarily the one after Thanksgiving. Stewart said she doesn’t not remember what Whitwell said.
Stewart said they discussed all of these documents and it took two meetings to do so.
Butts asks what Ezell’s participation was? Stewart said it was in Ezell’s office. She said the first meeting was a question of how to get copyrights so they could proceed with the show. Stewart said that Pannel did not say much at that meeting and that she does not know why she was there.
Butts: Did anyone at any of these meetings express they were an expert in copyright law, including Ms. Stimpson?
Stewart: No sir.
Butts asks if anyone expresses that they had obtained copyright permission before or if anyone spoke about or produced a copy of the Tupelo copyright compliance policy. Stewart said no.
Stewart said that all she knows about copyrights is what she has read on her own. Said she does not hold herself as an expert.
Butts asks how many hours Stewart spent in preparation for the meetings. Stewart said she did not know. She said she was not compensated for these meetings.
She said she met with Stimpson and Keith on Sunday at central office. She met with them for about an hour and discussed her upcoming testimony.
Butts: Did you prepare some documents at the request of the district?
Stewart: No sir. Everything we talked about here was made befofe any of this happened except for the one choreography thing and that was done at the request of a parent.
Butts: I notice on exhibit 53, someone has written on this with arrows from left to right.
Stewart: Yes sir
Butts: What does this mean
Stewart: said it was from a previous meeting, a conversation with the choral board, showing areas where they had gone over budget previously. She said that document was created at year end 2010-11. She said she was the one who created the document and the one who wrote on it.
Butts: During this meeting with the administration, you discussed copyright?
Stewart: Mainly copyright was discussed at the first meeting. After that I took everything I had on copyright and I emailed it because I knew I was not capable as a parent volunteer to take over copyright process. I took everything I had on copyrights and I emailed it to Kelly Stimpson with notes on where we were in the copyright process.
Butts: What exactly did you email to Kelly Stimpson?
Stewart said they came from the meeting she had with Ellis where they talked about copyrights and where they were in the process.
Butts asks how long Ms. Stimpson had those documents? Stewart said it was either the end of when Mr. Ellis was on leave or maybe that weekend.
Butts: She has had those documents for the last month, right?
Stewart: Yes Sir
Butts: How did you become aware that I had requested access to choral financial records?
Stewart: I believe I might have read that in the paper
Butts asked if Stewart tried to get the records back or to contact Butts. Stewart said she did not.
Butts: Did you not want me to see the records?
Stewart: They were in a locked vault in central office…said she was told they would keep them over the weekend and put them in a vault for safety reason. Said she never tried to get them back.
Butts asks about the credit card. Stewart said Vicky Wilson used it sometimes (2009-10 school year). She said that parents used it sometimes if they needed to order it.
Butts: The credit card had Vicky Wilson’s name on it
Stewart said there was a credit card in the booster account with Vicky Wilson’s name on it. Said Wilson did use it. Said Wilson did not use it to buy meals for choreographers. Said that she did not use it to buy meals during choreography week, to her knowledge. Said the only time parents used the credit card, to her knowledge, was when they ordered something off the Internet. She said it happened very few times.
Butts: Credit card statement does not say who used the credit card. You can not testify how many times Vicky Wilson or parents used the credit card
Stewart: Vicky Wilson did not use it last year because she was not here. She said she does not think a parent would take the credit card and use it.
Stewart said she checked all of the receipts for the credit card. Butts asked wheter during the year when Wilson was there, Stewart checked each receipt for Wilson’s signature. Stewart said she didn’t.
Stewart said if Wilson used the credit card if was for a company on the Internet and she sent Stewart the receipt for ti.
Butts: I am sure you did the best job you could but you did not or could not verify the signature or Vicki Wilson or Calvin Ellis or anyone else? Did you see Calvin Ellis’s signature that wasn’t Calvin Ellis’ signature.
Stewart said no.
Stewart said that her knowledge parents never used the credit card in public. She said if parents had to buy something in public for the show they paid for it on their own and Stewart wrote a check.
Butts refers to charge of squandering booster club funds. Asks Stewart, as treasurer, how Ellis squandered booster club funds
Stewart said that for the 2011-12 school year, the fact that Ellis obtained choreography for songs they were not going to use was not using money wisely. The fact that they paid for songs before they got the copyrights.
Butts: Can you pull out what you are talking about?
Butts asks when did Stewart start talking to administration about these issues. Stewart said when Mr. Ellis was put on leave, she was called and asked for her records. She said she took her records to the finance department. She said she hadn’t gotten her records back yet.
Butts asks if she was ever made aware of Butts’ request of administration for the financial records
Stewart: It would have been hearsay…yes sir.
Butts: When did you become aware?
Stewart? I do not know
She said she not provide for a parent financial reports for the last three years, last name was Williams. She sent him the end of the year records for the last three years.
Butts: Did you send him all of the records you have testified about today?
Williams said she sent him year-end financial reports for last three years.
Butts: So they have it and have had it, Mr. Williams has it but it is not here today?
Stewart: No sir
Butts: You have met on multiple occasions with attorneys for the district?
Stewart: yes sir, (3 occasions, maybe four or five hours total)
Butts: Have you met with any other members of the administration concerning the booster club records?
Stewart: No sir
Stewart said that Rachel Murphree questioned her at length about the records in mid October. Was at the financial office, downtown, not at the central office.
Butts: How long is at length?
Stewart: I guess I was there two and a half hours
Butts: What did the two of you do for those two and a half hours?
Stewart: She wanted to know how the account worked. She asked specific questions about how I kept my records. About a 10-99, that was real important to her.
Butts: What is a 10-99?
Stewart: She is an accountant and I am not
Butts: What is a 10-99?
Stewart: It is a document if a person makes a certain amount they should be sent and they should be turning it in on their taxes.
Butts: A 10-99 is issued to a person who you pay money to for their taxes who is not your employee
So you were talking to this lady who was auditing these books and she was particularly interested in why you didn’t issue a 10-99 to Calvin Ellis?
Stewart: She asked if I had issued any 10-99s and I said the only person I had issued a 10-99 to was (the choreographer in California).
Butts: Don’t you know whether they ask for them or not, you are required to issue one to them?
Stewart: No sir, I am a parent volunteer.
Buts: But you are the treasurer and have a finance degree
Butts ask about structure of committees for the show choirs. He said that the band doesn’t have that set-up to his knowledge. Stewart said that is also her impression.
Butts: What is Wave Connection?
Stewart: It is a show choir group. It has boys and girls.
Butts: How does a student get into Wave Connection
Stewart: They have tryouts
Stewart said Sound Wave is an all girl group. It also has tryouts for students to get in.
Butts asks how many committees there are for each show choir. Stewart said that she can’t say for sure. Said each committee has a chair person and those committees also have their own budgets that the chair person oversees. Examples are sets and hospitality.
Hotel and motel rooms fall under competition, Stewart said. Said that is not a specific committee. Said that Ellis is over that budget.
Butts refers Stewart to exhibit 53, the budget. She said there are costume, publicity set and hospitality committees with their own budgets. Different people in those committees do what is shown on the budget.
Each committee has a chair person responsible for the budget for that committee.
Butts: Over the two years you were treasurer did any committees go over budget
Said Costume did, publicity didn’t, sets did a little bit and hospitality didn’t. She said that competitions did.
Butts: If you were going to assign blame to someone for going over budget for costumes, that would be the chair person of the costume committee?
Stewart: Yes sir.
Similar questions for each of the committees.
Butts: One person responsible for competitions and that is Mr. Ellis, correct?
Stewart: Yes sir
Butts: You may start out with an idea of what each group’s budget may be and that may go out of budget
Stewart: Yes sir, but we try not to overspend and spend money we don’t have yet.
Butts: Is that really the way it works?
Stewart: When you have bills to pay, you really don’t have much choice.
Butts: What do you do if a bill comes in over budget?
Stewart: I pay the bill
Butts: Where do you get the money?
Stewart: It is just one account, so you are borrowing from the general chorus to pay the Wave Connection bills.
Stewart said she thinks it is a problem because there are more people in general chorus than in the show choir and that money belongs in student accounts.
Butts: Would the general chorus account ever get paid back?
Stewart: When Sound Wave started out in the hole, they start out separately. I fix that with Sound Wave money from the next year.
Sound Wave started off $900 in the red.
Stewart: This is one bank account.
Butts: That you pay bills out of for all of the various committees?
Stewart: Yes sir
Butts: I take what you are saying that you can’t pick out $1 and say this belongs to set committee, etc. You can’t say that right?
Stewart: I don’t understand the question.
Butts: I assumed there had been five different accounts, but you are telling me all of the money that is raised goes into one account?
Stewart: It is all in one bank account/
Butts: But you have a budget for each committee
Stewart said it is something to go by to help them stay in the amount of money they are going to raise.
Butts: Are your budgets written in stone?
Stewart: No sir
Butts: You are keeping track of how everyone is performing as far as their budget is concerned? You can call someone like a costume chairman and say you have run out of money, you can’t buy more money for costumes.
Stewart: They do not do that. They know how much money they have to spend and they are adults.
Butts: What if they go over budget?
Stewart: That happens sometimes and it is the costume committee’s fault and the costume committee takes the blunt of it.
Stewart said that sometimes Ellis orders costumes without permission of costume committee chairperson. Said there is nothing wrong with that.
Butts: You have eight different committees that are in budget or out of budget at various times during the course of your fiscal year?
Butts for the 2010-11 year do you know how much you had in choral booster account on July 1, 2010?
Stewart: Not off top of my head (Said it was thousands of dollars). Said that most of that money is in student accounts. WE are only talking about one account, but keep up with Wave Connection, Sound Wave, Structure, Madrigal….
Butts: I am beginning to understand, please excuse my ignorance. What you have is ledge entries where you have a booster club account that has the money but on paper somewhere else you are keeping track of what that money is comprised of for student accounts. Is that what you are saying?...
Butts: Do the student accounts on any particular day total the amount of money in student accounts?
Stewart: No Sir
Butts: Why not?
Stewart: When students graduate if they have any money in their fund it goes into general chorus account balance
Butts: As I understand on the first day of the year you are positive in your account because of accumulation of unspent funds from students who have graduated.
Stewart: Yes sir.
Butts: Are you saying Mr. Ellis went over the budget he was responsible for and that is the competition budget (2010-11 school year)
Stewart: Yes sir
Butts: And for previous year
Stewart: Said she doesn’t recall
Stewart said set budget was over by $300, costume budget was over by about $1,000.
Butts: How much was Mr. Ellis over for 2010 competitions?
Stewart: We budgeted $15,000 and spent $16,966 for one competition. Normally that was going to pay for two competitions.
Butts: Why did it take $16,966 for one competition?
Stewart: He allowed Wave Connection to stay one extra night and they all went out to eat at a nice restaurant and they had a party that cost $2,000.
Butts: Did you object to that?
Stewart: I did object to him using the New York money to go to competition and I told him that. We should have banked that New York money.
Butts: How was the NY money raised?
Stewart: By having different fundraisers throughout the year
Butts: Who raised the money?
Stewart: Sound Wave , Wave Connection and Structure parents.
Stewart said only Wave Connection got to spend the extra night, Sound Wave did not get to spend the extra night because they were over. She said the reason she would have preferred to bank the money was because they were struggling to raise money in these hard economic times.
She said she wanted to bank it for future years.
Butts: You are going to take money that a senior in Wave Connection raised and not spend it on them but bank it for a child who did nothing to contribute for raising that money?
Stewart: Yes sir.
Butts: That is one problem you have with Mr. Ellis?
Stewart: I don’t have any problem with Mr. Ellis and I think he will tell you that
Butts: You want him fired?
Stewart: I want the truth to come out
Stewart said she does not have a problem with Mr. Ellis.
Butts: I am not saying you have a personal problem. It could have been Calvin Ellis, it could have been any director. I understand what your job is as treasurer and I understood from your testimony earlier that Mr. Ellis was causing your problems as treasurer. Were you having any problems from Mr. Ellis in functioning in your job as treasured?
Stewart: Not sir
Butts talks about late invoices, etc. Are you saying that was not causing you a problem? Stewart said it was some extra work, but she was going to pay the invoices.
Butts: You have expressed your displeasure with Mr. Ellis utilizing some NY trip money to give these kids a party and allow them to stay another night. Were you displeased some other way with how he allocated any money?
Was there any other problem with NY trip?
Stewart: No sir
Butts: Is there any other problem?
Stewart: The problem I had with the credit cards was that I didn’t get receipts from him.
Butts: How many receipts are we talking bout?
Stewart: I have no idea how many.
Stewart said she did not know off the top of her head how many they were talking about.
I just learned that today will be the last day of the hearing for this week and probably for this month because of everyone's schedules. They have not yet coordinated when it would resume.
Butts asks if he can have a three-day recess so he can prepare for his cross examination. Compton said no. He said they could break for lunch. Butts said no, he would begin.
Butts asks how long she had been involved in show choir. Stewart said since 2002, with a two-year break when she did not have a child at the high school.
Stewart said she handles finances for the entire choral program: structure, chorus, show choirs and all student accounts.
Stewart said this year there are 165 children in chorus, 49 in Wave Connection, minus a few and (I think she said 40) in Sound Wave.
Stewart said that she has been the treasured this year and the previous two years. She said she was asked by Vicki Wilson to be treasurer, asked by Traci Hudson the second years and by the nominating committee this year.
Butts: I think it is a very big job that you had to handle, what has been the budget that you have dealt with over the last three years. Incomming money?
Stewart: That report shows that $200,000 was paid out for 2010-2011.
Butts: The year before that?
Stewart: About the same, maybe a little less.
Butts: What do you project this year?
Stewart: I have no way to know that.
Butts asks if it will be about the same. Stewart said there are less people in Sound Wave, Wave Connection and Madrigals, so that number could be less.
Butts asks where that money comes from.
Stewart said choral department and general chorus have fund raises and each group has their own fund raises. She said parents have to pay a fee up front. They sell ads for their program and tickets to their shows.
Butts: How much money do you receive from the Tupelo Public School District every year?
Butts: You received no money from the district this year?
Stewart: No sir.
(Similar question and answer about the two previous years).
Butts: Are you are of the Tupelo Public School District contributing funds to the choral booster club at any time ever?
Stewart: No sir.
Butts: Is the choral booster club, it is a volunteer association right?
Butts: I would say from my experience mostly of parents with their children at the school is that right?
Butts: You have officers, the president each year, vice president, secretary and a treasurer? (Stewart says yes to each)
Stewart there is a WC representative, SW representative, Structure representative.
Butts asks about committees. Stewart said there is set committee, costume committee, publicity committee, hospitality committee.
Butts asks abut chorus aspect.
Stewart: We all represent the chorus….But they have their committees too. She said that includes chaperones who sit with kids during the concerts and a parent over each fund-raising event.
Butts: Many people volunteer their blood sweat and tears to that program, including you. And I want you to know a lot of people appreciate that.
Who in your experience has been in charge of selecting songs, having them arranged, having them choreographed, teaching them to kids and having them performed for Wave Connection in last year years.
Stewart: Mr. Ellis
Butts: Same for Sound Connection
Stewart: Prior two years, Mr. Ellis. This year we had separated that.
Butts: Explain that.
Stewart: Sound Wave is being handled by another individual. That didn’t have to do with me.
Butts: Who is going to handle Sound Eave this year?
Stewart: Susie Williams.
Stewart said Structure doesn’t have a budget. She said that prior to when she came Wave Connection and Sound Wave didn’t have a budget but she felt one was needed because they were spending more than they were bringing in. She said they come up with income by determining how much money each kid was expected to bring in and how much they expected from ad and ticket sales. Then they sat down with Ellis to determine how to spend it.
Butts: This is a very fluid thing, right. You don’t have hard numbers to work with?
Stewart: We do.
Butts: Lets say July 1 you are starting off with a zero balance on everything. How do oyu determine how much money you will have to spend for the upcoming years.
Stewart: Takes number of students and multiplies by amount of money they are supposed to pay (that number is already known by July).
Butts: Kids can quit or move out, so that is not an absolute fixed number. Do you know that…..On day one of your fiscal year, you may have a good idea of how many students you are dealing with
Stewart: By July 1, Wave Connection and Sound Wave parents have made two payments so I feel they have made their commitment. They paid $162.50 each payment, $325 total by July out of $650. They have paid half of their amount by that time….
Stewart: In a perfect world they would have all paid by (July 1)
Butts: That changes your budget doesn’t it?
Stewart: It sure does.
Butts asks if every parent can pay and Stewart said no. She said that is problem they have to deal with.
She said they have scholarships for that. Butts said other people come in and pay for those who can’t afford it. Stewart said that is correct.
Butts said you have a general idea of how many tickets will be sold, but that doesn’t tell you exactly how many tickets will be sold.
Butts: The fact of the matter is, you have a pretty hard job. You don’t really know how much money you will have to deal with in that year, right?
Stewart said that is correct.
Butts: You have to be flexible, right?
Stewart: Yes, sir.
Butts: Would it be correct to say that Sound Wave and Wave Connection don’t really have what it known in the accounting world as a budget because you don’t know how much money you will get that year and the best you can do is deal with expenses as you go along.
Stewart said she doesn’t understand the question.
Butts asks if she has an accounting background. Stewart said she has a finance degree.
Butts asks her about the company where she works. Said you don’t know how much money you will make, adjust expenses best you can, be flexible. Stewart said that was correct.
Butts: Would you say that the parents and the community since Calvin Ellis took over have been pleased with the performance of the show choirs?
Stewart: Yes, sir.
Butts: Would you agree they have been outstanding?
Stewart: Yes sir
Butts: Would you agree that is a wonderful experience to watch those kids do what they do?
Stewart: Yes sir.
Butts: Would it surprise you if the budget for Attahce (Clinton High School) is twice what Tupelo is
Stewart: I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Butt: I wouldn’t be surprised if it was three times as much. Does it surprise you that Tupelo comes as close as they do to Attache when their budget is at least twice as much?
Butts: You have seen Attahce perform more than once?
Stewart: Yes sir.
Butts: If you assume, let’s assume Attache has twice the budget Tupelo does, or Tupelo has half the budget that Attache does, are our show choirs only half as good as Attahce?
Stewart: We have never beaten them…I have no idea how their program works…They are equally talented, the kids are.
Butts: Do you think if we had the same budget as Attache, we could be performing on the same level with the sets and the costumes?
Stewart: I have no idea
Lunch recess until 1
Stewart is looking at an email from Ellis to her. He is sending a contract for a choreographer from California. Several songs, I didn’t get their names. Paid her $2,500 plus expenses.
Stimpson asks about the subscript on the document.
Stewart: It said Calvin Ellis and Aug. 19, 2011, 10:05 a.m. (That time was 20 minutes before Stewart received it.) Stewart said Ellis did not sign the document He wrote his name out and the date 8-18-2011.
Stewart is looking at a SoundWave budget connection for 2010-2011. It shows how much was budgeted and spent. The other page is for Wave Connection. Stewart said that Wave Connection was who went over budget. Choreography, budgeted $8,000 and spent $12,853. Music budgeted $7,000 and spent over $8,000.
Stewart said the budget showed they spent more for music after Mr. Ellis said that he could arrange music and save the boosters some money.
Stimpson: Are you aware of an annual report that needs to be made by the booster club to the school district?
Stewart: Yes ma’am. (She said she made that regularly).
Stewart said the only 10-99 she ever issued was for the arranger in California.
Stimpson tenders the witness. Butts prepares for his cross examination.
Stewart is brought another email, exhibit 50.
She said it is a lengthy document. On the top is an email from Ellis to her from May 12, 2011 telling her he received an invoice from the arranger for Sound Wave.
In it, Ellis said he went to double-check things and there was an arranger who had not sent him an invoice. Ellis said he told him the books were closed and that they could pay if after July 1.
Stimpson: You testified earlier that the books were never closed, correct?
There is another email from Stewart to Ellis on May 14, 2011. It provides reports in advanced of an upcoming booster club meeting. Ellis responded that everything looked good.
On the next page is an email with the invoice from Steve Anderson. It said that Anderson is arranging one more song without charging Tupelo. It says, he should be doing a free song for us, right?
Stewart said she disagreed, saying that if he was doing a song for Tupelo, Tupelo should pay for it.
On the next page is an email from Ellis to Stewart on May 21, 2011 at 12 a.m. In it, Ellis is discussing the invoice from Anderson. Stewart said that in the email, Ellis said that he had just received the invoice a few weeks ago from Anderson and apologizes for the stress the treasurer job can cause.
Stewart said in a reply email that she thinks that they should notify the parents of the new expense for arranging and its impact on the budget.
On the next page is an email from Ellis to Stewart on May 23. In it, Ellis said that some of those songs were also for Wave Connection, not all for Sound Wave.
Stewart said that she was excited about that because Sound Wave would not be as much in the hole.
Next page is Stewart’s email to parents.
Butts makes a motion that this witness in its entirety be taken out of the record .
Butts: It is becoming apparent to me that we are going over document after document as well as assertions by this witness, which I have never seen before. Perhaps they were emailed to me on Sunday afternoon. I don’t know what is correct. My information is that the administration has had accountants pouring over these records for weeks if not months. There is no possible way for me to examine these documents and go over any cross-examination of this witness other than off the top of my head. It is apparent the administration has met with the witness (Several times).
This once again shows how unfair this entire process has been. I believe and I will stand corrected that the administration could have given me all of these documents and the booster club books which I have asked specifically for three or four weeks ago. To subject us now to this witnesses testimony and I have to write down word for word what she is saying and this is the first time I have heard any of this is a total violation of due process to the most flagrant kind. I object to this procedure, the actions of the administration, this witnesses’ testimony.
I move that the charges against Mr. Ellis be dismissed and he be reinstated.
Stimpson: There is a statute under which this proceeding is being conducted. The status clearly states how this process is to run. Mr. Butts knows that t
The statue provides that his client be given notice of the charges against him. Those charges were set forth in a four-page letter, 23 charges against him.
You have made this record numerous times and the statute does not provide for a school district to provide documentation or witness lists. This is non a non renewal, this is a mid-year termination and the administration is complying with law every step of the way.
We are talking about the integrity of an employee in dealing with a booster club and in this case a budget of over $200,000.
All of the testimony from this witness is specific to the items in the termination list that Mr. Ellis received.
Butts: Once again this administration is hiding behind the statute. I understand that, but sending me 140 pages of documents this last Sunday afternoon, why did they even bother? Why send me 140 pages of documents on Sunday afternoon when I am trying to get ready for a hearing that starts at 9 the next morning? Is this their attempt at due process? I suppose it is.
I have not had an opportunity to go through these 140 pages. At this point I am confronted with having to at some point today cross examine this witness without the weeks of preparation the administration has had to prepare her and she has obviously been prepared.
I have been to court a couple of times to solve this problem and I have not been successful.
All I can say is I have made my record, thank you very much.
Compton: You have made your record. The law is clear. Discovery is not required as in a non-renewal hearing. The Supreme Court is clear. For me to take this out of the hands of the board and sustain your motion to dismiss I don’t think I have that authority, I am to prepare a transcript and the board will review that transcript. Your objections will be noted in the transcript and the board will decide. It can be appealed to the chancery court or to the supreme court.
Back to testimony
Stimpson asks Stewart if any of the documents are ones Mr. Ellis hadn’t seen before.
Stewart: The only one I know that he hadn’t seen would be, number 42, about choreography for this year. He has not seen this document but he has seen one like that. He will testify I’m certain that I gave him more financially information than he ever wanted.
Butts: May the record reflect that since these records were not provided to Mr. Ellis with any reasonable time before the hearing that any knowledge Mr. Ellis has of these documents would have to be drawn solely from his memory.
The administration has had the actual document to either refresh this witnesses memory or construct their examination. We have had nothing expect Mr. Elli’s memory. I am not saying he is impaired but I can hardly remember what I did last week. that is why I keep a calendar and make notes. When I do so much I cant remember everything that has been done without my memory being refreshed.
Stewart is now referring to an email. She said it makes it sound as though when the choreographer was in town Mr. and Mrs. Ellis would take the choreographer out to dinner and charge the booster club. Stewart said Mrs. Ellis was not a district employee.
She is now referring to an email with credit card receipts. It is a copy of all of the bills.
Stimpson: Did you have any conversations with him over charges that were not substantiated?
Stewart said she would ask him for receipts she did not have but she would usually not ask any more.
Stewart reads an email from a Wave Connection parent from Dec. 1, 201. Said she heard that they would not be going to New York and said a lot of parents were wondering when Mr. Ellis would tell the kids.
Stewart is reading an email sent to a parent from Auburn High School. She said that when the show choir was in Birmingham, they had a party with Auburn High School at the team hotel. Stewart said she was trying to find out how to get money from the school. Stewart said she spoken with Ellis and she understood that Tupelo would pay for the party and Auburn would reimburse for half. Tupelo paid $1,000 on a DJ and $700 for room rental and also paid for security and food.
The parent responded on March 1, 2011…
Stimpson: What had Mr. Ellis told you about the invitation for the party?
Stewart: That we had been invited by Auburn High School. That we had been invited to have a party with them.
Back to the response email. The Auburn parent said Auburn’s director and Mr. Ellis had agreed that the school would pay $500 for the back…
Stewart is referring to a year-end document for 2010-11 school year. Ending balance for Wave Connect was a deficit of $5,000. Stewart said a trip had been planned for New York that didn’t take place. She said that money was divided out to get them out of the hole. Sound Wave still ended up in the hole, she said.
Stewart said that at one point, she thought Sound Wave would end up with money but after she got the invoice from Steve Anderson in May, it put them back in the hole.
Stimpson asks about the New York fund
Stewart said Ellis had planned a trip to NY for Wave Connection, Sound Wave and Structure and they started raising money in the beginning of the year to get 150 people to NY. It was a trip where each child would need to pay an entry fee to be in the competition. In October, the show choir board voted they were not going to have enough money to go.
Stimpson: Was this a school function?
Stimpson: To your knowledge was this trip approved by the principal?
Stewart: Mr. Ellis said it was.
Stimpson asks about show choir board. Stewart said Ellis put it together in the summer of 2010. She said it was the only reason she agreed to be treasurer again, noting that it was a lot of work, with $200,000 going through the account. She said Louis Homes (spelling?) was going to be the financial person on that board and he helped her. She said that that board stopped meeting after they cancelled the trip to New York. She said it was a seven-member board chosen by Ellis.
Stimpson: How much money did you need for the New York trip?
Stewart: We decided each child would need to pay at least $250, we never got down to specifics of it because we realized there was no way we could raise that phenomenal amount of money. She said it would cost $800 to $1,000 per child.
Stewart said the board met with Ellis and told him the trip was not going to happen because they could not raise enough money. She said Ellis was conduction a Wave Connection practice at the time and went back with them.
How much money was raised for New York trip?
13,707.22. There was more money in that account, but people had already paid for some of that. Every student has their own account for trips. One payment had been due and she had already transferred some money. That account originally had $9,000 more in it but it was put back to student accounts or given back to parents.
$500 per group had already been paid for the New York trip. $1,000 total for the two show choir groups. That money was not refunded.
Stewart is speaking about another document, year end finances for Sound Wave, what was budgeted and what was actually spent. She goes over same document for Wave Connection.
Stimpson: Was Wave Connection over budget that year?
Stewart: Yes. They brought in $71,000 and spent $77,000
Stimpson, after the Oct. 14 show choir board meeting when NY trip was canceled are you aware of any other fund raising that occurred for the trip?
Stewart: We had a haunted trail the week of Halloween at allard Park (to raise money for the trip)
Stimpson: Had Ellis informed the students that the trip was not going to take place?
Stewart: It was later. I don’t think we received anything from him that it wasn’t going to take place until January (2011)
Hearing resumes after 18-minute break
Stewart is now referring to several invoices paid to arrange songs. Then she reads an email she sent Steve Anderson when she received a late invoice from him. The email apologizes to him for the invoice being paid late. She said that she just received the invoice yesterday and she paid it the next day. She said that she doesn’t know where the invoice was sent but that if he sends the copy to her, she will make sure they get paid more quickly.
In his reply, Anderson said he is surprised Stewart did not receive the invoice earlier because Ellis had it all that time. He said that Ellis had told him that the booster books were closed.
Stimpson asks Stewart whether the booster books were in fact closed. Stewart responds that the booster books are never closed but are open year round.
Stewart reads an email in which Ellis billed the booster club $1,250 for arranging several songs.
Stewart said the booster club paid twice for some songs. She said that in the email from Anderson, he said he arranged “Crush ,crush, crush.” She said that she also paid Ellis in June to arrange that song.
Stimpson: Did you have a discussion with Mr. Ellis about that.
Stewart said no. She said that the invoice from Anderson came so late that she just paid that invoice when she received it.
Stewart is referring to an email from Ellis to her on Oct. 15. It is an email specifying he needed checks from her for various things, choreography, invoicing music, the Ole Miss choir, etc.
Stimpson: Whenever he presented you an invoice, for arranging service, you paid it?
Stewart: Yes ma’am.
Stimpson: Did he ever get booster club approval for arranging songs
Stewart: No….He did tell us at one point that he was arranging music and it would be less expensive for booster club if he arranged songs, so I was aware that he was going to be doing some arranging.
Stewart said that the booster club books ended the year in the deficit for the first two years that she was treasurer.
Stewart is directed to the 2010 Sound Wave program. It shows that the song “Ask the Lonely” was performed. She also asked about another program that shows the song “I Drove All Night” was performed.
Stewart is now directed to an email sent to her and three others. It says that the October show could be canceled because they couldn’t get all of the needed copyrights. The email said that copyrights had been obtained for five songs.
Attorney Kelly Stimpson: Was that true?
Stewart: No Ma’am.
Stimpson directs Stewart to exhibit 24, a permission to arrange contract that she was given by Ellis when he started the copyright process. It has Ellis’ signature. It is a permission to arrange contract. She said that the payments were made on Sept, 8.
The contracts are for “As cold as Ice,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” and “Fire and Ice.”
Stimpson asked whether Ellis had copies of the music at this did.. Stewart said he did. Stimpson asks whether he distributed it in student folders. Stewart said he did.
Stewart is directed to an email from Ellis about the team get together on Sept. 23. Stimpson asked whether Stewart believed this to be a school activity. Stewart said that she did. Butts objects, questioning Stewart’s expertise in knowing whether it was a school activity. Compton allows the questioning to continue, telling Butts he can voir dire the witness about it on his cross examination.
Stewart said her daughter also attended the event on Sept. 30, the makeup party, but that she only attended the first hour because she was in a wedding the next day.
Stimpson: Did you consider it a required activity?
Stewart: The kids felt they needed to be there.
Butts asks for the question to be repeated again, saying the witness did not fully answer it.
Stewart: The kids were told it was optional, but my child felt like she needed to make an appearance there.
Stimpson: What was your understanding?
Stewart: That is was optional.
Stewart refers to money spent by the booster club on choreography for songs that they did not use, either because of copyright or for other reasons. She said there is another song for this year that has been choreographed but does not have copyright permission. That makes a total of $6,500 that has been spent choreographing songs that they don’t have copyright permission for.
They referred to another $1,700 spent on songs that hadn’t been used. I did not catch what that money was for.
Butts said several documents have been introduced. He asks whether they were part of the 140 documents that were sent to him on Sudnay afternoon.
Stimpson said they sent Butts 50-something documents on Sunday as a courtesy to him. She said she was not required to do so but that she did it as a courtesy. She said that her understanding was that these documents now being spoken about were in that group emailed to Butts.
Butts said that it may have been 50 documents, but it was 140 pages.
He has a continuing objection on each of those documents being introduced.
Stewart said Ellis charged $1,200 for four songs she arranged. She said that two of those songs were performed but that to her knowledge two of those were not performed.
She is now referring to an invoice to Ron Jones for an arrangement he did for Sound Wave in October.
Stewart is directed to another email from Ellis. In it, Ellis said “No news means good news in that area.” Stewart said that she understood that to mean that Ellis thought that they had received the copyright permissions since they had not heard anything. Stewart said she did not believe that to be accurate.
Stewart said that she was alarmed that they had a show in six weeks and that at that point, they did not have copyright on any songs.
She said that she and the booster club president then met with Ellis asking how they could help him, how they could help him to be better organized.
President of the booster club is Valerie Whitwell.
Stewart said that she met with the other officers of the booster club and realized that at that point. that Wave Connection did not yet have copyright permission on any song. This was in the middle of September. They then went and met with Jason Harris. She said the meeting with the boosters would have either been Sept. 17 or Sept. 24 and that they then met with THS Principal Jason Harris on the Tuesday after that.
Stewart said she had gotten an email from a copyright company that they hadn’t gotten permission on two songs previously performed by Wave Connection. She knew those two songs had been the closing songs of past shows.
The songs were “Ask the Lonely” and “I Drove All Night.” Both were arranged by David Alderman.
Stewart said when she heard that she realized that “this was far deeper than I as a parent volunteer should have to deal with.” That was when she called the booster board and met with Mr. Harris.
The third day of the hearing has begun.
Terri Stewart, the treasurer of the choral booster club is on the stand. She said that she would rather not be here but that she was issued a subpoena.
She is directed to an email from Ellis to her. It asks what is going on with the credit card.
In the past two years, the booster club had had a credit card and it had been misplaced. Stewart said she felt it was in the best interest of the booster club not to have a credit card. She said she would keep up with receipts by contacting Ellis and asking for them. Ellis had the credit card.
Stewart said she had never paid for any copyright permissions until Sept. 8 of this year. That is when she first wrote the checks, beginning process of getting copyright. She said September of this year was the first time
She is reading Ellis’ email again. It says that his personal goal is to keep up with receipts better this year, acknowledging that as a weakness of his.
Stewart said that he and Ellis talked about money a lot. She said that Ellis did struggle with keeping up with expenses. She said that organization wasn’t high on his list, that he was busy with other aspects of the choral program.
Butts motions to dismiss all charges dealing with booster club funds because those are not public funds and are not funds of the Tupelo Public School District. He wants to renew that motion, which he made previously.
Hearing has recessed until 9 a.m. on Wednesday
Greenburg said his arrangement was to bill both the arranger and the school. He said that if Ellis was the arranger, he would bill Ellis directly, not the school.
Greenburg said his “you’re kidding me” reaction was in response to the song “Fire.”
Greenburg said his interpretation when he saw that was that it was a late submission, but in fact, it was submitted by arranger directly to Hal Leonard who came back to him a couple of months later and wanted to see a score. It was probably submitted initially when our first arrangements came in. What seemed like a really bizarre thing was really a submission made in August that was held up by Hal Leonard.
Stimpson asks about the chart given in October. It says the song “Fire” was submitted in September, but Greenburg said that song was originally submitted to Hal Leonard earlier.
Greenburg said the “Fire” score was originally sent for submission, the first conversation was Oct. 11 of 2011. It said, “Mark how would you feel about taking over submission of ‘Fire.’….The school said they have time and wants to pursue it.”
Greenburg said the entry in his database is incorrect, it was not Sept. 21. He said it was submitted by Mr. Anderson.
Greenburg said that Calvin did not send it to them directly.
Stimpson: You talked about school policy and board policy relative to copyright. Does a school choral director need a policy to tell them about copyright law.
Greenburg: I probably can’t answer that without telling you my own feelings about that.
Stimpson: You told us your feelings before so if you can answer the question by telling us your feelings please do so.
(Greenburg gave long answer. He said that if the music business was any more screwed up, he probably would have invented it. He remembers the first time he heard about Napster and he didn’t believe there was any way to download music for free) I think there is a generational gap I noticed. I’m 48 and I think there are people who are 30 who think all music should be free. I can’t say what goes on in the minds of other people, pushing that envelope and saying, the cases I’ve looked through as far as teachers saying it was for fair use, for a school, for a non-profit, you just want to settle these copyright cases.
The only market for sheet music is almost completely academic.
My own personal feeling is that you would have to know you are doing something that doesn’t pass the smell test.
Stimpson: You mentioned the director at Clinton High School. You mentioned that he had approval for all of his songs.
Greenburg: I would have no way of knowing that because I would have no way of knowing whether we received the totality of his submissions and I don’t know what he performed.
Butts wants to know whether everything he has submitted has been cleared.
Greenburg is checking his database. He said Clinton has five songs cleared and he other songs that are outstanding that are not cleared but probably in 18 minutes, they will have 9 of 12 songs. (Said he has a long conference call with a publisher in 18 minutes)
Mr. Greenburg’s testimony has been completed.
Hearing is recessed until 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
Greenburg said that his understanding is that previously the schools were the ones paying the licensing.
Butts: Did you say that as of today, only three songs had been approved.?
Greenburg: I don’t know how many have been approved. As of October, at that time, only three songs had been approved.
Butts: Do you know when his show was scheduled to take place?
Greenburg: I believe the first week of October.
Butts: Do you know whether he postponed his show trying to get these permissions?
Greenburg: When he sent in these permissions…..permissions go to our licensing department and someone may have said we have more permissions from Tupelo and I said you’re kidding me.
Greenburg said he asked if they were on pre-cleared list and they said no. Then an arranger called and asked for a song that was difficult to clear….I looked and it was a song for Tupelo which shocked me because I was advising Mr. Ellis to look for songs from our pre-cleared list and then seemingly we had all these new song submissions. At that point, I had no idea what was going on and it seemed odd to me.
Butts: How many songs did you have on your pre-cleared list?
Greenburg: Probably 3,500 songs.
Greenburg said it is a database with probably the most popular songs on the planet….I can’t speak to how hard it is to use it, but it is not like it is a list of (rare songs).
Butts: Did you call Calvin about this difficult song to clear?
Greenburg: No I didn’t….Arranger submitted a song and asked if you can clear this song “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix. (Going through Hendrix experience is difficult to get license). There is only a finite amount of time. I told arranger to send me the score…I knew that would take a lot of time, which means you are looking at two months….When he sent it to me and I looked at application and it was Tupelo I was a little stunned….Because I had worked with Calvin personally I couldn’t reconcile that they were working so hard to have their show and so much later in the process they were submitting new requests. It didn’t jive with my willingness to find a choreographer for Tupelo…and then two or three weeks after that phone call, I was still getting musical submissions.
I may have asked Calvin what was going on and he told me he had postponed his show.
Greenburg said he called the arranger and asked if he was kidding me. He said why. I said this guy is out of time and they are asking for a score that will take months….I was concerned because it was coming up so late that I didn’t see….I have permission requests from May that have never cleared yet and marching band season is over. Some of this stuff takes a ridiculously long time. It didn’t seem pragmatic to me that if Calvin was under level of duress he was under he was submitting songs so late in the game.
Greenburg said his general feeling about this whole process of obtaining musical copyright for arrangement permission and what music directors know or don’t know, he has had director at Arizona State apply for John Williams song and Williams doesn’t allow anyone to make derivative works of his music. By the time I got back to Jim, he said I knew that I was just testing to see what you would say.
These directors know where the problems lie, the ones who are compliant.
In the particular case of Calvin because the Hal Leonard letter, there is a school of thought in the licensing business, if you ever stop and say I wonder if I need a license to do that, 99 percent of the time, you need a license to do that….
I find it almost incredulous that someone would not know that they needed to obtain the permission and there is no right that anybody has to make derivative works of music.
It is hard for me to fathom that. It is not hard for me to fathom someone who is not a music educator fathoming that. …
Butts: I started off that question asking about how long would a choral director need to plan a show….
Greenburg: The commonplace practice is that you talk about what you want to do for your show and pick the music, you make sure you can get it cleared, you then hire the choreographer, you would need to know three or four months in advance…That is why our immediate response we are one it, but it is always good to have a plan B.
Butts: You are not a choral director right?
Butts: You are not a music director right?
Butts: Do you have any knowledge with respect for what high school public school districts teach their music educators about copyright?
Greenburg: I have no idea
Butts: What were you doing in Mississippi
Greenburg: Visiting client schools in Mississippi
Butts: Were you dealing with other choral directors with respect to copyright permission?
Butts: What was the nature of your dealings?
Greenburg: visiting with them and talking with them about the status of their permissions, thanking them for their business, (etc.)
Butts: Asks if Greenburg knows the director of Clinton High School’s show choir
Greenburg said he knows him.
Butts asks if he had gotten his copyright permissions. Greenburg said he knows he has.
Butts asks if he submitted all of his songs through him. Greenburg said he had no idea.
Stimpson will now re-direct
Stimpson: Prior to today did you have any discussion with David Butts concerning this case?
Stimpson: Did you give him any conclusions on the issue of copyright violation? Did you advise him Mr. Ellis was in copyright violation?
Greenburg: I didn’t advise him as to whether or not Mr. Ellis was in copyright violation because I have no idea.
Stimpson: If songs on list submitted to you were copied without being cleared is that a copyright violation?
Grenberg: If you are asking me if Mr. Ellis made copies of songs and those songs do not have permission from rights holder, I want to be clear, we are not the only person to provide those rights (if they disseminated that, that is a violation of copyright law).
Stimpson: When Mr. Ellis gave you email from Hal Leonard, did you ask whether fee had been paid.
Greenburg: I was furious with the letter. I’ve seen examples where they sweated arranger for thousands of dollars. If arranger made arrangement without disseminating it, law has not been violated.
What I was furious about Hal Leonard made a specific allegation these were done without their permission. Just making an arrangement was fine, disseminating them was not fine?
Stimpson: Once he indicated they were used, that was a copyright violation?
Stimpson: Submitting in September was late in the process, right?
Greenburg: If the music isn’t music we can clear instantly, it is a calculated risk
Butts is cross-examining Greenburg
Greenburg said he is in Phoenix. He said he has a law degree from Loyola but that he has never practiced law. He said he considers himself an expert in copyright law in the area in which he works.
Butts asks whether he gives advice on copyright law for pay. Greenburg said his company has a legal copyright division staffed by practicing attorneys.
Butts said he is just trying to get an idea about Greenburg’s area of expertise. Greenburg said he does not practice law or represent himself as an attorney. He said he has never represented anyone in a copyright case.
Butts: At the beginning of your examination, Ms. Stimpson said you are testifying by subpoena, is that correct. (Greenburg said yes). How did you get that subpoena.
Greenburg: They emailed it to me because I asked them not to send a marshall to my house.
Greenburg said he works extensively in Mississippi and that he had no idea whether a subpoena would be valid and that he didn’t want to get pulled over and find out he had a bench warrant.
Butts: Did anyone tell you there would be a bench warning if you didn’t testify today
Greenburg: No….I know what happens if you don’t testify when subpoenaed. My hiring an attorney to find out whether a subpoena would be valid or not (wasn’t worth the effort). I decided to err on side of caution.
Greenburg said that neither Keith nor Stimpson told him a bench warrant would be issued if he didn’t testify.
Greenburg said Ellis contacted him. He said his company is not the only one the U.S. that helps get copyright permission. He said he doesn’t know how many companies there are.
Greenburg said he doesn’t know why Ellis contacted him particularly and that he has no knowledge of whether Ellis was trying contact anyone else.
Butts asks if Greenburg has any knowledge of Ellis prior to August. Greenburg said only through letters he received from Hal Leonard.
Butts: How would I know if I want a copyright permission to call you up?
Greenburg: We have a very good business reputation with the arranger community and with the music director community. A lot of publishers will refer….If you call a publisher directly and say I need musical clearance, a lot of them will refer them to us.
Butts asks if Greenburg is a go-between from person who needs permission and person who grants the permission. Greenburg said yes. He said he provides a service for publishers to reach out to schools so schools will comply.
Butts: I take it that in August or September of this year, Calvin Ellis contacted you to get your assistance. What prompted him to call you in the first place?
Greenburg: Generally speaking, when a school calls us, I would say 100 percent of every school that has ever called us has said we really need help in getting our permissions (said they don’t want to talk to Hal Leonard again) and said we need you to help us. That is probably with certainty how the conversation with Calvin Ellis started off, some level of exasperation.
Butts: Did Calvin tell you a reason he was calling you was because he had what he perceived to be a problem with Hal Leonard.
Greenburg: We got into handling this specific type of rights about a year ago because so many schools and clients and universities had trouble getting permission from Hal Leonard. Hal Leonard had put a stranglehold on it. Schools had nothing to play.
It took a while for people to understand the difference between a digital permission right and a paper permission right. Once word spread that people could get permissions from us spread (people began calling and saying wow, I’ve had a heck of a time with Hal Leonard).
Butts: Is Calvin Ellis the first choral director who ever had a problem with Hal Leonard.
Butts: Tell us about the problems music directors are having with Hal Leonard and other ([publishers).
Greenburg: Hal Leonard has consistently ….Prior to say 1990, if you wanted a permission to make a derivative work, that meant you had to make your arrangements of the music, draw it out by hand on musical notation paper and you had to photocopy it and disseminate it. Prior to early 90s, Hal Leonard and a handful of other print agents had more of less corned the market for printed sheet music. (Given so much money to publishers for exclusive rights) So Hal Leonard has printing presses and they are belting out sheet music and selling it all over the place.
Because of the advent of the digital millennium and proliferation of software that allowed you to create new arrangements of music on your computer and convert to PDF files and send them around digitally, Hal Leonard took position that any digital dissemination of music is very threatening to selling of sheet music ….you can deliver it electronically and people can print it. Hal Leonard developed this approach where if arranger said I want to make a marching band arrangement of a Beatles song (Hal Leonard would allow it, they would perform it, another school would see it and like it. They would call Hal Leonard and he would say so and so has already arranged that for another school so for him to do it for your school we will charge you more money. Said that because intellectual property doesn’t enjoy anti-trust, Hal Leonard could therefore force schools to buy arrangements they have already made. That turned out to be fallacious. Ohio State marching band has no woodwinds, can’t use same arrangement as Auburn, MSU or Ole Miss. Custom arranging isn’t practical. But in mindset of Hal Leonard, anyone making arrangement that wasn’t Hal Leonard is a competitor. They would scare arrangers to death to the point that a lot of schools said they would not seek arrangement permissions and would write and perform their own music. You can imagine how horrible that was. Also Hal Leonard would pick its spots and arrange in litigation of certain schools that were using their music without rights. )
The difference between a digital right and a print right, it is like you are walking down road and need to make an arrangement. Do I want to make it on paper and photocopy or do I want to distribute it digitally and give each person a copy. We grant non-exclusive digital rights from our publishers. That is sort of the atmospheres that pervades the industry that would have led any band director or choir director to call us.
Butts: Assume a derivative work is being created. Let’s say Calvin Ellis wants a particular song in his show choir performance but it needs to be rearranged so it can be performed by show choir. What he needs is a derivative work, is that correct?
Butts: Unless he does it himself, he would need to go to an arranger to get derivative work?
Greenburg: That is correct
Butts: To create that work he needs to hire an arranger, but since it is a derivative work it must have copyright permission?
Greenburg: That is correct.
Butts asks whether arranger or school needs to get the permission. Greenburg said Hal Leonard and the law looks at it as both the school and the arranger are liable.
Greenburg: I think everyone in the publishing industry looks at it the same way in that they just want to get paid. One thing we do that is different, rather than wondering who is going to pay you,…one of the conundrums Hal Leonard has found themselves in is (they don’t know if they will get check from school or from arranger) So the approach we have adopted at our company, is we find it infinitely preferable to work with arranger because arranger is already set up with the school district as a vendor.
In some instances, arrangers will say they don’t’ want to get involved with billing the school. When we bill a school for the permission, generally it is much slower because there is confusion as school district level, needs to get us set up as a vendor and it is time consuming. When we have an arranger that sits on us billing a school, we tell them we will be giving bad service to the school by slowing down the delivery of the music.
Butts: How long have you been doing it that way.
Greenburg: Since we started granting permission, eight months, nine months.
Butts: Do you know what the practice in the industry has been before the last eight months?
Greenburg: They had this crazy dual paypoint system that made no sense to us.
Stimpson: Is the dissemination of arranged music without permission a copyright infringement.
Greenburg: If the dissemination is in tangible form, no matter how fleeting the tangibility is, the 9 th circuit has held that is an infringement of copyright law.
Stimpson asks for explanation
Greenburg: easier way for me to explain this is this way. If you had a particular piece of music and you had a very skilled band and band director said have you heard this Lady Gaga song. Lady Gaga songs are written on back on napkin and there are (no physical copies of the music ) If you went in front of band and played it for band and said first four notes are (said several notes quickly), now go ahead. If you band was skilled and could pick up tempo, you would be making a work that was communicated and never tangible, you would not need permission. If you put on blackboard, made copy, did it electronically (several other examples) and you didn’t have permission you would have infringed on copyright.
(Says it is not violation of copyright law if you sit at home and compose with pen and paper but it you disseminate it in tangible form, it is a violation of copyright issue)
Greenburg: It has nothing to do with the performance of the music. It is that you are making a physical representation of sheet music. That right to make a derivative of that work and put it on paper and disseminate it is a right that has to come from the right holder.
Stimpson: You had indicated you are not the copyright police and you have testified that tried to help your clients obtain copyrights to music, is that correct?
Stimpson is done with Greenburg. Hearing takes a five-minute break at 4:33 p.m.
Stimpson refers Greenburg to another email exchange between Ellis and Greenburg.
In another email, Ellis told Greenburg, “Yes we did use these arrangements.”
Stimpson: What did that mean?
Greenburg: Calvin told me that Tupelo had had a previous run-in with Hal Leonard company over copyright infringement and I (asked him for documentation of it). They made a specific allegation that Mr. Ellis and the arranger had made arrangements without obtaining permission and that they were going to fine them without obtaining copyright law.
I asked them if they ever used these arrangements, had they used arrangements without permission?
Stimpson: After he advised you that he did use those arrangements, did you give him any other advise on that arrangement?
Stimpson refers to another exhibit, an email from Ellis to Greenburg sent on Sept. 25, 2011. In the email Ellis said he still doesn’t feel like he has a clear solution to the problem. Stimpson asks about a second page, a response email from Greenburg to Ellis on Sept. 24. Greenburg’s response provided times prior to the weekend phone conversation.
Stimpson refers to another exhibit, a Sept. 29 email from Calvin Ellis to Greenburg, asking if he had heard anything. Stimpson referred to Greenburg’s response.: “Calvin I want to be very polite to you because you are a customer and a nice guy. When we hear something, we will tell you.”
Greenburg said there were two rounds of submissions, one at the end of August and one three weeks late.
Stimpson: On Sept. 14, you received an email from Mr. Ellis. After which you emailed him the same day saying the fine was the last time you would worry about. You testified you were alarmed when you received Mr. Ellis’ email. What were you alarmed about?
Greenburg: I was alarmed about the question he asked because I interpreted his question to be if I don’t get permission I will perform this anyway so what is the fine I would be facing.
Stimpson directs him to a Sept. 23, 2011 email from Ellis to Greenburg. In email, Ellis said he wanted to apologize for his second email. Said only one song was on his cleared list and that he doesn’t know what to do. Said if he had more money to get those songs learned and choreographed he would go that route without a doubt. Ellis said in the email he is about to loose his mind over this.
Greenburg said he was trying at that time to help Ellis obtain copyright permission of those songs.
Stimpson: Did you speak with Mr. Ellis that weekend?
Stimpson: What did you advise Mr. Ellis.
Greenburg: I advised him that I had no way of knowing whether what he had asked for would be cleared in a four-week time frame. I told him I knew a lot of people in Mississippi at the university and that I would try to find choreographers to come out to Tupelo to help the kids and to pick pre-cleared music and go that route.
Stimpson asked when that conversation was.
Greenburg said it was probably Saturday the 24 th or Sunday the 25 th .
Stimpson asked how long the conversation was. Greenburg said it was probably 20 or 25 minutes.
Stimpson asked who else Greenburg spoke to about Tupelo copyright issues
Greenburg: Ron Jones and Linda McEachran. Said he spoke to them to help Ellis with his problem.
Greenburg said Jones is a very important arranger with a greater amount of experience in world of showchoir than he does and that he was concerned about his conversation with Ellis.
Stimpson asks whether Jones gave Greenburg advice for how to help Mr. Ellis.
Greenburg said no.
Stimpson: What was the result of your conversation with Mr. Jones.
Greenburg: Mr. Jones indicated the only possible solution was to go with the plan I had outlined, we would have to use material instantly clearable where we could obtain the copyright permissions and to go from there.
Stimpson: Was that with the knowledge that the Wave Connection show was scheduled to be four weeks from that time?
Greenburg said that was correct.
Stimpson asks whether Ellis mentioned he had booked a choreographer in July and that the numbers were already choreographed for his show choir.
Greenburg: He did tell me that, yes.
Stimpson asks whether it is typical to have choreography paid for before copyright is approved?
Greenburg said no.
Stimpson: Out of your clients, have you ever had anyone ask the question before, what is the fine for stealing music?
Greenburg: I have never had anyone ask our firm if I….There are two questions. I have had people ask our firm, we are in trouble here, I didn’t get a permission, we are in violation of copyright law, what is the fine we are facing. I have never had anyone ask me in advance, if I were to not obtain the copyrights what would happen?
Stimpson asks about telephone call to Linda.
Greenburg: It was a conference call between Linda and Ron Jones about how to help Calvin and for his own clarification whether or not people in the show choir world paid for the choreography before they knew whether or not they could get permission to perform the music.
Stimpson asked whether they did.
Greenburg: My specific question was is it normal fro people in show choir world to pay for choreography when they would not (know for sure they had the rights to that music)
Stimpson: What was the answer
Greenburg: The answer I was told was that was no the norm in the showchoir world as far as those two individuals knew.
Stimpson refers Greenburg to a document he was asked to provide for the school district after Ellis had asked him to contact the superintendent.
Stimpson: Looking at first entry, can you tell me what date you received that?
Greenburg: Said probably 8-29. (Song was called “Round the World.”)
When someone looks at our data base, we know green songs have been approved.
Second entry was submitted by another teacher. Third, fourth and fifth songs belong to a universal publishing company and are in limbo. Greenburg received the request for those on Aug. 29.
Stimpson asks about the next three songs. They are songs that Ron Jones submitted directly for Calvin Ellis. Greenburg said at the time, he told Mr. Jones, he could not get Queen material. That is no longer the case. It was “Pressure” and “Under Pressure.” We told Mr. Jones he would have to obtain that information from Hal Leonard and he canceled that request from us.
Stimpson asks about four other songs. Greenburg said those were four songs Ellis submitted with them right around Sept. 21.
Stimpson “Speed of Sound” “Fire” “Cold Shoulder” and “Freeze.”
Next two entries are “More” and “Written in the Stars.” Stimpson asks what the approval status of those songs was. Greenburg said “More” was rolling right and “Written in the Stars” was approved by Warner 10 days later.
Stimpson asks how many of Ellis’ songs had been approved at this time? Greenburg said that is correct.
Stimpson asks when was the date that was sent over. Greenburg said Oct. 20.
Stimpson asks that as of Oct. 20, of all the songs submitted by Calvin Ellis, were only three approved?
Greenburg said that was correct.
Stimpson refers him to a Sept. 6 email. Asks Greenburg to describe it. He says it is an email exchange between Mr. Ellis and himself.
Greenburg reads in email that it could take a couple of weeks to get permissions and that he was enclosing a backup list of songs.
Stimpson: What does a pre-cleared list mean?
Greenburg: It is a list of songs where we have a rolling right to continue granting permission to use those songs. These transactions are small-dollar transactions so must publishers don’t want me asking them every time someone needs a $150 license. It is an industry under tremendous financial stress and they don’t have a lot of people to handle these small requests. Once we have a rolling right, we can quickly grant a license.
Stimpson: About how many songs on pre-cleared list?
Greenburg: At one time there were 3,200 songs. There are probably 3,500 or maybe more.
Stimpson: You sent that to Mr. Ellis because those numbers are quick to turn around, is that correct?
Stimpson: Why were you suggesting Mr. Ellis have a plan B?
Greenburg talks about three rights can it be recorded, performed or arranged (I think I caught that correctly). He said rights about performing publicly or having it be arranged are rights that a rights holder can refuse for no reason. Said there are artists, believe it or not, who don’t want their work performed by show choirs, marching bands, etc. Because we don’t know that until we approach a publisher, we tell a client it is really good to have a plan B in place (in case music you selected is not granted by publisher). It may not be your first choice, but it is better than nothing.
Stimpson refers him to exhibit 9, a Sept. 14 email. Email from Ellis to Greenburg at 9:01 p.m. It says “Hi Mark, I need your advice….” Stimpson asks Greenburg to read a paragraph. Ellis said in the email he just became aware of issues of copyright law at the end of last school year, said it didn’t realize it was required for each arranger so he is “working backwards.”
Stimpson asks Greenburg whether he has seen this situation before.
Greenburg: I think your question is really vague.
Stimpson asks Greenburg to read on. Ellis asks in the email what is the fine for performing songs without granted permission. Asks what is the fine and what is the usual fee.
Stimpson asks him what he advised Mr. Ellis.
Greenburg: I advised Mr. Ellis in writing not to even consider stealing music or being involved in performing music or disseminating arrangements where there is no permission granted. I explained it wasn’t the fine that should be a concern, it is a felony. To steal music and get a felony tag over stealing a piece of music was a very poor decision and that it is such a phenomenal risk. It is the same advice I would give anyone not to do it.
Stimpson references him to the Sept. 14 from Greenburg to Ellis. It is his response to Ellis’ previous email.
Stimpson asks him the purpose for sending the email.
Greenburg said when he saw Ellis’ request about what is the fine for playing music if he doesn’t have copyright, he was alarmed and he wanted to explain to Ellis the ramifications of what he was doing, not as an enforcement person but to tell him what was at stake
Witness is Mark Greenburg
Employed by Tresona Multimeida
Stimpson: You are here by virtue of a subpoena is that correct?
Greenburg said Tresona Multimedia is a “right’s access” company. Said they take care of all of the intellectual property needs from arrangement permission through broadcast licensing to facilitate monetization of those assets.
Greenburg said he has clients in Mississippi: USM, Mississippi State, Pearl River CC and probably 20 or 30 different high schools, including Tupelo High School.
Stimpson: Tell us what your background is
Greenburg: I am a business man and I have a variety of different companies I own or work for
He said as CEO of Tresona he deals with issues of licensing, working with publishers. He deals with every issue that affects the company monetarily.
Stimpson: Do you know Mr Ellis? How?
Greenburg: Mr. Ellis is a music director at Tupelo High School for one of the show choir programs?
I know Mr. Ellis, I speak to him on the phone. I never met him in person. I believe it was the end of August or beginning of September (of this year).
Greenburg said Mr. Ellis submitted a request for arrangement permissions to our firm or arrangers submitted requests and listed Mr. Ellis as the music director at Tupelo High School. Interaction was by email or on the telephone.
Greenburg has exhibits that were sent to him. Stimpson refers him to email from Aug. 30.
Stimpson asks him what the document is.
Greenburg: It looks like an email from Calvin Ellis to me and at the bottom is an email from me to Calvin Ellis. It is in reference to a phone conversation I had with him.
Stimpson asks about phone conversation. Greenburg said he wanted to have permission for arrangements two people had made for other schools. He said Mr. Ellis mentioned he was buying pre-existing arrangements from these two arrangers. Said an arrangement belongs to the publisher. So once an arrangement makes an arrangement it is done on a work for hire basis almost exclusively. It would be very rare unless it was in public domain. Said one can not make an arrangement for Tupelo High School and turn around and sell that arrangement to Jackson Academy because you would have to get permission from publisher and would be selling something you don’t own.
Greenburg said the rights we give to arrangers are rights that are school specific. When Calvin said he is buying pre-existing arrangements, I wanted him to understand he would have to buy a custom arrangement and not an arrangement that had been given to a particular school because we had no authority to give that permission.
Stimpson: Did you explain that to Mr. Ellis?
Greenburg: Yes, just in a note.
Greenburg said he copied the two arrangers because he didn’t want anyone to run afoul of copyright laws. Said it is an issue of nomenclature, doesn’t want anyone under impression that Tresona is selling arrangements to multiple schools because we have not given them that right and we don’t want publishers to believe their rights had been violated. It was just a word of caution.
Greenburg said the two arrangers (I didn’t catch their name) do frequent business with Tresona and that they are very talented.
Stimpson refers Greenburg to an email. She asks him about Ellis’ Aug. 30 reply.
Stimpson asks what Ellis sent to Greenburg before the email. Greenburg said it was probably an email with a list of songs he wanted to clear.
Stimpson submits exhibit 33, an email she just referred to.
It appears that the next witness will be communicating via the Internet. A large computer monitor has been wheeled to the witness stand.
Witness will be Mark Greenburg via the computer, maybe Skype?
Meadows said teachers were trained last year on the Mississippi Code of Conduct. It was also included in all contracts. Meadows reads three items from that code that prohibit sexual innuendo, texting and social networking with a student.
Keith refers Meadows to exhibit 22. Asks what right Mr. Ellis has to chastise a student for not attending an event if it is not a school sanctioned event.
Meadows said none whatsoever.
Keith asked what Ellis did and Meadows said that Ellis chastised the student and the parent.
Keith said he is finished with the witness
At 2:58 p.m., Meadows leaves the stand. By my count, he has been on the stand for more than 10 hours. Now, we're moving.
I did not catch whom the next witness is but I will not it when he/she comes.
Under questioning from Keith, Meadows said the superintendent is the only person with authority to terminate an employee. He said the process would be to open an investigation. He would have central office staff and principal help with that and help gather data. He would have the employee share whichever information he would like to share.
Keith said you were asked abut your personal knowledge to these events. Do did talk to Mr. Ellis and personally review those documents, is that correct? Meadows said yes.
Keith: What is your expectation of all district employees regarding the law?
Meadows: We expect them to follow the law.
Keith asks if employees can pick and choose which laws to follow. Meadows said no.
Keith: Who do you expect to follow the copyright laws in your school district with regard to sheet music use, any music material that might be copyrighted.
Meadows said professional staff in choir department and elementary music teachers. He said he expects teachers to be aware of those laws so the district doesn’t enter into a violation that could open the district up to claims of liability.
Keith: Does following the law have to be in an employee’s job description?
Meadows: No sir.
Keith asks how district makes its policies available. Meadows said they are available through computer and all teachers have access to district-owned laptop and wireless services so they can get on TPSD website and read policies.
Keith: you were asked of violations of thousands of copies of sheet music, are you aware of those?
Meadows: To my knowledge that has never happened.
Same question asked about copies of math textbooks and Meadows said he was not aware of any such violations.
Keith: Have any of your teachers had a course in criminal law
Meadows: I do not know whether any teachers have had a course in criminal law.
Keith: Do you expect you teachers to follow all laws in this state and nation?
Meadows: yes sir I do.
Keith refers to questions this morning about copyright law, refers Meadows to exhibit 5.
Keith: That exhibit is an email exchange between Calvin Ellis and David Alderman. Asks Meadows to read a sentence from an email.
Meadows: The main problem is that show choir directors need to have music right away but technically you are not supposed to even arrange the song until permissions have been received.
Meadows said that was dated July of 2011.
Keith refers him to exhibit 7, another email between Ellis and Alderman. Asks Meadows to read a sentence.
Meadows: Yes you have to get permission for each song (or each school?) you arrange for.
Keith: Who was asking for Mr. Alderman’s advise?
Meadows: Mr. Ellis
Keith refers him to an email between Ellis and Mark Greenburg. Asks who was seeking advice of Mr. Greenburg. Meadows said, “Mr. Ellis.”
Refers to another email between Ellis and Greenburg, reference to $150,000 fine and that arranging music without permission is a felony. Email is from September 2011.
Keith refers to exhibit 11. Asks Meadows to read a sentence.
Butts objects because it was all brought out on original testimony and on cross. Butts said he is just repeating his direct examination.
Keith: How many songs did Mr. Greenburg saw were approved as of Sept. 23.
Meadows: Only one song.
Keith refers to Sept. 29 email from parents regarding emergency meeting. Email says still waiting for permissions of a few songs. Keith asks if Meadows knows of any songs approved between Sept. 23 and Sept. 29. Meadows said he does not.
Keith refers to exhibit 3, email between Ellis and Daniel Peters.
Keith: Do you have any information Mr. Ellis took a position adverse to this information about copyright infringement?
Meadows said no, Ellis did not tell his principal or him.
Keith asks whether Ellis came to him at any point about copyright issues. Meadows said no.
Keith asks Meadows what knowledge he had that he would fire Ellis when they had met on Oct. 13 or on Oct. 18. Meadows said he didn’t have any.
Keith: You were asked several questions about who suggested that you should fire Mr. Ellis. Whose decision was it to dismiss Mr. Ellis
Meadows: It was mine and mine alone.
Keith refers to exhibit with Ellis’ salary and supplement
Meadows: The supplement is for doing all of those things needed to support our choral students for performing at the very highest level, including supervision and doing all of those instructional things including arranging and adjusting the choreography as needed.
Keith asks whether any duties are excluded from the $9,000 supplement.
Meadows said none are.
Keith: How would that supplement rate to others?
Meadows: As far as I know, it is the highest supplement given to any person in our music or choral program and it is one of the highest in the district.
Keith asks about the football coach’s supplement whether all of his specific duties are listed. Meadows said they are not.
Meadows: said, no sir it does not.
Keith asks whether the football club or any other staff member is paid by a booster club. Meadows said not to his knowledge.
Meadows said performance of show choir is not an issue in this hearing. He said that what they do is exceptional.
Keith asks whether Meadows has the ability to visit any department with any regularity. Meadows said he does not.
Keith asks about letter of administrative leave, exhibit 27. Why was that letter necessary?
Meadows: In order to fair investigate the allegations against Mr. Ellis it was necessary to hopefully protect Mr. Ellis’ privacy (and obtain the facts)
Keith asks if Ellis was permanently barred from conduct with students. Meadows said he was not.
Keith asks about policy prohibiting staff from being paid for tutoring their students. Meadows said there is such a policy.
Keith asks about exception that Ellis was given.
Meadows said Mr. Ellis was granted an exemption to that policy where he was able to teach the students during the school day privately after school hours.
Keith asks how many students were affected by this?
Meadows said there were eight students on this list.
Keith: How long was that ban going to stay in existence?
Meadows: Only to point I could conduct a complete and fair investigation.
Keith: Was that investigation complete on Oct. 28 when you gave him the letter?
Keith refers Meadows to a document, licensed staff descriptor pay plan. It lists supplement for show choir director and for all other positions that receive supplements.
Hearing takes a five-minute break at 2:39 p.m.
Butts asks if a teacher was having sex with students off school process would that be enough to fire that teacher? Meadows said he would handle that situation the same way he did with Ellis, investigate the matter to give the student due process.
Butts asks question again. Meadows said yes (he would fire the teacher) as long as it was understood he would go through due process and try to protect the teacher as he did with Ellis in this case.
Butts asks what if a teacher was found drunk every day, whether that would be sufficient ground to fire the teacher? Meadows said yes, if given the opportunity to conduct an investigation.
Butts, if you found out a teacher in your district had repeatedly disseminated pornography on the Internet, would you fire that teacher? Meadows said yes, if after a thorough investigation, I would recommend that.
Butts concludes his cross-examination of Meadows.
Keith will soon begin his redirect.
Butts asks about emails produced from Mr. Ellis’ private email account. And that Meadows has access to Mr. Ellis’ entire school email account. Meadows said yes.
Butts asks whether Meadows has ever sent an email to Ellis’ private email address.
Meadows said he doesn’t know.
Butts asks whether he has received emails from district employees from their private emails rather than a school email.
Meadows said he doesn’t know.
Butts: Did you ever send an email to Jason Harris at his private email address
Meadows said only if Harris sent him an email from his private address and Meadows hit reply. Meadows said he does not know what Harris’ private email address is.
Butts said he was asking previously about what personal knowledge he had of what goes into producing successful show choirs. Butts said I believe you said the sum total of your knowledge is that you had attended some performances. Meadows said that is correct.
Butts asks if Meadows knows personally how that is funded. Meadows said no.
Butts said Meadows if the district allocates annually a budget for Sound Wave and Wave Connection. Meadows said it allocated money annually for the Tupelo choral program.
Butts: Would it surprise you to know it costs about $180,000 a year to run and pay for sets, transportation, costumes, meals, rooms, etc.
Meadows: What do you mean by surprise?
Butts: Are you aware of that fact?
Meadows: Yes sir, I am.
Butts: Does the district pay for that?
Meadows: The district allocates an amount….I don’t know what portion if any it pays for that $180,000.
Butts: How big is the choral department budget?
Meadows: I do not know the amount of that budget.
Butts: Did you not investigate that at all before you made these charges against Mr. Ellis for squandering Tupelo Public School District funds?
Meadows: I don’t recall looking at that budget.
Meadows said the charge said squandering funds. He said the part of that charge he was most interested in was that a Tupelo school employee was using funds in an irresponsible manner.
Butts: What facts do you base your charge or what sources of information do you have?
Meadows: I have seen invoices where choreographers paid to arrange music. Mr. Ellis would either not use that music or would turn around and charge the booster club for the same music.
Butts asked Meadows if he could choreograph or arrange music. Meadows said he couldn’t. Butts asks how he knows what goes into the process.
Meadows: When you charge for rearranging music that has already been arranged, that is included in the $9,000-plus that the district pays Mr. Ellis for a supplement.
Butts asks Meadows if he knows whether music needs to be rearranged before a show. Meadows said he does not know but that those duties are included in Ellis’ supplement. Butts said that is not listed in Ellis’ supplement.
Butts asks whether Meadows has looked at Ellis’ job description. Meadows said he last looked at it (the job description for teacher of music in the Tupelo Public School District) when he hired the last THS choral director, Susie White Williams.
Butts said that Mr. Ellis did not recommend Susie White Wiliams for that job. Meadows said he did not know that.
Butts: Is there anything in that job description that says this pay includes arranging for the show choirs.
Meadows: Nothing other than the fact that we have in there any and other duties assigned by the superintendent.
Butts: I asked you is it in there in black and white.
Meadows: My answer is no other than that it is included in that statement.
Butts: By virtue of the fact that you know practically nothing about show choirs and how to put on a show choir show, how would you know he was in a position to squander any money?
Meadows: He charged the booster club for something that was in his supplement.
Butts: You are talking about charging twice for the same choreography?
Butts: How do you know he squandered money for choreography.
Meadows: When he arranges something over or arranges it for himself he is doing something that is included in his $9,000 supplement.
Butts: Please show me in that job description anything that shows that any money for choreography is included in that.
Meadows refers to statement about any and other duties
Butts: You said he has to perform any duty that superintendent or designee assigns him?
Butts: Show me when and how you ever assigned him as part of his job to arrange, rearrange, choreograph or rechoreograph songs.
Meadows said he never went to Ellis and told him specifically he needed to do those duties but said he also doesn’t go to football coaches and tell them what they need to do, etc.
Butts: Have you ever seen in writing where Mr. Ellis was informed that his job was to arrange and choreograph?
Meadows said we have a job description that says any and all other duties.
Butts: Show me anything where you assigned to him the duties to arrange, rearrange, choreograph, etc.
Keith: that has been asked and answered, just as he said for football coach, teacher, etc.
Compton: I think we need to move on.
Butts: If you will refer to Mississippi Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct (which Meadows referred to in the termination letter), do you contend that his conduct in accompanying students to Walmart to buy items of a sexually oriented nature which were utilized after on some students cars to be a violation of that contract?
Meadows: yes sir
Butts: You have made several previous claims about sexually explicit items.
Meadows yes sir
Butts asks if it occurred during school hours or on school property. Meadows said no.
Meadows said the sleepover or whatever it was called that occurred at Mr. Ellis’ house and the subsequent trip to Walmart occurred during a school sanctioned event.
Butts asks if Meadows is aware this sleepover has been a tradition for Soundwave and Wave Connection for years and there haven’t been previous problems.
Meadows said he had never had it reported to him where a teacher had students over at his or her house without other adults present.
Butts: Forget the going to Walmar.
Meadows: I can’t forget it. (laughter)
Butts said it has been a tradition in Tupleo long before Ellis came and it had never been claimed to be a school sanctioned event until now?
Keith objects to Butts’ laughing and giggling between questions.
Compton said he expects professional conduct.
Butts: Do you not know that for years an event called Hair and Makeup night and bonding night for the guys has occurred as a tradition for Wave Connection and Sound Wave.
Meadows: Yes, I understand it was a tradition.
Butts: Do you also know that all of the previous years no one ever claimed this was a school event that needed permission slips, ect.
Meadows: I don’t know that.
Butts: You claimed that this year it was a school event and needed to be approved by someone in the administration?
Butts: Getting back to the conduct condoms, bananas, Vaseline and all that, do you agree that took place off school property but Mr. Ellis engaged in (conduct that was enough to get him fired)
Meadows: If I had been dealing with only that one item, I don’t know that we would be sitting here. As this investigation expanded, almost like peeling away an onion I found other examples….(Butts cut him off and Keith objects).
Butts: If Ellis obtained in that conduct would that be enough to fire him.
Meadows: yes, I think it would have been sufficient, but I was dealing with much more and I found in the course of the investigation there was a consistent pattern of poor judgment.
Butts presents Meadows with the TPSD acceptable use policy. He asks which part of that policy deals with copyright infringement.
Meadows said that three pages in, it is identified with IJND-RI. If you turn to page 2, four pages into his document, near the bottom it says “Copyrighted material must not be connected to the district’s network without author’s permission.”
Butts: (Re-reads that policy) Copyrighted material must not be placed on any system connected to the district network. What is the district network?
Meadows: Computer network.
Butts: Copyrighted material must not be placed on district network without the author’s permission….As far as the attachment is concerned, exhibit 25, does that exhibit make any reference to copyrighted material?
Meadows: It says I agree to use district electronic system in a professional, legal and ethical matter.
Butts: What does that have to do with obtaining copyrighted permission for the performance of showchoir?
Meadows: There was an exhibit introduced yesterday that employees of our district abide by local laws, state and federal laws.
Butts: That is a lot to know, isn’t it?
Meadows: Not if you are a teacher in Tupelo Public School District.
Butts: So a teacher is supposed to know federal copyright law?
Meadows: No sir. He gives an example where a math teacher should know not to go to a math textbook and make copies of the textbook for unauthorized use.
Butts questions to the effect of how are teachers to know local ordinances and state law. He asks if Meadows expects teachers to be familiar with entire MS code?
Meadows: I guess what I am saying is the example I gave. If it is a math teacher (they will use good judgment and not use our system to make multiple copies of it).
Butts: If math teacher struck a student with a textbook should they know whether they committed simple or aggravated assault.
Meadows said no but that he essentially expects teachers to have the judgment to know what is appropriate.
Butts said how are they to know what is appropriate unless they know what the law is.
Meadows said they can’t know but they can use good judgment and ask before they do it.
Butts: Who would they ask?
Meadows said they can start with the principal and move to a district level positon. Meadows said if he doesn’t know he will seek the advise of counsel.
Butts asks about MS standards for educator conduct.
Hearing resumes with David Butts cross-examining David Meadows. Butts is asking Meadows about certain TPSD policies.
Butts presents Meadows with a letter he wrote on Oct. 7. Butts said this is three weeks before Ellis was fired. It is from Meadows to the parent of a student Ellis was giving private tutoring to.
Butts: How did you get this parent’s name?
Meadows said he asked Ellis to give him a list of the students he was tutoring privately.
Meadows said he believes he sent out eight such letters.
Butts asks Meadows to read the letter without reading the name. The letter notes Mississippi Educator Code of Ethics. It says that in light of new code of ethics, school board is looking at its policies, including tutoring for pay and staff conflict of interest. It says that pending board’s review any and all private tutoring given by a teacher or a coach is to be immediately suspended.
Butts asks if Meadows consulted his counsel before sending out letter. Meadows said he did.
Butts: Did you believe you had legal authority to (suspend any and all private lessons?)
Meadows: I believed I had duty to safeguard the students because I was investigating an incident….(cut off)
Butts: My question is did you think you had the legal authority to cut off private lessons when you wrote this letter?
Meadows: What I believe is that I have the duty I previously described.
Butts chuckles. He says I asked you to instruct the witness to answer the question.
Compton: Can you act like you are in a court of law and be more professional.
Butts apologizes, said he got frustrated.
Butts asks the question again about legal authority.
Meadows said he didn’t know but that he felt he had duty to protect the students.
Butts: It is correct you sent this letter out without knowing you had the legal authority to do so.
Meadows: I’ve answered it the only way I know how to answer it.
Butts said he is about to engage in another extended line of questioning and recommends a recess for lunch.
Hearing is recessed until 1.
Butts presents Meadows with a letter that was given to Ellis when he was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6. He asks Meadows to read that letter. It was written by Meadows and Jim Turner and was also signed by Jason Harris.
Butts: Who gave it to him?
Meadows: Mr. Turner and Mr. Harris
Butts: Why does it instruct him to have no contact with students who are having private lessons with him?
Meadows said Ellis compromised safety of students by having male students at his house and driving them to Walmart to buy sexually suggestive items. I didn’t know what I was dealing with.
Butts: Now you are telling us that is your concern as far as his students who are taking private voice lessons with him. I don’t understand the relationship, can you explain that?
Meadows: The students taking private voice lessons with him and the students at Tupelo High School are one in the same. We were dealing with the Mississippi Code of Educator Conduct and stand 4 deals with felonies (inappropriate relationships with students) and I did not know what I was dealing with.
Meadows said he wanted to get the testimony of these students free from any taining from Mr. Ellis.
Butts: How long have you know Mr. Ellis.
Meadows: I’ve know of Mr. Ellis. Before this incident, I really didn’t’ know him personally (Said they had met on a couple of occasions).
Butts: Did you have any particular problems with him?
Meadows: No sir.
Butts: Did you have any problems with his character?
Meadows: I knew his students put on good productions.
Butts: Did you talk to students about him>
Meadows: I don’t typically talk to students about their teachers unless they come to me.
Butts asked Meadows if he was familiar with Ellis’ reputation in the community, with his faith, his morals, his work ethic. Meadows said he wasn’t.
Butts asks Meadows about not allowing Ellis to have contact with students he had a contract with to teach voice lessons.
Meadows said he had a higher obligation to the safety of student and conduct an investigation in a fair manner. He said when you put students into an automobile you cross a line from a professional relationship into a buddy relationship.
Butts: If he disregarded your command and lived up to his contract with his voice students, he would be found to be insubordinate, is that right?
Meadows: Yes because I had a higher obligation for protecting students.
Butts: Insubordination itself is a grounds to be discharged, is that right?
Meadows: Yes sir, it is
Butts said the supplement document doesn’t say anything about Ellis’ duties beyond teaching and supervising students. He said it doesn’t say anything about choreography or arranging. Meadows said that is correct.
Butts submits that document as an exhibit.
Butts: Has the district paid any fines or damages for any copyright infringement.
Meadows said he has to refer to one of these documents. Notes exhibit 3, email from Daniel Peters to Ellis and Atkinson. It says yesterday he sent Mr. Alderman an agreement to retroactiviely copyright these songs. The agreement notes fees and a small additional fee for violating copyright law.
Butts: You didn’t understand my question. Has the district paid any fine or fee to date for violating copyright law.
Meadows: I believe that states a fee was paid.
Butts: By whom.
Meadows said he doesn’t know where the money came from. Said there is money in choral budget for copyrights or it could have been paid by the booster club.
Butts: You are telling me you are charging Calvin Ellis with significant copyright infringement but you don’t know if the district has paid a dime for that infringement to date?
Meadows: I charged Mr. Ellis for subjecting the district to possible liability.
Butts: Has the district paid any fine or damage, and please understand, has the district paid any fine or damage to date for any copyright violation?
Meadows: Depending on who paid….
Compton: No has the district paid any fines for copyright violation?
Meadows: Not to my knowledge unless those fines were paid out of the choral budget.
Meadows said he doesn’t know whether it was paid from the choral budget.
Butts: Don’t you think it is your responsibility to know that as of today whether any fines or damages have been paid for copyright fines or infringement?
Meadows: There are two people who would be responsible for telling me that information, Ms. Linda Pannel and Ms. Rachel Murphree. Said neither of them have told him.
Butts: Do we need to bring them in here to tell us?
Compton: That is immaterial because the charge is subjecting the district to potential liability not actual liability.
Why does it matter if they did pay it? He is not charged with making the district liable for it.
Butts: If he is charged with violating 100 copyrights and the district has paid one, I understand it might be reasonable for the district to say we might have to pay on 99 more.
Butts asks a subpoena in standard be issued for Ms. Linda Pannel and Ms. Rachel Murphree.
Butts: Does the district carry liability insurance for copyright infringement?
Meadows: I don’t know that detail but I know the district does carry liability insurance?
Butts: Has any carrier been notified. Meadows said no.
Butts (to Compton): You and I both are attorney sand we carry malpractice insurance. When we know of facts that might subject us to malpractice we notify or insurance. That is not dependent on any malpractice being filed but just on knowing the facts.
Compton: Yes sir
Butts: That is the same thing here. Why hadn’t he notified carrier.
Meadows: I was waiting for a document (stating a demand from someone)
Butts: Asks if Meadows has read his policy.
Meadows said he hadn’t, had only been on the job since April.
Butts asks if he had discussed with district attorneys, concerning notifying insurance company.
Meadows said he vaguely recalls discussing with one of them whether the insurance company should be put on notice.
Butts: What are the duties of administrative counsel (Kelly Stimpson)
Keith objects, saying that is irrelevant. Compton asks for the relevance of the question. Butts said he wants to know whether it falls in purview of district counsel to inform of possible copyright violation.
Butts said he is not asking what advice was given. Just asking is it part of administrative counsel’s duties to advise the district on copyright laws or anything?
Keith: Mr. objection again is the duites of administrative counsel are irrelevant to this proceeding.
Compton: Is there a job description for administrative counsel.
Meadows said he doesn’t know.
Compton: Have you had any discussions with Ms. Stimpson dealing with copyright.
Meadows: I don’t remember. I vaguely recall getting counsel from Mr. Keith or Ms. Stimpson.
Compton: That was dealing with possible claim, beside that do you ever remember having a conversation with Ms. Stimpson about copyrigt.
Meadows: Yes I do.
Butts: When was that?
Meadows: I don’t remember
Compton: Any idea?
Meadows: I believe in the last six months.
Butts: Other than that conference, have you consulted with her or any of the district attorneys on copyright law.
Meadows: I don’t recall any other discussions.
Butts: Would you know whether or not any of your proceeding superintendents consulted with counsel regarding copyright.
Meadows: I do not.
Butts: When you assumed your duties had you received any document or anything the subject of which was copyright law.
Meadows: I have learned since April the superintendent receives lots of information. When you saw anything that opens a wide mass of information. I don’t recall getting anything on copyright.
Butts: Is there any way to locate any such thing?
Meadows: Not that I am aware of
Butts: Has anyting been preserved?
Meadows: There are a lot of documents. I can not say if one had been preserved.
Butts: Would you agree your showchoirs have had outstanding success over last five, six years?
Meadows: Yes sir
Butts: As far as running those programs would you agree he has done a good job?
Meadows: No sir I would not.
Butts: Strictly in terms of performing, would you say he has done a good job?
Meadows: No sir, I would not.
Butts You have concerns about the performances?
Meadows: The safety of the kids is a concern.
After being pressed, Meadows said the performance of the kids was terrific.
Butts: The choirs he has taught during the day have performed well in the state competitions?
Meadows: As far as I know, yes.
Butts: Your office is down at the administrative offices?
Meadows: Yes sir.
Butts: Do you visit choral department at Tupelo High School with any regularity
Meadows: As much as a superintendent can. I recall visiting the choral department two times since April.
Butts: Have you attended any (show choir performances)?)
Meadows: No sir, I have not
Butts: Have you been present while Mr. Ellis and his wife have (built sets, designed costumes, chosen music, participated in arrangement, etc.)
Meadows said no, he hadn’t. Said those were the responsibilities of the choral director.
Butts asks if TPSD assumes responsibility for chartering buses and signing contracts and paying for the charters.
Meadows: Said from time to time the administration does.
Butts: Do you provide charter buses or do you provide what we called the yellow dogs?
Meadows mentions two other buses beyond the yellow buses, the Golden Wave buses. Said he doesn’t know whether the show choir has used those buses.
Butts asks what Meadows does know about show choirs.
Meadows said he knows that Mr. Ellis is responsible for it.
Butts: Is that all you know?
Meadows: Other than the performances I have attended from time to time.
Butts: Did you enjoy those performances?
Meadows: Yes sir.
Hearing resumes at 10:40 after 15 minute break.
Butts asks Meadows whether he consulted with Mr. Otis Tims or with anyone else at Michell McNutt and Tims. Meadows said he hadn’t.
Butts is presenting Meadows with school district policy IJND-E (I think I got the number correct). Meadows said it is technology resource and electronic use agreement, said it is the electronic resource policy he was referencing yesterday.
Meadows said this is an exhibit to that policy. Butts submits it as an exhibit to the hearing.
Butts: As a result of any action by Calvin Ellis with respect to copyrights, has anyone filed a lawsuit against the district, to date?
Meadows: No sir, not that I am aware of.
Butts: Has anyone threatened to file a lawsuit connected to actions of Calvin Ellis.
Meadows: No sir, unless you take those emails as threat of possible lawsuit.
Butts: Do you take those as threats of possible lawsuit?
Meadows: I take them as possibly opening the district up to a possible lawsuit.
Butts: Has the district been notified of any copyright infringement by Mr. Ellis since the date of his termination?
Meadows: Not that I am aware of
Butts: This is outside copyright area. Prior to Oct. 28, 2011, did anyone make a demand to you that Mr. Ellis be fired?
Meadows: No sir.
Butts: Did anyone suggest he should be fired?
Meadows: No sir.
Butts: Did anyone, state to you or anyone else in the administration to your knowledge that Mr. Ellis should be fired?
Meadows: Not to me and not to my knowledge anyone else in the administration.
Butts: Did a board member demand Mr. Ellis be fired, that you are aware of?
Meadows: No sir
Butts: Do you know of any teacher making any such demands?
Meadows: No sir, I do not.
Butts: Do you know of any parent (make any such demands)
Meadows: No sir I do not.
Butts: Do you know any member of the public (make any such demands)
Meadows: No sir, not to my knowledge
Butts brings Meadows a document. Meadows said it is the state of Mississippi contract of employment with MS school districts. It is Mr. Calvin Leroy Ellis’ contract.
Butts: This is Mr. Ellis’ employment contract for 2011-12 school year. He is employed as what?
Meadows: Teachers/ music
Butts: What is his base salary?
Butts: There is an attachment, what is that?
Meadows: This is an attachment that shows base salary as well as a supplement for added duties.
Butts: How much is that supplement?
Butts: Why si that supplement given?
Meadows: It is given to coaches and others who have added duties beyond the regular school day.
Butts: You have supplements for many in the school district, would you describe a few of them.
Meadows: Coaches, music teachers, leaders of clubs, band directors.
Butts: Why are they given supplements?
Meadows: It is for added time outside of the school day
Butts: I always assume teachers are paid for time outside of school hours when they are supervising students, like a football coach, coaching students.
Meadows: That is where supplement would come in for a football coach.
Butts: So football team, do they practice entirely after school or do they get to use a period during the school day?
Meadows: I am not sure of the schedule, it could varry.
Butts: In the case of a football coach, he has football practice after school so he is out there superivising the team, is that the purpose of the supplement?
Meadows: This would work similar to the supplement Mr. Ellis would receive?
Butts: His supplement would also go for out of town games….
Meadows: Yes sir.
Butts: That is what his supplement is for.
Meadows: That and all sort of added duty. Making a playbook, reviewing film, making sure equipment is ready, making sure facilities are safe for students, all those comprehensive things.
Butts: Perhaps I am more familiar with that since I played football but never was in the show choir. What did his supplement require?
Meadows: All types of supervision of students, for planning, for ensuring their safety, for making surre facilities were maintained. He would also have to, like a coach’s playbook, he would be expected to write a choreograph or arrange for the students?
Butts: Do you know if Mr. Ellis is a choreographer?
Meadows: I do not.
Butts: Do you expect him to arrange?
Meadows (expects him to have knowledge of that in same way as football coach writes playbook and that he could match it to students in choir).
Butts: As I expect it, when he signed this contract, he should have knowledge of arranging?
Meadows: Yes sir
Butts: Before you hired him for this job, did you ensure that he had knowledge in choreography and arranging?
Meadows: Yes sir, he has a Class A license with the proper endorsements and he has eight years experience. That assures me that he has proper knowledge.
Butts: Where do I find the curriculum?
Meadows: You are referring to a document the state department of education prepares. I believe they are called Mississippi frameworks.
Compton (in response to a Keith objection of a Butts question): Did you contact any of the individuals these emails were from concerning the content of these emails?
Meadows: No sir.
Butts: With respect to everything you relied on, what knowledge do you have that the legal conclusions contained in the documents were in fact correct?
Meadows: I am not an attorney, but I depended on the documents to stand on their face value. That is what I used in making my judgment to write charge 1.
Butts: My question is did you seek counsel from anyone to see that statements in the email were in fact true….Do you have any knowledge of whether or not the legal conclusions such as violations of copyright law in those emails are correct?
Meadows: I took those documents at their face value. That was my knowledge.
Butts: So you relied on persons you don’t even know who made legal statements and assertions of fact and charged Mr. Ellis with that.
(Keith objects….Those documents are full of representations by a person Meadows knows well, Ellis)
Butts: Did Mr. Ellis in the emails represent that he was an expert in copyright law?
Meadows: As far as I know, no, but I expect a choral director to know enough about copyright law to keep themselves and the district out of trouble.
Butts: Mr. Ellis is not a lawyer, is he?
Meadows: I don’t know
Butts asks a question about whether anyone told Meadows (counsel) that it was a violation of copyright law. Keith objects on grounds of attorney-client privilege. Butts said he wanted to know whether anyone provided him information about copyright law.
Compton: Did you seek any advice whether copyright law had been violated by Mr Ellis?
Butts: What is potential liability.
Meadows: Can I refer to a document? (Butts says yes). The first document I will refer to is one of the emails, exhibit 9. The particular sentence that led me to potential liability factor is “what is the fine for performing these songs without permission?” What caught my permission was Mr. Ellis was acknowledging that he knew there was a fine involved if he did not have permission for those songs?
Meadows refers to another email, “we became aware of copyright law at the end of last school year” and did realize it was required for every song we perform.
Meadows: I interpreted it as Mr. Ellis became aware of copyright law at the end of the last school year and that he was concerned about the October show and was possibly even considering (violating the law)
Butts: Are you speculating here?
Meadows: No sir, I pondered the facts very carefully.
Butts: Would you not take it from that email if Mr. Ellis had concern, his concern revolved from the fact that he (expected arrangers to get copyright permissions?)
Meadows: No sir, not to me.
Butts: Do you that if someone violates copyright they can be fined?
Meadows: Yes sir, I do.
Buts: How do you know that?
Meadows: I can Google it and find out whatever I want to.
Butts: Did you Google it?
Meadows: I did not.
Butts: That is one source, what is another.
Meadows: I got legal advice.
Butts: Can we stipulate throughout this process that the charges of copyright law were on the consultation of Ms. Stimpson and Mr. Keith
Keith: We have no problem with that.
Butts: Thank you for simplifying it. We can go on.
At the time you had the charge, what evidence did you have that that information was in fact correct
Meadows: I took those documents for fact and used the fact that they had Mr. Elli’s name on them.
Butts: Is it not true that you have no personal knowledge that any of this information is in fact true.
If the facts in those exhibits are not true, then your conclusion is also not true.
Meadows: You are asking me a hypothetical question and I stand by what I said.
Butts repeats his question.
Keith objects on basis of ambiguity on his representation of the facts. Is he talking about some or all of the facts?
Compton: Mr. Meadows, if you had not had those emails, would you have made the charge of a copyright violation?
Meadows: No sir.
Butts refers to exhibit 3, an email from Daniel Peters to Ellis and Deborah Atkinson.
Refers to second paragraph. Butts said it states “In 2009, Mr. Alderman created an arrangement of “Ask the Lonely.” Butts said do you know that statement to be true?
Meadows: I accepted that document to be correct.
Butts: Did you call Mr. Peters and ask him?
Meadows: No sir, I did not.
Butts: So the only information you relied upon to make this charge is from some person named Daniel Peters.
Butts asks a series of questions establishing that Meadows does not know Mr. Peters, his expertise, his company, his knowledge of copyright law. Asks similar questions about Hal Leonard.
Meadows: I accepted this email at face value for what it said.
Butts: I am referring to permission for “I Drove all Night” and “Ask the Lonely.”
Meadows refers to correlation between the documents.
Exchange getting heated.
Meadows refers to an email where Ellis said that a lot of arrangers don’t go through this process. You and Steve are the only arrangers who have required me to do this. (I didn’t get whom you and Steve is referring to). Meadows said he also referred to exhibit 11, email from Ellis to Greenburg. Ellis said only one song on the cleared list is on his show list. He doesn’t know what else to do.
Meadows said those were some of the correlations he made.
Butts: You relied solely on these statements. You didn’t have any personal knowledge?
Meadows: Yes, I relied on those emails.
Butts: Did you consult with Mr. Ellis and ask him about it.
Meadows: This document was provided from an attorney to Tupelo Public School District. Mr. Bill Beasley.
Butts: Is his name on there?
Meadows: No sir it is not, but I believe that letter is from Mr. Bill Beasley.
Butts: My question is did you ever speak to Mr. Ellis personally?
Meadows: The reason I brought this document up is Mr. Ellis spoke with this document when we met on Oct. 13 for about four hours. During that time, instead of telling me about copyright permissions, I don’t recall us talking about copyright permissions but Mr. Ellis addresses it in his letter. I gave him the opportunity to talk about copyright permissions.
Butts: Did he exploit that opportunity?
Meadows: No sir, he did not.
Butts: The same question I asked about half a dozen questions ago. Did you ever personally talk with Calvin Ellis about obtaining copyright permissions, failing to obtain copyright permissions, the process of obtaining copyright permissions or his ongoing work in obtaining copyright permissions?
Meadows: Yes I did talk to him about his work obtaining copyright permissions.
Butts: That is one of four things, I take it you did not talk to him about the other three (paraphrase)
Meadows: No sir, that is not true, in that four-hour meeting he had an opportunity to talk abut it.
Butts: Did you tell him he could talk about it?
Meadows: I feel an employee of the Tupelo Public School District should feel free to talk with me about anything they choose….I think that opened the door for Mr. Ellis to tell me whatever he had on his mind.
Butts: Conference occurred on Oct. 13 but you didn’t charge him on Oct. 28…How was he going to know you were going to fire him for violating copyrights two weeks before you did it.?
Meadows: He should have known about copyright violations prior to Oct. 13 and what a serious issue it was.
Butts: But you knew it by Oct. 13? Why didn’t you talk about?
Meadows: I don’t know why we did. I thought he would but that was not one of the issues he chose to talk about.
Butts: Don’t you think it was your obligation to present him with what you knew?
Meadows: I thought it was my obligation to hear whatever he wanted to say.
Butts: Do you feel it is your obligation to be fair?
Meadows: I was being fair?
Butts: Do you feel it is your obligation to be fair to your teachers?
Meadows: I do feel it is an obligation to be fair?
Butts: Do you feel it is your obligation to call Mr. Ellis in and discuss charges that are or may be against him and give him an opportunity to explain.
Meadows: I thought it was my obligation to call Mr. Ellis in and give him an opportunity to explain whatever he wanted to me.
Butts: Was he aware that time that you were going to charge him with charge 5, endangering students on a field trip in Alabama. Were you aware of charge 5.
Meadows: I am not sure when I became aware that Mr. Ellis had a pattern of failing to supervise students.
Butts: I am not asking you about a pattern.
Compton: When we you aware of students being left in Alabama.
Meadows: I do not know whether it was before or after Oct. 13 meeting. That meeting was a turning point. Afterward, investigation expanded based on allegations he made that I had to investigate…The investigation expanded to the point, the investigative team and I, we literally could not keep up with all the information that was coming in.
Butts: You certainly knew about it by Oct. 28.
Meadows: Yes sir.
Butts: Did you call him into office and say lets sit down and have a talk about abandoning and endangering students by leaving them in Alabama?
Meadows: No sir, I did not.
Meadows said there was another meeting on Oct. 18. Butts asks if he talked about any charges then. Meadows said he asked Ellis to keep a log of his efforts to obtain copyright permissions.
Butts: Would it be fair to say that on Oct. 18 what you discussed was the then current situation of obtaining permissions for the show choirs. What I understand is you were instructing him to prepare a log….Did yall discuss all of these emails about particular songs?
Meadows: By that point, there had been so much information coming into my office that led to trustworthiness and forthrightness of Mr. Ellis.
Compton: Mr Meadows, listen to the question, if it can be answered yes or no, answer it yes or no and then you can explain your answer.
Butts: All I am asking you is was there any time….Did you ever have a meeting with Mr. Ellis where we were going to sit down and discuss (all the charges?)
Meadows: You realize, that letter was not written on that day. So no I did not specifically talk to him because that letter had not been written and I was still contemplating all the information I had been told.
Butts: Lets go to the moment in time on Oct. 28, the hour, minute and second you signed your name on that letter. At any point before that did you call Mr. Ellis and discuss this with him?
Meadows: No, sir, but he was free at any time to come into my office and discuss this with him.
Butts: So the answer is no, you never gave him an opportunity to explain? Is that right?
Meadows, exhibit 5 is an email from Mr. Ellis on July 12, 2011. To David at Allegro Music.com. Regarding a Hal Leonard problem. Ellis said can you explain the entire process to me.
Meadows reads an earlier email from Alderman to Ellis. Said he thought he was in the clear until he received notice that he was in copyright violation on those two songs. All Tupelo High School needs to do is pay them and it will be in the clear. Said the whole thing has been a misunderstanding.
Meadows said the next piece of information he considered is exhibit 6. From Daniel Peters to Calvin Ellis. It explained that it was great for Tupelo and Mr. Alderman if he was going to send in payment for signed agreements for Mr. Alderman can move forward with his other requests. Said we always make the school the licensee on these arrangements and never make the arranger the licensee. This means your school may keep the arrangement on file for use in the future. Said it is up to the school and the arranger to determine who makes the payment.
Meadows said he also considered exhibit 7, an email from Alderman to Ellis. It is regarding the Hal Leonard problem. It says that you need to get permission for each school you arrange for.
Meadows refers to exhibit 8. An email from Ellis to Terry Steward. I think Meadows said the date was Sept.14, 2011. Ellis said “I think we are in the clear with the copyright stuff. I hear no news means good news in that area.”
Meadows refers to exhibit 9. An email on Sept. 14, 2011 from Ellis to Mark Greenburg. ( he is at a publishing company I didn’t get the name). Ellis asks for advice. Said he became aware of copyright issues at the end of last year. 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 not being performed if we don’t get permission.
Meadows refers to email from Greenburg to Ellis on Sept. 14. “Here is the first thing, the fine is the last thing I would worry about and it is 150,000. We do not any enforcement but that is not what I would be worried about. Distributing music without permission is a felony and no one wants to be the one a publisher makes and example of when they see it on YouTube….Then they say didn’t you tell them it was denied and we say, yes we did. Then it puts you in a position where you knowingly stole the music…I personally think it is an insane risk and as a law school graduate I can tell you a felony tag would ruin your life, your marriage, your career, etc., all over a piece of music.”
Meadows refers to exhibit 11. Email from Ellis to Mark Greenburg. Dated Sept. 23.
Meadows refers to exhibit 13, email from Ellis to boosters saying he will cancel Wave Connection’s fall show and he does not want to risk reputation of THS by going forward with the show without copyright permission. Says he loves the kids but not enough to go to prison for them.
Meadows refers to exhibit 14, email to Ellis noting that he did not get permission for the song”Fire.”
Meadows said those were the facts he considered.
Butts asks Meadows when Keith helped him with legal counsel for Calvin Ellis’ termination letter.
Meadows district has used Mr Keith for quite a number of years to seek legal advice.
Butts: When was he hired to represent the district in this particular case.
Meadows: Mr. Keith has been used by the district across a number of years.
Butts: You do not remember the first date you met with Mr. Keith concerning Mr. Ellis?
Meadows: Middle of September
Butts: Do you know what Mr. Keith’s contact with the district is? Do you know how much he is being paid? Do you know how much Ms. Stimpson is being paid?
Meadows: No sir, I do not
Butts refers to the termination letter. Asks Meadows to read paragraph number 1.
Meadows: You have subjected the district to potential liability due to your violation of copyright laws.
Butts: Please state the factual and legal basis of that charge.
Jim Keith objects as it states to legal decision. John Compton sustains.
Butts: He is the one who should know what the legal and factual basis of that charge is.
Keith: My objection is to the fact that is asks him to make a legal conclusion.
Compton: I will allow factual basis, not legal basis.
Butts: You are not being asked to answer the legal basis for that charge. Who would know the legal basis of that charge?
Meadows: I consulted legal counsel for that charge.
Meadows: I used various emails, one of which is exhibit 3. Mentioned two examples where David Alderman had created arrangements for THS show choir where permission was not obtained for those copyrights. As mentions emails where Ellis said that during May and June many copyright expenses had occurred.
Day two of the Calvin Ellis hearing is about to begin. I will again be providing a live blog here. David Meadows will be on the stand when we start.