By Chris Wilson/Monroe Journal
AMORY – The Amory School Board has upheld the dismissal of Leigh Todd as principal of West Amory Elementary School because of the discipline she used on a student.
By a 4-1 vote Thursday night, the board supported the recommendation of Superintendent Gearl Loden that Todd be fired. Lazette Stevens was the sole board member who voted to keep Todd with the district.
Todd’s attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, was critical of the way the case was decided.
“It is remarkable that the only board member who actually attended the hearings in their entirety voted against terminating Mrs. Todd,” Waide said. “We believe Mrs. Lazette Stevens’ vote to keep Mrs. Todd as principal indicates how the evidence presented at the hearings heavily favored Mrs. Todd.”
The other board members relied on an 1,100-page transcript of the three-day appeal hearing to form their decision.
Waide advised Todd to either appeal the decision to Chancery Court or immediately file suit in federal district court. Todd had not decided on Friday if she will pursue either option.
Loden had recommended Todd’s dismissal based on an unorthodox method of punishment she had administered to a second-grade child at her school on March 7. Todd had disciplined the child, who had been disrespectful to a teacher, by making him stick his tongue out most of the school day.
During a three-day appeal hearing in April, both sides presented their cases. On Thursday, the school board heard summary presentations from attorneys for both Todd and the district before reaching their decision.
“I believe termination is the appropriate thing,” said attorney Brad Dillard, representing the board. “Todd said she didn’t request this, but she is the one who wanted an open hearing.”
Todd also spoke to the board, saying she held no bad feelings for the school district. She said she had never expected the case to become the “mini-trial” that it did.
“I want what’s best for this district,” she said. “My child will stay here regardless of how you rule on this. I will continue to love Amory.”
The board then entered a closed session without the attorneys or superintendent present to deliberate the matter. Its decision was delivered in writing to Waide and Todd on Friday.