Sides await outcome of Alcorn principal hearing

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

CORINTH – A Thursday evening hearing to determine the future employment status of the Alcorn Central Middle School principal turned into a marathon session that lasted more than six hours.
The hearing for Dan Burcham began at 4 p.m. and continued until 10:30 p.m., with 10 witnesses called on behalf of Burcham and the Alcorn County School District, said a source with direct knowledge of the proceedings.
Judge Johnny Ross presided, with Corinth attorney Jimmy Price representing the school district and Booneville attorney Thomas Cooley representing Burcham.
Burcham was suspended with pay from his duties as principal in February as a result of complaints about his conduct that were being investigated. He was fired later the same week by Superintendent Gina Rogers Smith, but was reinstated when he submitted a demand to the school board for a hearing.
His reinstatement was a requirement under state law, Price said, and he remained on paid administrative leave until Thursday’s closed hearing.
After written testimony is transcribed by the court reporter for the judge, Ross will submit a written recommendation to the school board, which may accept or decline the recommendation.
Board members did not attend the hearing and will have 30 days to render a decision.
Earlier this week, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Aberdeen that appears related to the investigation the led to Burcham’s firing.
The suit alleges Burcham “engaged in reprehensible conduct” toward the two female teachers who filed the lawsuit – Janet Walls Holley and Stephanie Leigh Eaton – as well as other employees of the school district, naming him as a defendant. Smith also was named as a defendant with allegations that she violated the two employees’ right to free speech by ordering them to not reveal the nature of the conduct that led to their complaint.
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com