Ellis, attorney address school board

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Former Tupelo choral director Calvin Ellis and his attorney addressed Tupelo’s school board for about 20 minutes each during a specially-called meeting on Monday morning.
Their remarks essentially served as closing arguments to a personnel hearing concerning Ellis’ termination. The board will deliberate on their statements, on the hearing’s transcript and on a report made by hearing officer John Compton.
The school board will not likely discuss the issue during today’s regular meeting, but is expected to do so on Wednesday. It may announce its decision at that time. The board will decide on whether or not to uphold the administration’s Oct. 28 decision to fire Ellis.
Ellis was given a list of 23 charges after his termination, and his lawyer, David Butts, sought to establish Ellis’ innocence during the hearing, which lasted for 10 days over December, January and February.
Monday’s statements by Ellis and Butts were given in executive session because they involved the names of students and others. Each addressed the media afterward.
“I think it went very well,” Ellis said. “I had a great opportunity to speak before them, and I felt they were receptive.
“I wanted to convey that there has been a lot of time, energy and love invested by me in the Tupelo Public School District. Although I made some mistakes, I felt I wasn’t afforded an opportunity to speak about these mistakes and improve. My message was I felt there was more in me for these kids in Tupelo. I think I have more to offer them.”
Said Butts: “There is nothing here Calvin Ellis should have been fired over. Maybe there were things he should have been counseled over. Why wasn’t he afforded that procedure?”
Tupelo’s school board has been given a 2,400-page transcript of the hearing. The board also met twice last week to discuss that transcript.
The decision will be made by four board members. Lee Tucker’s term on the board officially expired on the first Saturday in March. Tucker’s replacement has not yet been named.
Board attorney Otis Tims said the only step left in the process is the board’s deliberation. He said the board was working hard to make a fair decision.
Should Ellis be reinstated, he acknowledged it would be a challenge returning to a high school that has been divided by the personnel hearing. Ellis said he has thought about that daily and that he would return with forgiveness and humility.
“I would be so humbled to have the opportunity,” he said.
Should he not be reinstated, he said he will try to find another position somewhere.
“It may not be in Tupelo, and our family would have heavy hearts,” he said. “There are a lot of students out there who need music in their lives.”
Ellis said he does not know whether he would appeal the decision, if he is unsuccessful.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com