Judge rules against former THS choral director

ELLIS

ELLIS

By JB Clark

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – The Tupelo Public School District will not have to defend its 2011 termination of former choral director Calvin Ellis before a federal jury after U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock ruled in its favor.

Aycock dismissed Ellis’ claims his contract was breached and his due process rights were violated.

She also said he failed to establish a genuine dispute in his claims that TPSD interfered with his contracts for private vocal lessons and violated his equal protection rights.

While all charges against the school district have been decided, through dismissal or judgment for the district, the case will remain open while the court decides if sanctions should be levied against Ellis to cover the district’s legal expenses. Ellis was dismissed in October 2011 and given a list of at least 22 charges against him.

He insisted he was innocent and contested the charges in a public personnel hearing held over 10 days in December 2011 and January and February of 2012.

Aycock dismissed Ellis’ claims because they were previously tried and decided during the 10-day hearing before the Tupelo School Board and hearing officer.

The school board upheld his firing with a 3-1 vote, which Ellis did not appeal. Since Ellis didn’t appeal to Lee County Chancery Court, the result of the termination hearing was conclusive and, according to Aycock, cannot be retried in federal court. Ellis filed this lawsuit in federal court in November 2012.

After being dismissed in Tupelo he was later hired as a choral director at Opelika (Ala.) High School.

jb.clark@journalinc.com