Calvin Ellis hearing 12.05.11

5:30 p.m.

The hearing will recess until 9 a.m. on Tuesday. David Meadows will still be on the stand when it resumes.

4:55 p.m.

Butts: In your tenure as an administrator, have you ever dealt with a copyright problem before this one?

Meadows: I don’t recall that I have.

Butts: Before April or May of this year, had you been aware of whether someone in your school district was violating copyright laws?

Meadows: I just became interim superintendent in April.

Butts: Are you telling me the first time in your 40-something years that you have had to confront copyright law is in Calvin Ellis’ case?

Meadows: To the best of my knowledge it was.

Butts: You stated Calvin Ellis came to your attention, how?

Meadows: From this sleepover on Sept. 30.

Butts: How was that brought to your attention?

Meadows: A board member called and a parent had called her and said her daughter had reported inappropriate behavior.

Butts: Which board member was it?

Meadows: Ms. Beth Stone.

Butts asked which parent it was. Compton said that in order for Meadows to answer that question, they will have to clear the room.

Room is cleared for closed session at 4:55 p.m.

4:48 P.M.

Butts asks Meadows the extent of his education in copyright law.

Meadows said he has none and that he has not attempted to educate himself in any way about copyright law.

Butts said he looked through all policies on copyright and couldn’t find any. Asks Meadows where that is.

Meadows said he believes it is IJND electronic resources and responsible access.

Meadows said he wrote the first policy for the Tupelo Public School District. Said it was probably in early 2000s or a year or two before that.

Butts asks for title.

Meadows said he may not have title right but that it is electronic resources and responsible access policy.

Butts asks Meadows if he had seen it recently. Meadows said he has.

Butts: Complying with all copyright rules and regulations?

Meadows: There are many laws applicable to children from electronic bullying and what is acceptable to children for fair use. The district receives a large sum of federal money and we have to be aware of those laws.

Butts: Describe methods district has used to communicate policies to classroom teachers.

Meadows: We require teachers to sign responsible access polices. That policy is posted on the website. We inform teachers that all policies are available on the Internet.

Butts: Responsible access to what?

Meadows: To the Internet

Butts: Is that what the policy deals with?

Meadows: And appropriate use of electronic resources.

Butts: Does that cover sheet music and books?

Meadows: Once they become electronic it does.

Butts: Since we don’t have your policy, I am trying to understand what you are talking about. What you are saying is your policy relates to electronically-accessed documents?

Meadows: Yes

Butts: So if I want to download a whole novel, War and Peace, can I do it?

Meadows: No because it would potentially violate fair use.

Butts: Does this apply to sheet music ordered by choral department?

Meadows: You can not copyright a piece of sheet music, unless it has a copyright permission on it.

Butts: Do you know whether choral instructors for the last five years have been copying sheet music?

Meadows: I do not.

Butts: If they were doing it, whose responsibility would it be to report that to you?

Meadows: The principal

Butts: Would it be his responsibility if he failed to report?

Meadows: If he knew about it.

Butts: Should he?

Meadows: Are you talking about buildings with multiple principals?

Butts: Principals are under you in chain of command?

Meadows: Yes

Butts: Over the last five years, if choral teachers at Tupelo High School were copying sheet music and using it for any purpose, whose responsibility is it to get that information to you?

Meadows: Teachers and principals

Butts: Do you expect those teachers to report it to you?

Meadows: Yes, if they were being forthright.

Butts: Does it surprise you to know in last five years, there have been thousands of copies of sheet music made?

Meadows: I am not aware of that.

Butts: Does that also apply to video?

Meadows: It does.

Butts asks about videos played in district. Meadows said he does not know if that followed fair use.

Keith objects that question asks for a legal conclusion on part of witness, and Compton sustains.

Butts asks if he was aware of hundreds of copyrighted videos being shown in classrooms.

Meadows: If they were shown, I am not aware.

Butts: Do you know of any employee of your district who has ever had a course in copyright law?

Meadows: I am not aware of that.

Butts: Does Mr. Ellis’ license require him to attend any course in copyright law?

Meadows: Mr. Ellis license requires ongoing training, and it is up to him to select those courses.

Butts: Do you know what Mr. Ellis is supposed to know as a choral teacher?

Meadows: I am not trained in that, no.

Butts: Have you ever read his required curriculum?

Meadows: I have seen that curriculum.

Butts: Do you know what the requirements are to be a choral teacher, math teacher, geography teacher, English teacher?

Meadows: I do not, but I can look that up, which I routinely do.

Butts: Should you have been looking up requirements of a choral teacher?

Meadows: I expect Mr. Ellis to know that since he is choral teacher.

Butts: Do you know what he is required to know?

Meadows: Not without looking it up.

Butts: And you haven’t done that?

Meadows: No sir.

Butts asks about electronic resources policy. Asks if in formulation of the policy, he had advice of counsel.

Meadows: Yes

Butts: Who was that?

Meadows: Are you talking about original or revised?

Butts: Both

Meadows: I don’t recall for the original. I was not responsible for the revised because I was not the interim superintendent at that time.

Butts: I understood you contributed to the formulation of a policy that covers copyrights in the district.

Meadows: We were talking about the original version. I participated in the original version.

4:23 P.M.:

David Butts begins his cross examination.

He asks Meadows about several of the charges, asking if Meadows was present for those activities. Under questioning, Meadows said he does not know that from his personal knowledge because he was not there.

Butts: You do not know of your own personal knowledge whether he took any students out after midnight?

Meadows: Mr. Ellis admitted to me that he did. He said that while sitting in a car at Walmart, he thought to himself how will this look if a choral booster parent comes by and sees me.

Butts: Did he admit to you he had minor children out after midnight?

Meadows: He admitted that he had minor children out.

Butts: You have no personal knowledge whether he kept any minor children out after midnight because you were not there.

Meadows: I was not in the parking lot of Walmart after midnight on Sept. 30

Butts asked if Meadows if he asked parents if they gave their children permission. Meadows said he looked for the paperwork (permissions). Butts asked if Meadows then contacted parents for any students to ask whether they had given permission. Meadows said he did not because normal operating procedure is to ask for signed permission slips.

Butts: All I am asking you is you have no direct knowledge of any of these charges, you have relied on your team of investigators to provide you information to inform your knowledge.?

Keith objects

Butts: None of these charges are based on anything you saw yourself?

Meadows: I had a parent personally tell me what had happened to her child when he ran 21 laps. I testified earlier I had seen emails with Mr. Ellis’ name on it.

Butts: I am just trying to get you to acknowledge that you relied on other people to provide you with information to formulate these charges.

Meadows: I saw emails with Calvin Ellis’ name on it.

Butts: If you saw an event tell me

Meadows: I did not personally see that.

Butts: If you have seen him personally squander funds, please tell me.

Meadows: I have seen the record of him squandering funds.

Butts: Were you there when he did it?

Meadows: To my knowledge I was not

Butts asks several more questions about other charges, asking Meadows if he was there when they happened. Was he there when Ellis misrepresented self as director of choral activities; when he misused booster club credit card; when he intimidated students to not attend class or drop out of show choir.

Meadows said he was not.

Butts: I understand you can’t be everywhere all the time and you have to rely on other people. I am just trying to establish charges in this letter are based with information you were provided by other people?

Meadows: Are you asking me whether other people provided me the information, yes sir, they did.

Butts: What did you know from your personal knowledge?

Meadows: A parent told me about a student who ran 21 laps.

Butts: I am asking you if there is anything in here based on your own personal knowledge.

Butts said he will move on.

Butts asks Meadows if he composed the letter. He asked if anyone else helped compose the letter.

Meadows said he sought legal advice from Kelly Stimpson and Jim Keith.

Butts asked if he sought legal advice from anyone else. Meadows said no.

Butts asks Meadows for names of investigative team.

Meadows: Jim Turner, Director of Human Resources, Deputy Supt. Diana Ezell, Director of Federal Programs Dale Wariner and Asst. Finance Director Rachel Murphree. Meadows said that Jason Harris assisted with the investigation at Tupelo High School.

Butts asks Meadows if he personally interviewed anyone beside Mr. Ellis.

Meadows said he accepted all parents who asked to see him to the extent his time would allow.

4:06 P.M.:

Keith asks Meadows to read charge 19, that Ellis created a hostile environment and manipulated student schedules by telling students to move from advanced women’s choir into a class taught by him. The charge is from 2010-11 school year. The charge also includes that he refused to talk to another choral teacher for 10 months, that he unilaterally took charge of the Madrigal group and that he misrepresented himself as director of choral activities and made another teacher feel as though she was his assistant when she was not. Those charges were from 2010-11 school year. One from this school year involved Ellis damaging morale of another teacher by telling her students they would be awful this year.

Charge 20: Charged booster club credit cards for meals for wife and children. Came up during investigation.

Charge 21: While on paid administrative leave, was directed not to have any contact with students or staff to allow for investigation to run its course. Meadows said that Ellis was insubordinate by his violation of this. Said one example was a text that Meadows sent to a student and that Ellis called a student to tell him/her that he was placed on administrative leave.

Charge 22: Ellis failed to submit a daily log of his attempts to gain copyright permissions. Meadows said he only submitted on one occasion.

Charge 23: Lists several violations of MS Educator Code of Ethics.

Meadows said there was removal of a fixed asset from one of the buildings that was left in another school district. He said there is a procedure for checking out fixed assets but he could find no evidence that it was followed in this case.

Keith asked Meadows why he feels it is necessary to go through this process.

Meadows said he started on Sept. 30 with an incident that showed Mr. Ellis had compromised his position as a professional educator and had crossed a line by attempting to be a buddy and inviting male students to his home alone. He went further by taking students to Walmart and buying items that were sexually suggestive and endangered safety to students. Over the years, I have found when you cross that line and become a buddy to students, no one really cares until they care. If there had been an automobile accident, not only would that have tarnished Mr. Ellis’ reputation, it would have put students in physical harm.

I found a choral program that could produce a show but one that was organizationally in disarray. We had a failure across time of not being trustworthy, mismangement of funds by booster club where we need to follow example and set those rules. This led to my decision. While I would have preferred not to be sitting here, I did not have confidence and trust in Mr. Ellis to lead the Wave Connection show choir and choral program at Tupelo High School.

David Butts begins his cross examination.

3:51 P.M.:

Hearing has resumed.

3:28 P.M.:

Meadows said a field trip was requested by Ellis to Smith Lake during the summer. Said it is a very deep lake in Alabama and would involve a sleepover. Harris said he had concerns about safety and about the sleepover and he denied that field trip.

Meadows was given another document generated during the investigation. It is constitution of Tupelo High School choral club. Most recent revision was May 2011.

Keith said that on the second page it said director would be a member of the choral club. It also said that all officers and directors shall serve the club without compensation. It said the choral director is a member of the nominating committee. It says that treasurer shall make no purchases without a proper receipt.

Meadows said his expectation would be that all of the district’s employees would follow the bylaws to serve as models for their students.

Charge 17: Failed to comply with booster regulations, which require members and officers to serve without compensation.

Butts makes motion to dismiss charge 17 because the charge says Ellis was an officer of the club and was paid to arrange music. Butts said we will stipulate that Ellis was paid for arranging music but that he was not an officer. Keith said it was a typographical mistake and that Ellis was a member not an officer. He said a member is held to the same standards as an officer.

Butts said he has referred to these charges over and over for his defense and now the prosecution is trying to amend its indictment at this late date. He compares it to a prosecution who has charged someone for trial and on the day of the trial it has charged him with a different crime.

Keith said the same standard applies, which is serving the club without compensation.

Compton said objection is noted.

Meadows has been referred to another document, an email from a music company to Ellis. It is an agreement or contract from August of 2011. Meadows said Ellis does not have authority to sign contracts for school district or school. Meadows said he was not aware of this contract before his investigation.

Meadows refers to another similar agreement or contract signed by Ellis. And then a third one. They are for three different musical compositions.

At 3:28, the hearing has taken a 10-minute break.

3:14 P.M.:

Meadows is still testifying. He is speaking about policy involving teacher rules of conduct.

He speaks about another policy involving student social events. Policy guides and provides for well-planned social events that can contribute to well being of students, Meadows said. The first policy was issued on Nov. 28, 2000 and was updated Sept. 11, 2001. The other policy was issued on April 25, 2000. He said the expectation is that a TPSD employee would use these to guide conduct, which would fall in line with field trip policy and conflict of interest policy. The expectation is they would use this to guide their behavior for working with social events, Meadows said.

The next document (exhibit 20). It is an email from Calvin Ellis. Subject is Wave Connection update and it is to many email addresses. Date is Sept. 18, 2011. It says show is in five weeks from yesterday and that the next month will be a busy time and everyone needs to be on the same page. Meadows said Mr. Ellis had not communicated anything with him about the possibility of the show’s cancellation. Meadows said email says that on Friday, they will have first Wave Connection event of the year. Meadows said he had not received any information about an upcoming event. Email said that for dinner and performance, it will cost $40 per student and that attendance was optional because of cost.

Meadows is given another document. It is an email to a parent. Meadows said he sees this email as confirming that that activity (the sleepover on Sept. 30) was a school event because it goes into demanding, and in his opinion, demeaning, this parent for the fact that his/her student did not attend. It asks is the student a member of the team or not.

Meadows said that to his knowledge no request was made for district permission for these events.

Meadows said that board policy would require similar permission as is required for field trips

Keith asks Meadows to read charges 15 and 16. 15: You took minor children out after midnight in violation of Tupelo city curfew laws. This was done without permission of administration. 16: Failed to seek prior administrative approval for an event to which you required attendance (the Sept. 30) email.

Meadows said issue 15 is the Friday night event. He said to his knowledge it was not a sleepover event.

Meadows said his biggest concern was that a TPSD teacher had participated in a high school pranking event, had accompanied the male students who were with Mr. Ellis in his house in going to Walmart and buying sexually suggestive items that included condoms, bananas, Vaseline and shaving cream. Meadows said expectation is that we never put a student in situation that can endanger them. Getting into automobile that close to curfew puts students endanger.

Meadows said it puts teacher in position of crossing a professional line that puts individual in position of being a buddy to students rather than a teacher.

He said he found Ellis not only accompanied students to Walmart and but was involved in an incident where the females’ cars were pranked.

Meadows said he found this was just another component in line with consistent lack of supervision, ie, the Petal incident, the Birmingham trip, the supervision in the Performing Arts Center.

Keith asks about item 16.

Meadows said that because of the email that had come into his possession, he knew it was a school sponsored event when we tell a parent what was said in that email and demand to know whether a student was part of the team because a student did not attend.

2:53 P.M.: Hearing opens back up. Butts reiterates his continuing objection to all documents that he was not provided prior to Sunday.

2:30 P.M.:

Meadows asked to explain number 5. He said that during a field trip in a prior year, he learned that at various times during the field trip, up to and including when a charter bus carrying 13 female students was allowed to return to Tupelo with only those 13 female students and a male bus driver. Learned that three female students were left behind at a mall. Found out that incident occurred and the bus had to leave parking lot of mall because it was blocking traffic. A parent made a decision that one parent would remain there with an automobile waiting for students to report and would transfer them to next place on itinerary. He said charge six occurred on Saturday morning where all TPSD staff had vacated hotel/ motel where choral groups were staying and some students had to find a place to find a meal and were on the streets of Birmingham without and adult supervision.

Keith: Who do you hold responsible for making sure student supervision is taking place?

Meadows said he would hold TPSD staff member in charge of trip responsible for supervision. Said in this case, that would be Ellis.

Charge 7, sent students to run laps around building for being late. Students were not supervised and many chose to do other things than run laps.

Meadows said his concern was two fold. For one, it shows a continuing pattern of failure of supervision of students. Said he learned this was occurring around perimeter of performing arts center and the number of laps related to the number of minutes the student had been late. Meadows said he was concerned it was a health concern. (students laugh). (Keith asks audience to remain silent). Meadows said he would expect supervision would be in place inside and outside of auditorium. Meadows said he determined Ellis could not be present outside of auditorium while watching inside.

Charge 8. Ellis failed to exercise supervision of students at competition in Petal, resulting in room being trashed and boys and girls changing together.. Petal boosters voted to exclude Tupelo from future competitions. His failure of supervision resulted in damage to reputation of TPSD.

Meadows said he is not here to punish Ellis for this past event (from a previous school year) but that it showed continuing pattern of failure to supervise.

Meadows read three charges related to Ellis charging boosters for activities he was being paid for in his supplement. Meadows said Ellis’ supplement is more than $9,000, essentially for the work he needs to do outside of normal school hours.

Meadows said his investigation revealed invoices of things Ellis had been paid for. He said he saw invoices of songs that had not been used. Meadows said a TPSD teacher is expected, because they occupy a position of trust, to deal forthrightly with our booster clubs. Said much of this information had been provided by others.

Meadows said he had an issue with this when he knows Ellis is paid the highest supplement among the three staff members in the choral department and one of the highest at THS.

Charge 12, displayed lack of trustworthiness in violation of MS Educator Code of Conduct. The code was approved by the legislature during its previous session. Meadows said he was concerned with statements made by Ellis like “I think we are in the clear, no news is good news” and the fact that Ellis lied to the booster club about how many songs he had received copyright for.

The hearing is cleared at 2:30 so that a student issue can be discussed.

2:15 P.M.:

Meadows said he was very concerned about Ellis’ forthrightness at this time. Said Ellis had subjected the district to potential monetary liability and that the issue went back to 2009 school year.

Now moving on to charge 3, which involves use of booster money without previous authorization.

Butts makes a motion to dismiss all charges involving booster club money since it is private money not school district money and that such complaints should be in perogative of booster club.

Keith said that under bylaws, Wave Connection director is a member of booster club. He said there is any issue involving an employee misusing booster club money, it is a district issue.

Butts asks for case law that Tupelo Public School District has any interest in this matter.

Butts said he knows of no statutory law that gives Tupelo School District any authority over booster club funds. Said issue of whether Ellis misused funds is an issue between booster club and Ellis.

Keith asks Meadows to read charge 4.

Tutoring students for pay. Meadows said Ellis tutored students during school day while he was under contract to teach, said it was double dipping. Said Ellis told him he knew it was wrong but did it anyway.

Kelly Stimpson brought Meadows another document. It is Tupelo Board Policy on staff conflict of interest. Said no employee of the district shall use his or her position to obtain pecuniary benefit.

Meadows is accumulating a stack of papers on the witness stand.

Meadows now reads charge number 5: endangering students while on a field trip in Alabama. Three students were left behind at a mall while you departed on a bus with other students.

6: You neglected students while on field trip in Alabama. Students were left to fend for themselves, walk the streets of Birmingham to get food. Also sent a bus home without any adult supervision.

Meadows given two district policies, one on supervision of students and one on field trips and excursions.

2:00 P.M.:

Another email from Mark Greenberg on Sept. 14. To Ellis and others. The fine is the last thing I would worry about and it is $150,000. We don’t do any enforcement but that is not what I am worried about. Said it is a felony and no one wants to be the one made an example of by a publishing house that sees an arrangement on Youtube. Even the first offense can be five years. Said he personally thinks it is an insane risk and that a felony tag can ruin your life over a piece of music. I applaud your willingness to step up and do the right thing but no means no if we can’t get permission.

Meadows said at that point he did not have any awareness of possible copyright violations.

Email on Sept. 23, 2011 from Ellis personal account. Email to Mark Greenberg. Subject is apologies. Said he wanted to apologize for his second email. Said he received cleared list but it only allowed one song in Ellis’ show. Said it is only a piece of music, but he doesn’t know how to replace the other seven songs in time for the show. Ellis said something to the effect of he was losing his mind over this issue.

Here is another email from Ellis to Terry Stewart and others on Sept. 29. It is about an emergency booster meeting. Said Mr. Harris informed him they must have copyright on all songs and they therefore must postpone the show. He would prefer not to do this.

Meadows said Harris had reported to him prior to this date that some boosters had come forward and told him there were copyright issues.

Lots of emails, and Kelly Stimpson is bringing Meadows another.

This one is from Elis to several recipients. Sept. 29 at 11:08 p.m. It said, dear parents I am sure you have heard unfortunate news about us having to postpone our wave connection show. Changing date was last thing I wanted to do but was necessary because of copyright issues in show choir world. Said he submitted all 11 songs to publishing companies and received permission from five of them.

Meadows said to his knowledge Ellis had only received permission on three songs at this time.

Another email from S Anderson Music at to Calvin Ellis. Said I want to give you a strong word of caution, you still don’t have permission to the song “Fire.” I would not promote it. It is highly illegal and you could get in trouble. I suggest you use another song.

1:47 P.M.:

Meadows given another email. It was from David Alderman (from Alderman told Ellis when he submits a song, he needs to see who publishers are and then find out who handles those publishers. Then go to those websites to obtain permission to proceed. Date was July 13.

Below that email was a response from Ellis on July 14. Ellis asks how much do you have to pay to arrange on song. Said that many arrangers don’t go through this process.

Another response from Alderman to Ellis on July 14. Alderman said, yes you have to get permission for each school you arrange for.

Another email, from Terry Stewart to Ellis, Sept. 13, 2011. Email asks for any updates about copyright stuff. Said I remember you thought by the end of the last week you would have the information.

Response from Calvin Ellis on Sept. 14, 2011. It said I think we are in the clear with copyright stuff. I heard no news usually means good news in this arena.

Meadows said at this point he had not been given any information by Ellis about possible copyright issues.

Another email from Ellis on Sept. 6, 2011 to Mark Greenberg, an employee at one of the publishing houses that deal with copyright permissions. Subject is still checking in. Ellis, said I need your advice, we became aware of violations of copyright law at the end of the last school year and did not realize needed permission. We are working backwards here. We have arrangements ready but need permissions. How do other schools deal with this? Asks what is the penalty for violating copyright and what is the fee for each use.

1:35 P.M.:

Second email from Calvin Ellis to Terry Stewart (Sp?). Ellis said he was wondering what was going on with credit card. May and June is when copyright expenses occur and that he needed to begin booking choreographers to get the best dates.

Butts objects to use of emails from Ellis’ school account because he was refused access to Ellis’ email account for his defense. Said this is flagrant violation of his due process rights. Compton grants him a continuing objection on issue of not receiving previous documents..

Argument between Butts and Keith on what documents were sent to Butts on Sunday. Keith said they sent to Butts all documents they intend to present.

Keith asks Meadows about email from Calvin Ellis’ school account on July 12, 2011 addressed to David at Asks for explanation of entire process. Underneath is an email from David at It says I thought we were in the clear until we got an email from Hal Leonard. Said all we need to do is pay them for these two songs and Tupelo will be in the clear. Songs were “Ask the Lonely” and “I Drive All Night”

Meadows said he had not received any information about copyright issues prior to July 12, 2011.

Meadows is brought another document. It is an email from Daniel Peters to Mr. Ellis. Date was July 14, 2011. In email, Peters asks Ellis to put requests in writing. Was commenting that if Mr. Alderman would send in payment, it would move process forward. Said we always make the school the licensee, never make the arranger the licensee.

1:21 P.M.:

Jim Keith asks Meadows about a meeting with Ellis on Oct. 13. He asks Meadows what his instructions were to Keith. Meadows said he was concerned about contact with students because investigation was ongoing. He asked Ellis is he wanted to create written statement and submit it to Meadows for approval and it would be read to the students. He said it was intended to keep support for the program.

Meadows said he had a subsequent meeting with Ellis on Oct 18. At that time, he asked him whether he had prepared a written statement for the choral students and would join a statement that had been written by Jason Harris. Meadows said Ellis thought about it but eventually declined.

Meadows said by that point in time, he asked Ellis for a daily update on where he was in securing the copyright. Meadows asked him to supply a daily log of his activities to obtain those copyrights.

Meadows said that Ellis did submit such a log on one occasion but not afterward.

Meadows said he received a telephone call from Mark Greenberg. Message said Mr. Ellis asked Mr. Greenberg to call to explain the copyright process.

Meadows said that Mr. Ellis brought up situations that involved other teachers and Mr. Harris as administrator.

Meadows said from Oct. 13 meeting to Oct. 18 meeting, the investigation exploded into the areas those meetings carried us into. He said he heard from parents who were pro-Mr. Elllis and not pro-Mr. Ellis. He said so much information came in that he had to assign several central office administrators to collect and compile the information.

Meadows read charges 1 and 2 from the letter submitted to Calvin Ellis:

1: You have subjected the district to potential liability due to your violation of copyright laws.

2: You have failed to develop a curriculum for wave connection that allows district to compete without being in violation of copyright laws.

Meadows reads email addressed to Ellis and Deborah Atkinson (prior director of choral activities) from July 13, 2011. In 2009, David Alderman created arrangement of “Ask the Lonely” in 2010, he preformed a second song (I didn’t get the name). Said that in both cases copyright approval was not obtained.

Butts motions all charges predating before the 2011 school year be dismissed as untimely.

Keith: This charge is not what Ellis was fired for. It goes to show he had a previously violation he was aware of and that he did not inform the district about. It also shows that in July, he was aware of the seriousness of copyright issues.

Back to email, Meadows said that prior to that time, he did not have any knowledge of copyright issues and that Ellis never brought them to his attention. Meadows secured that document from email server.

Butts objects to submitting the email as evidence because it occurred prior to this year. Keith said it is a prior violation of which the district had no knowledge. Said it shows prior knowledge of Ellis involving a very serious copyright issue. Compton allows the document to be submitted.


Hearing is about to resume. About 15 students are here with severa of them wearing “Team Ellis” T-shirts. Several other adults are present as well, but the crowd is smaller right now than it was this morning, maybe about 30 people now in the room. Perhaps it got to about 50-plus earlier.

David Butts has placed two expert witnesses near the front of the room and has placed a chair for a third.

12:02: P.M.:

Hearing has been recessed for lunch until 1 p.m.

The hearing was closed to the public from 11:38 a.m. until around noon while David Meadows was testifying because Meadows would be using student names in his testimony.

11:30 A.M.

Meadows is being questioned by Jim Keith

Meadows was handed a document, a letter on TPSD stationary, Oct. 28, 2011

This is the letter Mr. Jim Turner and Meadows provided to Mr. Ellis.

This was to outline reasons they were providing to him for his termination as a teacher from Tupelo Public School District.

There are 23 numbered reasons on this document.

Keith: What was your first involvement regarding Friday night event.

Meadows: I received a phone call from a board member who had been contacted by a parent asking what should be done. Her daughter had seen inappropriate behavior. Learned the parent was a THS teacher and the student was a THS student and I told her to inform the parent to contact THS principal Jason Harris.

Meadows said he gave Harris a phone call to expect a call from a parent.

Keith: Did you get a report back from Mr. Harris?

Meadows: I did on Oct. 4. The parent came to his office to report what her daughter deemed inappropriate behavior. Said there had been an incident of pranking student had occurred on Friday, Sept. 30.

He told me that the girls had slept over at a parent’s house and the boys had been with Mr. Ellis at his house.

Said incident involved purchasing of items that were sexually suggestive and used in pranking of cars.

Thought it had occurred around midnight on Friday, Sept. 30

Butts asks about hearsay evidence. Compton said hearsay evidence is allowed but board can not rule solely on hearsay. Butts places on the record his objection to hearsay testimony.

Meadows: I asked Mr. Harris to begin an investigation. I suggested we begin with the male students since those were the ones I had been told were at his house.

Keith: What led to decision to put Mr. Ellis on administrative leave?

Meadows: Mr. Harris was reporting to me daily. He had spoken with at least three of the male students. It had caused confusion, students were leaving his office and talking to Mr. Ellis. I was concerned we couldn’t complete a fair and impartial hearing. We didn’t know what we were dealing with, having male students at a teacher’s house.

Said he asked Ellis to come to his office after school. Asked Personnel Director Jim Turner to ask THS Princiapl Jason Harris to be present. Put Ellis on administrative leave with pay. Said administrative leave is not disciplinary action.

Meadows said because he was concerned sexual items that could be very suggestive had been purchased and he didn’t know what he had been dealing with with a teacher having students over at his house he said Ellis was not to have contact with others about this incident.

Meadows said once Ellis had been placed on leave on Oct. 6, the investigation seemed to pick up a great deal of speed, especially into the next week, especially toward the end of the week. He said he received phone calls and emails from individuals who wanted to converse with him. Those who were supportive of Mr. Ellis and those who were not supportive of him in that overnight sleepover. Said he tried to talk to as many as he could but knew he had to dismiss some. Said he tried to spend as much time as he could with parents who wanted to speak with him about the matter.

Meadows said he could not and tried not to provide any information because it was a personnel matter.

Meadows said Friday night issue was not only thing being investigated. He had been made aware of something happened near end of September. Had to cancel Soundwave production in mid October because a number of songs did not have copyright permission.

Had a meeting with Calvin Ellis. Turner conducted the meeting because Meadows wanted to focus on listening to Mr. Ellis. Meadows said meeting lasted four hours.

10:57 A.M.

Hearing resumes

Jim Keith will make brief opening statement.

Keith: This is a personnel matter that superintendent David Meadows would have preferred that he didn’t have to address. No personell matter is easy matter for administration to address. It is not a matter of feelings. It is all about what a person does in terms of their conduct.. Unfortunately

The irresponsible conduct Mr. Ellis engaged in on that Friday night activity, involving after curfew, condoms, endangering students, once Mr. Meadows began investigating that, it become apparent this conduct was not limited to that one issue. That investigation revealed a pattern and practice of irresponsibility that subjected students to endangerment.

It also involved a copyright matter that was happening simultaneously. That investigation revealed that in spite of Mr. Ellis being aware of a previous copyright violation he never brought to the administration, this issue of not revealing a copyright violation was about to explode.

What happened in the investigation will show Mr. Ellis was in total disarray involving the copyright issue.

The investigation also revealed expenditure of money for many songs that did not take place. It revealed issues of charging booster club for activities covered by his $9,000-plus supplement.

Issues became obvious based on accusations Mr. Ellis gave Mr. Meadows when Mr. Meadows was investigating Friday night and copy right issues. Those issues needed to be looked into.

In spite of how well liked Mr. Ellis may be by many people, he had demonstrated irresponsible conduct and the district could not entrust to him the safety and security of its students.

Butts opening statement:

Not guilty (said it multiple times). Not guilty 22 times, not guilty 30 times, not guilty 40 times. Calvin Ellis is not guilty of any of these charges.

Many, if not a substantial portion of these charges come from years past, which even if true should not be considered here. Calvin Ellis has an exemplary record, absolutely clean for the five years he worked at Tupelo High School.

If any of these problems existed they should have been addressed five years ago. Many of these charges are outright falsities.

Example, he is charged with receiving money while being an officer of the booster club. He was never an officer of the booster club. That took five minutes worth of checking. Why do we even have to deal with that today?

I could give multiple examples that will be revealed during this hearing of the same thing.

Calvin Ellis for the last five years has developed a choral department that has been outstanding and received superirios at state. He developed two show choirs that are the pride of the community and the state. They have competed with show choirs having twice the budget. Calvin Ellis and his wife and a lot of hard working people have contributed to an outstanding show choir program of which everyone in this community is proud, and this administration nitpicks him over leaving three students behind in Birmingham. I’ll assume those three students are still there (laughter). I’ll tell you they were never left behind in Birmingham.

Calvin Ellis is not perfect, I’ll agree. Calvin Ellis may not have done everything by the book but he didn’t commit a serious violation of everything. We are dealing with a lack of administive understanding and support. Why couldn’t this be dealt with without any of this? There is no justification for any of this. It is not right.

At end of day when this hearing is over, I don’t know what the school board will do. I have my ideas. I hope I am wrong. I don’t know what administration will do, but I hope any reasonable person who took time to listen to the witnesses will come to the conclusion that this is a witch hunt of such perniciousness and meanness it is like something I have never seen in 37 yeas of practicing law. I have been a taxpayer and I am disappointed and discouraged by what is happening here.

TPSD Interim Superintendent David Meadows has been called as first witness.

10:39 A.M.:

Compton is being voir dired.

Have you had an occasion before today to meet and associate with Mr. Keith?

Compton: I talk with Mr. Keith from time to time on matters I may be involved in. With employment matters from time to time. Not involved with him on any matters now. Don’t socialize with Mr. Keith. Known Jim since law school. He was a year ahead of me in law school.

We didn’t socialize in law school. I knew who Jim was but that is it.

Butts: Can you be more specific what you have consulted with him about?

Compton: Last time was 2010 when we had a question on a superintendent issue. His services were retained.

Butts: Did you suggest to the board he be hired?

Compton: I probably did. Superintendents and school boards know Mr. Keith.

Butts: Have you recommended him for employment at any other time?

Compton: I don’t recall him being retained by any of my districts at any other time.

Butts: Mr. Keith has tremendous experience in hearings such as these?

Compton: I believe he does.

Butts: Have you sat as hearing officer on any of his case?

Compton: I have, less than five.

Butts: As I understand Mr. Keith gives a number of seminars to school board members and attorneys from time to time. Do you plan to attend any of these?

Compton: I plan to attend an annual meeting of school board attorneys. I don’t know whether Mr. Keith is on this year’s agenda.

Compton said that Keith has spoken at those meetings before. Said there was no social hour after the meeting that he is aware of. Said his only personal contact with Mr. Keith was the fact that he had known him since law school. Butts asked if they had visited each other’s homes or gone to dinner together. Compton said no.

Compton said that Keith is very knowledgeable on different issues of school law. Said he has called on Keith for his advice. Said he doesn’t always agree with Keith’s interpretations of the law.

Butts said, “Let me ask how that may influence you?” Asks what if he and Keith offered their interpretation of the law, which one would Compton be swayed by. Compton said it would be by his interpretation of the law.

Compton said he was contacted by Stimpson and asked to be the hearing officer for this hearing. Said he had never met Stimpson until this morning.

Butts asks how much Compton is being paid as the hearing officer. Compton said $200 an hour plus expenses. He said he does not know how much time he was spent on the case thus far. Said his clock began at 6:00 this morning.

Butts said he filed a motion for Compton to recuse himself based on fact that Compton, Keith and Stimpson are school board or school attorneys. Asked Compton how he ruled on that. Compton said he overruled that motion. Butts said what would be the grounds from Compton to recuse himself?

Compton said. “As I understand, for a hearing officer to be disqualified, he should have animosity toward the employee or have financial gain in the outcome of the case.”

Butts said he has never met Compton, asks how Butts could possible know whether Compton has any animosity toward Ellis. Compton said he is not from this area and he had never met Ellis until today.

Butts,:we understand that the statue we are working under does not provide us what you and I would know as “discovery,” the ability to get documents and information. Said that nothing prohibits the administration from giving him anything he asked for. Compton said that is correct.

Butts said Compton has issued many subpoenas and that most of them have been issued for people who are not lawyers. Compton said he didn’t know who they were. Butts said most if not all were for lay people until he requested his subpoena for Stimpson, Keith and Otis Tims. Butts said that Compton refused to issue a subpoena for them. Compton said that is correct.

Butts said usually subpoenas are issued without intervention of a judge. However, here you as the hearing officer, also serve as the clerk to sign off on subpoenas. Asks if Compton has ever had a judge refuse to issue a subpoena. Compton said no, but notes that a judge usually doesn’t get involved as Butts previously said. Is the first time as a hearing officer you have ever not issued a subpoena? Compton said it was but it was also the first time school district attorneys had been subpoenaed.

Compton said courts used to issue subpoenas in blank. Person being subpoened could file motion to quash subpoena.

Butts said you refused to issue these subpoenas even though these lawyers had every right to go to court to quash the subpoena. You simply refused to issue the subpoena.

Compton said statue gives him authority to issue subpoenas. It does not require him to issue them.

Butts asks why he refused.

Compton said he didn’t think it was proper for attorneys involved in case to be subpoened as witnesses.

Compton said the copyright issue gets into attorney client privilege.

Butts said in ordinary courts, if I had issued this subpoena….he had been subpoenad for court before. Proper procedure would have been to call attorneys to court, put them on witness stand and if a question was asked involving attorney-client procedure, judge would allow them not to answer that.

Butts said proper procedure would have been to put them on witness stand and if they objected to any question, they could object and you could rule on it. Said that is not what is happening here and probably will not happen here. Compton said, that is probably correct.

On question, Compton said that as hearing officer he is not bound by Mississippi code of judicial conduct, according to statute and past precedence.

Compton said if he didn’t think he could be impartial and fair he would not have accepted appointment and would not continue to be in that role.

Butts: if it appears in this case, that your serving as hearing officer, you could be perceived as unfair, do you not think it is your duty to recuse yourself as hearing officer.

Compton: No sir, that is not the standard.

Butts asks Compton if he knows his “win-loss” record in hearings. Compton said sometimes he has issued a report and sometimes he hadn’t. He said he doesn’t follow up with what happens afterward. He said that sometimes the board agreed with the administration and sometimes it didn’t.

The hearing takes a 10-minute break at 10:39 a.m.

The actual hearing, with witnesses being called, has not yet begun.

10:04 A.M.:

Compton: As hearing officer I am conducted with conducting a hearing and presenting a transcript on the board. For me to make the decision is to that out of the hands of the board and I don’t have that authority. Your motion is there for the board to review when they review the transcript.

Butts asks whether Compton intends to make a recommendation on maters of law and fact.

Compton said he doesn’t know yet whether a report has been requested. He said that even if it does it is not binding.

Calvin’s Ellis’ wife, Jauna. Ellis sent a note asking for an exception to be made allowing her to remain in the room to support her husband despite the fact that she is a witness. The request was denied.

Compton is now being voir dired.


David Butts:

Between the time Ellis was placed on administrative leave and the time he was dismissed, Butts said he asked for an opportunity to meet with the administration.

Objective was to see if we could negotiate to get Mr. Ellis back in his position while the investigation, which he call a witch hunt, was going on to get the show choir prepared for its competition, said they were flatly refused that opportunity.

Butts said, we knew a little something about the pranking before getting the letter. The letter said he took children out after midnight and that it was arguably a school event. There is nothing in the letter about condoms, bananas, Vaseline, about Mr. Ellis knowing about that being done or being in the vicinity when it was done. He said there is nothing in that charge that said it was a school event.

Still no witnesses have been called.


David Butts said he long requested information from the district and did not receive them.


“Yesterday, at 1:37 p.m., I received by email from Ms. Stimpson with 140 documents. Because I was in the office working Sunday, I found out about these documents.

It is clear and apparent that the administration has had these documents all along. They could have given me these documents a month ago, but they chose to wait until 18 hours before this hearing began to give me these documents.

Not had an opportunity to look at more than a handful of these documents. Have a box of these documents I’d like to make an exhibit of.

“This entire proceeding from the very beginning has been fraught with a denial of due process and a lack of fairness.”

Butts said that a couple of days ago he was informed of two or three new charges that he has had no time to prepare for.

Said he therefore moves for Mr. Compton to dismiss all charges.

Jim Keith

Everything started with an incident Ellis was involved in after midnight with students. It was a prank involving condoms, bananas and shaving cream.

That event forced the district to investigate Ellis’ contact with students

He was given a four-hour meeting with the superintendent

During that meeting Mr. Ellis, rather than rationalize why he made such irresponsible decisions, he started making accusations against other employees. At the same time this was going on, there were serious questions about copyright issues. Mr. Ellis’ name was on every one of those documents. Mr. Ellis was aware of this.

Lists one of the charges, charging the booster club $7,000 for a duties that are covered by his supplement. That supplement is $9,000.

Not one of these documents is a surprise to Mr. Ellis. They are either things his name is on or board polices. There are no surprises on any of these documents.

This is not a witch hunt. There is no one in this room including this man, David Meadows, who wants to be here today. He did not ask for this. But once he got some information, he was forced to investigate.

Keith said Ellis was given an opportunity to talk about the Friday night issue and copyright issue and he chose not to.

9:27 A.M.: David Butts moves that all charges against Calvin Ellis be dismissed and Ellis be reinstated to his job.

As grounds, he aims to show this proceeding has been one that has violated Ellis’ rights due to due process and his rights to a fair hearing under the law. He said due process would entail notice of charges and a fair hearing.

Said Ellis was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6. Said he was terminated on Oct. 28 and given a four-page leter with charges he was not previously informed about.

Said he sent Stimpson a letter in November and deliniated “our lack of information concerning these charges.” Said they contained no specifics.

9:20 A.M.: David Butts will voir dire hearing officer John Compton relative to a conflict of interest.

The attorneys are now debating on whether an expert witness for Ellis wil be allowed to remain in the room to testify on legal ethics related to Compton’s presence as hearing officer.

Compton will let him stay in during the voir dire process and then handle the matter after that.

Compton said the hearing will be closed for all student testimony and for any testimony that deals with the reputation and character of an individual.

9:14 A.M.: Hearing begins.

Witnesses asked to leave the room.

Both attorneys just listed the names of their witnesses who needed to leave the room. I attempted to get down as many of them as I could but they were read quickly, so I missed several. I appologize for mis-spellings.

District list:

Steve Henderson, Deborah Atkinson, Shawn Brevard, Micaheal Clayotn Mac Curlee, Jauna Elis, Diana Ezell, Tammy Harrington, Jenny Hilben, Louis Holmes, Hobby Holmes, Trentice Imbler, Joanne Kemp, Daniel Peters, Mary Thomas, William Webb, Valerie Whitwell, Roger Williams, etc.

Butts list: David Meadows, Jason Harris, Dale Warriner, Susie Williams, Valerie Whitwell, Jim Turner, Mary Thomas, Tracy Hudson, James Beard, Kim Buckley, Joy Kellum, April Fryer, Trentice Imbler, Lee Stratton, Bob Monroe, Julie Hinds, Shelly Jones, David Alderman, Jamie McMann, Jonathan McKenzie, Clint Harris, Arron Smith, Vicky Wilson, etc.

Calvin Ellis’ hearing will begin in about 15 minutes, and I will be live blogging it here. Eliis was dismissed from his job as Tupelo High School choral director on Oct. 28. He was presented with a list of 26 infractions. Ellis, and his attorney, David Butts, have said that Ellis is innocent of all of them.

The hearing is being at the Hancock Learning Center. There is already a large group of people in attendance, at least 40. The group includes several students, including a few wearing “Team Ellis” T-shirts.

There were also several cars in the parking lot that had “Team Ellis” written on them.

John Compton is the hearing officer, who will preside over the proceedings. The school district’s case against Ellis will be represented by Jim Keith, a Jackson attorney who is a recognized expert on school law and Kelly Stimpson, the district’s administrative counsel.

Here is a link to my story in Sunday’s Daily Journal previewing the hearing.

Here is a summary of the charges against Butts. There were provided by Butts, so they are his summation of the charges.

• Violating Copyright Laws

• Failing to timely get copyright permissions so Wave Connection could perform

• Refusing to talk to the other choral teacher

• Failing to work with the other choral teacher

• Damaging the other choral teacher’s reputation by saying, “Sound Wave is going to be awful this year.”

• Manipulating chorus students’ schedules for him to get the best students

• Claiming he was Director of Choral Activities when he was not

• Endangering students by leaving three behind at a Mall on a field trip in Alabama

• Endangering students by leaving them on the streets of Birmingham trying to find food

• Sending a bus home without a staff member on it

• Squandering Booster Club money on choreographers

• Tutoring students for pay during school hours

• Violating school policy by making tardy students run laps around the PAC

• Letting Sound Wave and Wave Connection “trash” a room at the Petal competition

• Letting boys and girls change in the same room at the Petal competition

• Getting paid by the Booster Club while he was an officer (officers serve without compensation)

• Charging the Booster Club for arrangements already done by other arrangers

• Charging the Booster Club for arranging music that was never used

• Charging the Booster Club for arranging, which was covered in your supplemental pay

• Lying to the Booster Club about the status of copyrights

• Encouraging students to boycott or drop out of Wave Connection

• Intimidating, threatening or coercing students not to attend class

• Keeping students out after midnight in violation of Tupelo curfew law

• Failing to get prior administration approval for “Hair and Make-up” and “Team Building” night

• Entering into contracts committing TPSD without authority

• Stealing Booster Club money by charging personal expenses on the Booster Club credit card

Click video to hear audio