Fired Houston teacher speaks

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

Marilyn Ellis finally got her chance to address the Houston School Board about events that lead to her termination last month.
Ellis, a teachers’ aide who admitted she used a racial slur with a fifth grade boy in a classroom, was terminated by the district after the incident which occurred in February. She requested a chance to publicly address the Houston School Board at their regular monthly meeting Monday night.
Parents of the boy, at which the slur was directed, were also at Monday’s school board meeting.
Ellis said she was glad to have the chance to explain the situation to the school board but became emotional as she read from a prepared statement.
Ellis said she was seeking to get several boys at the pencil sharpener to sit down and asked one of them what his name was. Ellis said he responded by using the racial slur. Ellis then said she used the slur and told the student to sit down.
“It just came out of my mouth,” said Ellis. “I never said it to be mean or hateful.”
Ellis went on to say the student did not appear to be upset by the remark and was grinning and laughing as he took his seat.
The district responded to the incident immediately and Ellis was suspended for two days following an investigation by her principal and school administrators. Ellis was later delivered a termination letter at her home by Houston Superintendent Dr. Steve Coker.
School officials have repeatedly said Ellis, who served as a fulltime substitute and bus driver, was not a contract teacher and therefore has no standing before the board. As a fulltime substitute or bus driver, Ellis serves at the will and pleasure of her principal, transportation supervisor and the school administration.
Rev. Steve Lampkin, of McCondy Methodist Church, which is Ellis’ home church, addressed the board saying Ellis was repentant and had told him she was sorry.
“She has asked her Lord for forgiveness and He already has,” said Lampkin. “In my opinion, I don’t see where it is a fireable offense for someone with a spotless record in two school districts over 20 years.”
Henry Ware, of McCondy, also addressed the board about the legality of the process that led to Ellis’ termination.
“The last time I was here, I asked the board to do the right thing,” said Ware. “You didn’t do the right thing.”
Ware questioned School Board Attorney James Hood on the process and Hood again said Ellis was an “at will” employee and her employment was an administrative decision and not a board decision.
Ware said he was told by Superintendent Coker that pressure was being applied from “higher up” and that prompted the firing of Ellis after she had served her suspension and had returned to the classroom.
More than 80 concerned citizens met at a Woodland church shortly after the incident with parents publicly asking for Ellis’ termination.
“Whites are capable of a boycott, too,” Ware said.
The Houston School Board took no action following the statements of Ellis, Lampkin and Ware.