Board meeting has begun. The board will discuss the agenda at this meeting and will vote at tonight's meeting, at 5 p.m. at Joyner Elementary.
Four board members are preset: Amy Heyer, Eddie Prather, Beth Stone and Rob Hudson. Lee Tucker's term has expired and he has not yet been replaced.
Interim Superintendent David Meadows is making a presentation on part 4 of his "Moving Forward Together" plan. It involves communication between the district and the community. Meadows said it may be good to reformalize that goal.
The four parts of his "Moving Forward Together Plan" released over the summer include:
• Recommit to safe, healty schools
• Reconfirm highly qualified teachers and administrators were frontline instructional leaders
• Reesatblish focus on student achievement and academic excellence
• Re-communicate the eight recommendations of the curriculum audit.
Meadows said that focus on this recommendation could help the community "unite behind our new superintendent."
Meadows said that the school board agreed to meet in groups of two with various community members and that administrators were present for some of those meetings (if the constituent desired them to be there).
Meadows: "I would like to recommend that we build on that...By April 10, I would hope we could collect, compile and share the common themes."
Meadows said that some of the themes that he found include: improved student discipline (expectation and students being in a relationship that is fair, firm and consistent), improved academic achievement, an increased focus on teamwork (if silos exist, tear down those silos, be willing to focus on students, instructional leaders and support and resources), do whatever we need to do in terms of restoring trust and confidence (Meadows: "I spoke earlier in the year on trust. I recall saying trust must be built one person at a time, and trust can't be given, it must be earned."), create a culture of personal and collective accountability (understanding there are multiple customers, primary customer being student but also closely related to parent and communty; Meadows said always be thoughtful of customer service and respect to customer), how we overemphasize testing especially with younger students, what about technology (things need to be looked at and addressed), what are we doing with textbooks.
(Parenthesis note Meadow's ellaboration on each point).
He hopes that board members could also share some things that they saw.
"That would hopefully serve as the chasis for this vehicle that we can hopefully provide together to give Dr. Loden and our school board a broad look about what our stakeholders tell us about the Tupelo Public School District and for each stakeholder to feel like he or she has had opportunity to tell us their opinion."
Meadows calls for a Council of Excellence in each school to be able to discuss and resolve school-specific and district-specific issues.
By April 10, Meadows, recommends board to think of all of the various stakeholder teams that have a hold on the Tupelo Public School District.
Meadows: "Let the stakeholder groups come forward with the representatives they think need to be available."
Includes parents, teachers, etc. He said for stakeholder groups to come forward and say who should be represented.
Meadows said they should consider using an outside facilitator to serve the Council of Excellence concept. That facilitator should be used to help with the process.
Meadows would like to announce that process by April 10.
He said he would like there to be a report by May 22 with broad constituent input on the issues and opportunities.
Rob Hudson said he thinks it is a great opportunity to involve the stakeholders. He said the stakeholders can help with the integrity of the process by noting whom they think would be needed in their group (such as an outside facilitator).
Eddie Prather said the board's meetings with community members was helpful and that the board looks forward to giving Meadows a report from those meetings.
THS Principal Jason Harris is giving a report on the transition to block scheduling. He said that the master schedule is nearly complete and they have been able to work in athletics and other extra-curriculars.
He said that department chairs have had a lot of input into the scheduling, discussing placement and configuration. For instance, they will look at some AP science classes being year-long two-credit classes leading to AP exam in the spring.
Harris said the Kagan training has been a defining moment for the high school. It included four days of trainers going into the classroom and observing every teacher for 20 minutes. He said that teachers called it the best training they had received in years.
The block scheduling committee will be hosting Q-and-A sessions. One will be on Monday at the High School. They will also host sessions at St. James Catholic Church and at Haven Acres.
Harris said that TMS Principal Kristy Luse has communicated the information with the eighth-graders (next year's freshmen).
Harris said there are many different versions of block. He said the high school will use a tweaked version that will accomodate athletics and extra curriculars (he said that athletics and activities make Tupelo High School great). He said they made add a Zero-period for remediation.
Harris said that the teachers are ready to start implementing the block schedule.
Eddie Prather asks about the logistics of students making scheduling changes. Harris said that in the past, they will come anyway and see and make sure their schedule is right. He said they are also looking at data on placement of students and making sure they are set up for success and not failure, looking at how they have scored on MCT tests.
Harris said that on the block when there are students who are struggling, you can build supports for them.
Next item is the consent agenda. Includes charter bus service for field trips, rental service for school facilities and donations.
Pam Traylor presents student transfer report. Includes 11 in-district transfers and admission of two non-resident tuition students.
Jim Turner presents personnel report.
Turner said he just returned from a recruiting trip to Alcorn State University and that he has also gone on such trips to University of Memphis and to Delta State University. From those three trips, there are 32 applications interested in Tupelo Schools. Of those, Turner said, one third are highly-qualified minority applicants. Turner said he has provided their names to the district's principals.
Linda Pannell is presenting the financial statements. She then presented the cash flow statements.
Pam Traylor is presenting student discipline report.
Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill will make a presentation about options for the district's alternative programs.
Hill wants to explain how Ombudsman program came to be and to provide some data. March 30 is the deadline for determining whether or not to move on.
Hill said that during the summer of 2010, the district went into a contract with Ombudsman. The program was designed to serve both academic and disciplinary students. Started with 30 studnets and grew. The school began focusing more on discipline than on academics so they saw a need for transitioning program. They had 60 spots but added an extra 30 spots in the spring of 2011.
Ombudsman said their focus was more on academics, so the district revised its alternative programs. It needed a plan to seperate high school students for discipline and academic. It added the HSAA Academy upper level for students who were behind in the upper grades. The Structure Day Program was added for studnets with discipline problems.
The began the year with spots for 90 students at Ombudsman. Enrollment was down, so in January they reduced that to serve 60 students.
Ombudsman was wrapped in the HSAA Upper Grades program. Designed for students who were two or more years behind cohort. Designed for students to remain in the program for one successful year. The primary method of instruction is the A computer program.
Hill said that what makes the Ombudsman program unique is that students can forgo seat hours to receive Carnegie units (credit). Students can get as many as 12 credits in a year, while students at the high school can only get 7 or 8. Students can work at their own pace. They can graduate with traditional graduation requirement or with district option (which the school board approved earlier in the year).
At the beginning of the year, 78 students at THS were identified as behind 2 or more years behind. 37 students are currently enrolled. 70 studnets were identified to attend. 15 never enrolled (a lot of them were 19 or older). 8 enrolled in other programs (2 in school age mother, 3 in structure day, etc.), 9 transfer out of district, 9 dropeed out, 1 elected to enroll in THS, 1 completed graduation requirements midyear, 9 transferred from Structured Day Program into Ombudsman program, 1 Tupelo Middle School student advanced to being a THS student.
In the Ombudsman program, an average of 4 credits have been received. Hill said that number will go up with 7 weeks left.
2 students can graduate with 26 credits. And 10 can potentially graduate with 21 credits (if they meet testing requirements).
Potential enrollment for 2012-12 is 88. 20 are willing to return. 68 studnets may be 2 years behind cohorts.
Hill is looking at a cost comparision.
Based on 60 students, Ombudsman contract is $483,000. Staff would include director, 5 teachers, part-time counselor and secretary.
Hill said that if the district were to staff it themselves. Salaries would be $498,315, plus $23,600 for A program and money for computers (didn't get that total). Total would be $581,115.
Hill said if the district would compare it to what Ombudsman actually has there. (fewer staff and no security officer), cost would by $453,988.
Hill said his recommendation is to provide a notice of non-renewal to Ombudsman to meet the March 30 deadline.
Hill said the district is already paying extra to fund security at Ombudsman.
Hill said that the district decided last summer to no longer off the Ombudsman diploma.
Prather said that at one time, we thought the student could graduate from there and not count as a dropout from us. Hill said that no longer is an option. Meadows said that now all students must pass the state test to be able to graduate.
Hill said that junior colleges were not accepting the Ombudsman program. Hill said that they decided that students in Ombudsman program needed to graduate with TPSD diplomas so there was no question whether they could use that degree to go on to college.
Heyer said that if the district does not go with Ombudsman, it would get back control over the program and autonomy. She said that when the program didn't meet Tupelo's standards, the district couldn't do anything about it.
Fred Hill said the cost comparision that compares apples to apples is the $453,988 for the district to run it compared to $483,000 for Ombudsman. The other cost comparision ($581,115) includes costs that the district is already paying in addition to the $483,000 it pays to Ombudsman.
Prather asks Hill how, besides cost, he defines success of the Ombudsman program.
Hill: It is always good when students walk away from there with diplomas in their hand, and it if they stayed at Tupelo High School, they wouldn't have had that opportunity (not because of a problem with THS but because of extra opportunities provided by Ombudsman).
Hill said the program should continue, whether they go forward with Ombudsman or not.
Diana Ezell is making a presentation about the Summer Opportunity Camp. It will be in June at Lawndale. She said there are a lot of offerings, including music and art. It will start June 4 and end June 29. Cost is $80 per camp and $60 for any additional camps.
Prather asks about how many kids participate.
Ezell said that last year, they had to add classes. There are spots for 300 students (15 per class).
Ezell said there will also be camps at the high school. She said it is the first time they are offering camps up to 12th grade.
Evet Topp is presenting the Career-Technical Center Local Plan update. It includes the new digital media technology program.
Board will discuss future agenda topics.
David Meadows said that in the minutes are: an update on Moving Forward Together (done today), an update on video security cameras at THS (Meadows said he'd like to add to that report, cameras at Tupelo Middle and at Church Street...He said updating those will include a large expenditure of funds because it will include new servers....Meadows said the update was built into this year's budget with anticipation of doing it over two years).
Meadows said the district has taken the imput from schools on the points where it needs additional cameras.
Meadows said the board has also requested a listing of academic competitive teams to which students can become members. He said the district has had tremendous success: four teams moving to national competitions (bridge buildings, math teams). He said they reestablished academic decathlon team and that THS hosted its first debate.
Meadows said the board also wants a grant summary at the end of the year and an extra-curricular report.
Prather said the board has talked about a work session. They may pick dates at the next meeting.
Board considers a temporary executive session to consider a personnel issue and a possible student matter.
Only three board members are present, Rob Hudson, Eddie Prather and Beth Stone. Amy Heyer had a family issue and Lee Tucker is out of town. Three board members is a quorum.
The board selected its officers for the upcoming year. The one-year terms are always chosen in March by the TPSD board. Eddie Prather was elected as board president, with Beth Stone as vice president and Rob Hudson as secretary. That follows the normal rotation, where board members rotate from secretary to vice president to president.
Prather, Stone and Kenneth Griswald are now making a presentation about a visit they made to the Cullman, Ala., school district to look at technology there. Prather and Stone said they saw from that meeting that Tupelo is ahead of the curve on a lot of things.
Cullman also has a one-to-one laptop initiative. The distirct started its roll out in 2006 and has seen its test scores increase since then.
Culman phased-in its plan for 1-to-1….Started with teacher laptop with 7-8 th grade and added technology in classrooms….followed with students the next year….added one grade level each year.
They used leases. Classroom set for each grade level at the elementary school. The Middle School is most similar to Tupelo’s 1-to-1, but they have Dell PCs not Apple. At the high school, they started taking them home but then they decided to go to classroom sets.
Board support, they right people on the bus and making sure you have the right people on the bus.
The principal talked about the importance of community involvement and support. Also key were faculty buy-in and making sure there was equity in all facilities.
They had to consider wireless issues, what to do with textbooks, collection at the end of the year. Griswald said it is a lot of the same issues Tupelo has faced.
Griswald said there was a reduction in discipline incidents each year after the laptop roll-out.
One of Cullman’s bumps was stolen or damaged laptops. They had less than 10 stolen and not many with major damage, Griswald said. One reason, Griswald said, is they don’t send them home at the high school and at the middle school they gave them a case. Even when it is open on the desk, it remains in the case. The case keeps the lid of the laptop from opening too much, which was a problem that Tupelo has seen a lot.
The superintendent found Twitter to be a valuable cummincation tool during the tornado last year. This year, she has encouraged teachers to get professional Twitter accounts to communicate with parents in real-time, let them know what students are learning.
Rob Hudson asks about what Tupelo is doing to gather feedback of what is working and not working. Griswald said they have had surveys and that lines of communication are open. He said they have had meetings with groups of parents and teacher-advisory councils where these issues were discussed. Mary Ann Plascencia said there hadn't been a formal process but they've piloted some things. For instance, they piloted a student-response system at the high school and they are getting honest feedback from the teachers. She said they have collected a lot informally from what they've heard from teachers and parents throughout the last two years. Griswald said there has also been an opportunity for teachers to give feeback on Haiku, and they've used that feeedback to guide future training.
Griswald said that a key takeaway was that each building was deciding what professional development was needed. Central office supported that, but the schools were empowered to determine what they needed.
Prather said that Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. also joined them on the trip and that he was really interested in hearing more about the community's feelings about Cullman's laptop initiatives.
Several principals will now make a presentation on visits they made to various Star and High Performing schools to study what they were doing.
Fred Hill said several groups have gone but that he has chosen these four groups to make presentations today. He said the groups were asked to look at things those schools were doing that helped them to become star and high performing schools. He said he wanted them to see districts whose students were more disadvantaged than Tupelo's but who were performing better.
Eddie Prather asked about New Albany Elementary, which gives students assessments each week and uses those to guide instruction. He asks Parkway Principal Anna Guntharp and Lawhon Principal Christy Carrol, who visited NAES, if they are doing something similar. Guntharp said that Parkway and Thomas Street teachers have been getting together to write such assessments. Carrol said that Lawhon is also giving weekly assessments.
Beth Stone asked about Pontotoc Elementary, which had larger class sizes that Tupelo but uses a teacher and an assistant teacher in each classroom. Renee Price, a teacher at Carver who visited PES, said that the teachers there seem to like that and that Tupelo teacehrs would also like that. She said that having that extra body helps.
Prather asks about Clinton, which has similar demographics to Tupelo. Ken McGaha, assistant principal at Tupelo Middle who visited Clinton, said the biggest thing they noticed was the internal support in the buildings of a competitive environment. They were supportive of each other and competitive with each other, as well. He said there was a lot of community support. He said there wasn't a lot of teachnology, it was just teaching. He said they made sure each teacher had what they needed and that teachers handled discipline issues in their classroom.
Prather asks Milam Principal Travis Beard, who visited Tunica, about discipline there. Beard said they didn't see problems there. Prather asks how they handle it at Milam. Beard said that they use a step-by-step process where they start handling discipline closest to where the issue occurs. He said teachers handle it first and work with the parents before going to the office. He said the biggest problem is when things happen in the hallways. He said that Tunica uses a similar process.
Travis Beard said that several of the schools have added Study Island program as a result of these visits.
He said another strategy Milam began using was UNRAVEL, which can be used in math and reading. They saw it in Tunica.
Beard: "I think we will see from the visits, there have been changes in our schools this year."
Prather: We are building the budget and if some of those programs need to be put in the budget, we need to know soon.
Diana Ezell is making a presentation about the digital transition plan. She said they are working to go from paper to digital resources. One thing is they are working to get a smart board/promethean board or some sort of document projector in every classroom. They if they want to add different online programs, they will need ways for students to be able to get on line, possibly adding iPads. The area that is most barren is third- to fifth-grade and Mr. Meadows is working to get resources to those grades, Ezell said.
She said they will also have to begin replacing some equipment. The first student laptops (senior class of 2009-10) will be three years old in Decemeber. Also, lightbulbs on the smart boards will need to be replaced soon.
They have also added bandwidth.
Key will be to make sure that teaching and learning is driving technology and not the other way around, she said.
Ezell said 60 classrooms at the high school don't have interactive boards and 57 don't have them at 3-5. Milam, Middle School, K-2 and pre-K are all fully equipped with interactive boards.
Rob Hudson asks for more detailied information about projected costs for replacing technology. Ezell said the cost will be higher for August 2013 when the computers first given to sixth- to 11 th -grade students become three years old.
Ezell said they are working to wake the roll-out more efficient. She said they are going to need to get the laptops to students more quickly, especially if they are going to online textbooks.
Prather: When we got to digital texts, a lot of parents will want their children to come home with a textbook and we will need to educate our parents about that.
Finance director Linda Pannell is presenting a chart on assessed valuation and ad valorem collection through the years. She said that assessed valuation was growing in the early 2000s but has really levelled out in 2009 and hasn't increased since then. The school distirct has requested the maximum 55 mils, so it can't request any more. "We are really living on a fixed income," she said. Personal property has shown a small decline since then. Public utilities has declined every year since 2006 and 2007 with a small exception in 2009 and 2010. Automobiles has declined since 2008 and 2009.
The collection history goes back to 2004-05. Ad valorem collections for operations. For February of 2012, collections were over $13 million, that will be largest month and it will taper from there. Collections grew a little in January, then February and March and then gegan to taper down. She said that through the years, January and February and March tend to be the months when they get most revenue from local sources. It fluctuates which of those three months in which most of the collection comes.
The next presentation is about tutoring at Tupelo High School and the Decemeber subject area test re-test. Lea Johnson said it is looking at data of students who retook the test in September and those who did so in December. In September, 31 percent who were tutored passed the test, compared to 10 percent who weren't tutored. Out of the others who didn't pass it, 37 percent of the tutored students got through in December versus eight percent who were not tutored. She said she thinks the tutoring is helping and helping a lot for students who need to re-test. The question, she said, is what do we do for students who are at-risk who are in the classroom now. She said we are working on that, but we need to but a lot more emphasis on that.
Prather said the emphasis needs to be on getting students to pass the test the first time, and Johnson said she agrees. Meadows notes THS Principal Jason Harris' change in the way counseling is structured so that students keep the same counselors each year instead of getting a new one in every grade.
Stone asks about efforts being made to reach those studnets who are not currently being tutored to get them to use the tutoring services.
Johnson said there is also a large need for parents to help proctor during the upcoming state tests. She said that 800 parents are needed.
Griswald is now making a presentation about the summer curriculum writing project. He said last year's project was very helpful and they want to build on it again this year. He said they have been gathering feedback about what worked and didn't work from this past project. This year's project will also need to focus on common core, he said.
Griswald said they will soon meet with a core group to shape how this year's project will look. There will be a full-day presentation on May 29 with training from leaders. "We want to make sure the time is well spent and the product is the best product we can use." Goal will be to finish by the end of July so that teachers and principals will have more time to look at them.
They will revise all pacing guides and curriculum guides in state tested areas and K-2 english and math from last year. They will also revise pacing guides to address gaps.
They will pace for Common Core in grades 3-8 and will develop pacing guides for science and social studies for all grades K-8.
They will also revise the pacing guides for tested subjects at THS to fit the new block schedule.
They will incorporate technology and arts integration in all of their work.
There will be 75-100 certified staff. It will include project leads (curriculum department), curriculum team leaders (lead teachers; 20-25 certified staff paid $21 an hour), curriculum team writers (50-60 certified staff, pay of $18 an hour), curriculum team editors (10-15 certified staff, paid $18 an hour).
Applications were sent to all certified staff for team leaders. Received great candidates and they have been notified. Their work beings tomorrow. Applications will soon be sent for curriculum team writers and edtiors.
No one person will work more than 120 hours. Griswald said the project will probably take less time than last year because it will build on that work.
Estimated cost for staff will be $215,000. Materials and supplies will be $1,000 and printing cost will be $25,000. Total cost is estimated at $241,000.
Work will be done at Church Street and Parkway schools.
Stone said she likes the emphasis on building guides for social stuides and science. Griswald said that was based on feedback. Stone said she also likes the integration of technology and the arts.
Griswald said he hopes they have established the culture that this kind of feedback is valued.
The board is now considering the consent agenda. It includes some contracts, overnight and out of state field trips, grants. The board approves the consent agenda.
Board accepts the student transfer report, made by Pamela Traylor. They also approve the readmission of a student.
Jim Turner makes personnel report. It includes two new temporary staff positions. On classified section, there are seven new individuals. Several were added to substitute pool, brings pool to 193. Turner said the recruitment circuit has started. They have visited Memphis and Delta State Universities in order to try to select highly-qualified teachers earlier. They are forwarding information of those who have expressed interest in the district to all principals so they can begin the process early.
Board approves personnel report.
Linda Pannell presents the financial report and board accepts it. Board accepts the claims docket. The board also accepts the cash flow statements. Pannell said that although the fund balance is high now, the district will need it to get through the lean months until this time next year.
Fred Hill will present a second-reading of policy IHDB-E for GED programs. It would bring the district's policy in line with the state's policy. Students no longer have to be two years behind cohorts, but only one year behind when they reach ninth grade. The student must be approved by the superintendent to be in the GED program. The student also must be able to read at the eighth-grade level. Students would participate in a second ceremony for completion near the time of the district's normal graduation.
The board accepts the changes to the policy.
Pamela Traylor requests the board to ratify an administrative recommendation on a student discipline issue. The board accepts the reccomendation.
Under new business, several things must be approved for the first March meeting.
The board must reappoint legal counsel for the school board. Meadows recommends they reappoint Mitchell McNutt and Sams. The board approves the recommendation, appointing Mitchell, McNutt and Sams as legal counsel.
Meadows recommends that the board approves that Central Office remains the place to post special board meetings and meeting changes. The Hancock Center is a secondary location. Patrice Tate is designated as the person responsible for doing that. Board approves.
Meadows recommends that the board approves Tate to serve as recording secretary. Board approves.
The board also approves the process for authorization of district signatures, for district financial accounts. The board reaffirmed its existing policy.
The board appoints Beth Stone and Rob Hudson to a committee to study the 2011-12 audit.
On future agenda topics, Meadows said that Rob Hudson has requested an update on security cameras. He said they are preparing to bring an update soon. Meadows asks the board to consider, early in the year the district operated on the plan Moving Forward Together. It had four components: safe schools, recongizing teachers and principals as instructional leaders, improve academic performance and develop an avenue for community to address concerns. Meadows said he has identified things from those sessions. He asks that the board allows the superintendent to identify the common themes from the meetings with the community and that Meadows would present a plan to formalize those listening sessions and present them to a larger audience.
Perhaps they would be called "Councils of Excellence." They would allow students, teachers, parents and community members to give feedback. Meadows said that new superintendent Gearl Loden has expressed an interest in this.
Meadows said this would put the fourth-component of "Moving Forward Together" into action. He said that if the board approves the individual school processes, to formalize the sessions, it would be helpful.
Hudson said that the listening sessions have been a good first step and he's gotten a lot of feedback that said thanks for reaching out, but what is next.
Prather said that it should be reflected in the minutes that the board moved forward with this process.
Board votes to direct Meadows to begin the process of moving forward with the process of collecting information from those sessions and determing a plan for buidling upon that.
Hudson asks for an update on block scheduling and what will happen with sports teams.
Meeting is adjourned at 2:33 p.m.
Last update at 11:06 a.m.
(NOTE: LIVE TESTIMONY HAS BEEN COMPLETED)
The tenth day of testimony from the Calvin Ellis personnel hearing will begin shortly.
One note left over from yesterday. The witness who turned in testimony via affadavit was Whitney Williams. He is president of the schoocer booster club. His testimony stated that Tupelo school administrators had not accompanied the Tupelo High School soccer team on its over night and out of town trips in past years. One of the contentions made against Ellis during this hearing is that he did not have school administrators with him on an out of town trip to Birmingham last year, in violation of district policy.
Williams gave his testimony via affadavit because of his busy schedule. He said he is available for cross examination if the district chooses to call him.
Calvin Ellis has taken the witness stand and we will begin shortly.
Jim Keith begins the cross examination.
Keith refers to the embarrassment Ellis said he felt as a result of his dismissal. He said that when Jim Turner and David Meadows met with you on Oct. 28 did they tell you that you had a right to a hearing that could be public or private.
Ellis said no.
Are you testifying here today that neither of them told you that you had the right to a private hearing?
Ellis: They told me it was a public hearing and they highly encouraged me to resign.
You recall nothing about them telling you that it could be private?
Ellis: There was none of that discussed.
KeithL You never asked for it to be closed?
Ellis: I never knew beforehand that it could be a closed hearing.
Ellis said after the condoms and bananas had been discussed he asked Compton if he could have a closed hearing. He was told that at that time he could, but after that the damage had been done.
Keith asks Ellis about him having the charges published in the newspaper. Ellis said that is correct.
Keith asked if the district had publicized the charges other than that. Ellis said that it hadn't.
Keith refers to a four-hour meeting that Ellis had with David Meadows after Ellis was placed on leave. Keith said that Ellis used that meeting to make charges against other employees rather than talk about charges against him.
Ellis said that meeting was called because he was unsure why he was placed on leave. He said he didn’t know the true reason why he was placed on leave.
Keith: You spoke for a majority of that time from a document that is exhibit 2 and was 10 pages long.
Ellis said that is correct, he spoke from that document.
Keith said the 10-pages in that document were complaints against other individuals but was not about the Friday night incident.
Ellis said it was documentation he had been keeping throughout the year. He said he had talked to Jason Harris about it on Oct. 5 but he hadn’t previously spoken to district officials about it.
Keith said Meadows told Ellis he would investigate the charges Ellis had made. Ellis had another meeting with district officials for about an hour and a half.
Keith asked if Ellis provided a written response to district officials after his termination.
Ellis said he didn’t. He said when he was told about his termination, he was not told he could provide a written response. He was told he could have a hearing and that it would be public. If he knew he could provide a written response and it would make a difference, he said he would have done that.
Butts objects by saying he made a response as Ellis’ attorney.
Keith: You didn’t provide a written or an oral response.
Ellis: I tried to provide an oral response (at that meeting) but was not allowed.
Keith refers to the curfew law.
Keith asks if any parent gave Ellis permission to take their kids to Walmart. Ellis said the parents gave him permission to have the students at his house but they did not give specific permission to go to Walmart.
Keith asks about permission to go to the Whitwell house and to go on a pranking event. Ellis gives similar answers. He said they gave permission to go to his house and he took that as permission to encompass all of those acitivities.
Keith: What permission did they give you Mr. Ellis.
Ellis: There is no specific permission. But you heard the testimony of those parents that it was OK for them to go with me to Walmart.
Keith: You called parents of kids to give you retroactive permission?
Ellis said no. He said he sent an email from his attorney to the parents asking if he had their permission to be with the kids.
Keith: That was done last week, that was not done prior to the event.
Ellis said yes. He said it was a social event and they did not have permission for anything.
Keith: Are you testifying you did not call any parents or students last week about this issue.
Ellis: I did not call any student about this issue.
Keith: Did you call parents
Ellis: I emailed parents.
Keith: Did you call a parent
Ellis: I don’t remember
Keith: Did you try to call a student who refused to take your call?
Keith refer to the curfew law. When a minor accompanied by an adult or accompanied by (a person designated by the parent, is with a student for a designated period of time). Keith asks if there was a designated period of time. Ellis said there was no parent that gave him specific permission to accompany the students to Walmart.
Keith: If you look at exemption 2, that doesn’t really apply to you does it?
Ellis: I think it does.
Keith: You testified that when the boys went to prank the girls house, you stayed in the car. You also remember that the mother said she thought you were supervising them.
I did not want to participate in the prank. I was not supervising them doing the prank. I was supervising them around the town, making sure they weren’t loud, I told them not to be loud in the neighborhood. I wasn’t watching them do the prank.
Keith: Do you know that the boys cleaned up the mess after they left the Whitwell home?
Ellis: They used shaving cream and the Vaseline that was on the cars. I need to clarify one thing, the bananas were smeared on….
Keith objects saying that he can’t go into yesterday’s testimony.
Compton said he can’t do that unless it is related to a question that was asked, Butts can address it on redirect.
Ellis said the question was related to the mess. He said the bananas were smeared on the window. He said the condoms were picked up because he made them pick them up.
Keith: You testified yesterday it was not necessary for you to get permission to arrange the songs for the Wave Connection show.
Ellis: I don’t think that was my testimony. I understand that as an arranger, I needed to get permission.
Keith: Was your testimony yesterday, there was no reason for you to have obtained permission for the arrangements prior to going forward with the performance…..When you said, ‘Now I know that I didn’t even need to do what I was trying to do.’ You had three different categories of songs: Steve Anderson with contracts, yourself and then some other arrangers. I want to know what you meant by your statement when you said it wasn’t necessary to have gotten permissions I was trying to get.
Ellis: Many of the songs we were trying to perform were done by arrangers without a contract for hire. Several of those songs could have been performed. I did say I was responsible for the songs I had arranged. The Steve Anderson songs I was trying to get permission for those.
Keith: Are you saying it wasn’t necessary to postpone the performance.
Ellis said he doesn’t think it was necessary because many of those songs had been arranged by other arrangers. He knows he needed to get permissions. He said there should have and could have been a show but there was not.
Ellis said I remember her saying it was a good idea to get permission.
Keith: She said it is necessary to obtain permission for every customized version of a copyright work that you disseminate?
Ellis said yes.
Keith: she said that making a customized arrangement and disseminating it without permission could be a civil matter
Ellis said yes.
Keith said that she also said that reproduction and dissemination of an unauthorized work could be a felony.
Ellis said that she also said that most publishers don’t want to do that if you are seeking permission.
Keith: Your own expert while saying it is in best interest of publishers to work with those who are seeking copyrights….When she said reproduction and dissemination of an unauthorized work could be a felony, that was the same thing Mark Greenburg told you.
Ellis said that her testimony and his statement were different.
Ellis is given a copy of DeSalvo’s testimony. Keith reads where it says that it can be a felony if a certain dollar amount is met and a certain number of copies are disseminating.
Keith: You don’t disagree with what your expert said?
Ellis said no, he doesn’t disagree.
Keith asks if the witness said that it can be a violation to disseminate songs for which proper permission hadn't been obtained.
Ellis said yes.
Keith said that for any songs you arranged, you would need to get permission.
Ellis: She also stated that any arranger can go back and fix that. At the time I didn’t know I needed permission for any arrangement I did, but I know that and I can fix it.
Keith: That is assuming that the rights holder agrees to fix that, there is no assurance?
Ellis said yes, but she also said that at no time is the district liable.
Keith said that we will go back to that, that is not exactly what she said.
Keith refers Ellis to contract with Steve Anderson. He said that for the songs arranged by Ellis, it was the duty of him on behalf of Tupelo High School (because he signed for THS). She said it was duty of you on behalf of Tupelo High School to submit one copy of the score to the attention of the copyright department for approval of the music and copyright permission.
Keith: You never did that for these three songs did you?
Ellis said he thinks Terri Stewart did that.
Keith: By the time you postponed the show, you hadn’t done that.
Ellis: said no. He said that Terri Stewart sent the check. (He said that she sent the copy of the score but that she had done so after the show was postponed)
I remember Ms. Ramona testified this is just the formality Hal Leonard uses to do its business. The boosters paid for this. It says Tupelo High School licensee, but you can get licenses without Tupelo High School. The boosters paid for this, but it doesn’t make Tupelo High School liable.
Keith: Nowhere on this document is the booster club. It says Tupelo High School.
Keith: As of the day you postponed the performance, you had not done what paragraph 5 said.
Ellis: Technically no, I had not.
Keith: Not technically, you hadn’t done it.
Ellis: No, but I thought when we sent the check off on Sept. 8, we were good to go.
Keith: Are you saying that even if you had never received a signed contract from Cherry Lane music, it would have been OK to go ahead with the performance of these three songs.
Ellis: I do for one reason. Steve Anderson submitted his, I call it an invoice. Did we enter into a contract for hire with him, I’m not sure we did that. In that case, it would have been OK to go forward.
Keith: I am just talking about this contract. Are you saying it would have been OK to go forward despite what paragraph 5 said.
Butts objects, saying Ellis is not a lawyer. Keith said that Ellis testified yesterday that he know understands the law.
Compton, can you answer about your understanding.
Ellis: I understand that the show could have gone on. The fact of the matter is we mailed a check. At some point, these songs were given to the copyright company as asked for in number 5. Absolutely we could have gone on with the show.
Keith: AS of Sept. 29, if you hadn’t performed paragraph 5, is it your understanding it would still be OK to go forward with the show with those three songs.
Keith: You remember (your expert testified she would not advise going ahead with the show without following the details of this contract).
Butts objects saying are we talking about disseminating to the students are a performance, there is a difference.
Keith said he is asking if Ellis remembers DeSalvo saying she would not advise disseminating to her students without (following the contract)
Ellis said yes
Keith asks and Ellis said he did disseminate it to the students and choreographers over the summer. Ellis said that is the way he had always done it and this is the first time he had dealt with this. He said that DeSalvo said he could retroactively go back and get the permissions and that is what he was trying to do.
Keith: You disseminated the music that had been arranged prior to the execution of the Hal Leonard contract?
Ellis said yes
Keith: You also understand now that that is a violation of copyright law.
Ellis: It was a violation of copyright law on my behalf and I can go back and make sure permissions were granted.
Keith: Assuming the rights holder would grant that permission?
Ellis: Yes, assuming the rights holder would cooperate, but she said it is in the best interest of the rights holder to cooperate.
Keith: That also assumes the rights holder agrees not to sue you? (going back and getting retroactive permission assumes that)
Keith: You testified when you went to Hal Leonard website in April, you knew you had to pay to get permission to those songs. Ellis said yes. Keith said you didn’t sign a contract with Steve Anderson until Septmeber. Ellis said yes but he has something he sends out to directors with what songs he will do. It appears to be a contract for hire, but it was not signed by both parties.
Keith: You went online to obtain the contracts for permission to arrange for the Steve Anderson songs?
Ellis: Yes but after that you wait until you receive permission….Steve Anderson gave me the arrangements early because we were having our normal choreography meeting…
Keith: Prior to you receiving this document dated Aug. 7, which is a contract on Cherry Lane Music head, you did nothing with regard to ensuring the proper permission was to be obtained on these three songs?
Ellis: I did submit the songs and I was waiting for this as it came Aug. 22. We started choreography (In July)
Keith asks if Ellis had any follow-up conversations with Anderson to ensure proper permission was obtained.
Ellis said he spoke with Anderson in June and July. He said he doesn’t remember specifically the conversations but they talked about the status of these.
Keith: Did you inquire whether you had permissions prior to this contract?
Ellis said he does not remember the conversations.
Keith: You said you contacted Jeremy Alferra but you didn’t get a straightforward answer about permission to arrange. Ellis said he was trying to understand his process and why he had never asked for this before.
Keith: In spite of not getting a straight forward answer, you stuck with him and you had no idea who was going to get permission for those songs.
Ellis said he did not know, but as Ms. Ramona testified he was the one responsible for getting permission so those songs could have been performed.
Keith said that at the time you didn’t know. Ellis said that is why he postponed the show.
Ellis said he spoke with Ron Jones, asked David Alderman what was going on and why certain arrangers ask for this and others don’t. Alderman told him that a lot of arrangers don’t deal with it. He said he went to all of the arrangers even though it was uncomfrortable because that is what he was told to do.
Keith: What communication did you have with Ron Jones about who would get permission for songs he was arranging.
Ellis: I had a phone conversation with him. I don’t remember the specifics
Keith: What did Ron Jones tell you about who was going to be responsible for getting permission. Ellis said the conversation wasn’t about the songs he was going to arrange and permissions. He talked to him about the past and why Jones didn’t require him to do it.
Keith asks about conversation with arranger Megan Glecker. Ellis said it was email correspondence with her. Ellis said she said that he needed to get permission, or the school would, but there was no contract for hire with her.
Keith: Did you do anything regarding getting permission for the songs Megan Glecker asked you to get permission for?
Ellis said he remembers submitting that song to Tresona?
Keith: But you never had permission as of Sept, 29?
Ellis said he does not recall.
Keith asks about Virgina Silouettes. Ellis said he tried to get an arrangement from that group, but he never did.
Ellis said he submitted it (to Tresona) because he wanted to do that song but he never ended up getting it arranged. Ellis said it was a pre-arranged piece of music.
Keith: What about Jeff Bowen?
Ellis: Jeff Bowen did rent and it was a pre-approved arrangement so I submitted that song as well.
Ellis said he had a conversation with Jeff Bowen and he said that he would get permission for it.
Ellis said that he still submitted every song he wanted to do. “I guess it was both of us covering our bases.
Ellis said he had no written agreement with Jones, Glecker or Bowen.
Keith: In spite of your knowledge that Steve Anderson required you to get permission to arrange through a written agreement, you didn’t get a written agreement with (the others)
Ellis: I did not have any written contract or written agreement with any arragener. With Steve Anderson, there was no agreement, there were no titles on those songs and it was not signed by either party. He said he is talking about the written agreement prior to making the arrangement.
He said he submitted the songs for Steve Anderson on the website. He said that Anderson was planning to do six songs even though he only submitted four to Hal Leonard.
Ellis said it wasn’t signed, it was like an invoice. The invoice didn’t have any songs listed on it.
Keith: The fact that you had Steve Anderson who directed you to a contractual arrangement to determine who would get permission to arrange and then you had Ron Jones who you didn’t ask who would get permission to arrange and Megan Glecker who said you needed to get permission to arrange. Did that not raise a question in your mind that to make sure for any song you were going to perform, you had proper arrangment.
Butts objects and Keith restates.
Keith: You were working with arrangers. One needed a contract, one you didn’t ask who was responsible for getting permission and one emailed you that you needed to get permission to arrange.
Ellis: As you can see, all of these arrangers had no clue what they were doing, as I did not. That is why I spent time trying to educate myself. It did raise questions and I tried to figure it out. It took me a while to figure it out and then I found out that that was even wrong. That is why I submitted every song for approval. That is why I ended up cancelling the song to give us more time..
Keith: As of Sept. 29, you never asked the principal or the distirct’s legal counsel to give you help?
Ellis: No, I was trying to figure this out on my own.
Keith: As of the date, the show was postponed, you had not taken steps to get permission for the songs you had arranged.
Ellis said he had submitted those to Tresona.
Keith: You had not received permission?
Ellis said he had received clearance. He said he didn’t understand the terminology between cleared and final copyright approval.
Keith: I think the testimony shows that every one of those songs had already been duplicated and disseminated to students?
Ellis said they had
Keith: Those documents did not have the proper copyright language on the first page?
Keith: Now, you also recall that your own expert testified that she would not advise a school district to go forward with music obtained from arrangements in which there had been no permission from rights holders
Butts objects, saying that was not her entire testimony.
Hearing takes a 10-minute break at 9:45 a.m.
Hearing resumes at 9:53 a.m.
Keith refers to transcript. In it he asked DeSalvo if she would advise a school district to go forward with a performance if permissions had not been obtained. DeSalvo said if she knew beforehand, she would not advise them to go forward. She then said a performance would be expempt. But, Keith said, she also said she does not recommend it.
Ellis said if he knew beforehand, he wouldn’t have gone forward with a performance. To me, this makes it seem that she would go forth with a performance because a performance is exempt and we can work afterward to get permission.
Keith: On Sept. 29, you knew you did not have permissions, so you did know beforehand?
Ellis: That is why I went ahead and cancelled the show
Keith: You have no assurance of being able to obtain permissions retroactively for songs you had arranged and had not received permission.
Ellis said no assurance.
Keith asked the same thing about songs by other arrangers. Ellis said the performance would be exempt.
Keith: Are you saying if you knowing used songs for which there was no permission, are you saying there would be no liability on you.
Ellis: I don’t recall her saying that
Keith: There are some songs for which you never get permission, such as those from the Hendrix estate.
Ellis: That is the only song I had trouble on.
Keith: Based on what you know today, would you perform that song anyway? Ellis said he wouldn’t. He said he would replace that with another song.
Keith: You have no assurance a rights holder would not sue you?
Ellis: Based on what I know now, it is in a publisher’s best interest to make money. As Mr. Jordan and Ms.DeSalvo testified, they are not in the business of suing. There is no assurance but there is no case where they sued someone for doing those thing.
Keith: You recall your witnesses testimony that a knowing violation brings a $150,000 fine?
Ellis: But there was no violation. There was no performance.
Keith: What is your understanding of whether a knowing violation would bring a possible $150,000 statutory fine?
Ellis said his understanding is that the arranger would be the direct infringer and he is only responsible for the songs he arranged, but there is no liability on behalf of the district.
Keith: You say that because you say you were (arranging) in your sole role as Calvin Ellis not as Calvin Ellis show choir director. Ellis said yes.
Keith: If you were going to do it over again, are you saying on Sept. 29, you would have gone forward with the performance any way.
Ellis; Knowing what I know now, that the students could have had the opportunity to do the show and present their hard work to the community at no violation to the school and I would encourage the arrangers including myself to get permission, for the student’s sake there absolutely would have been a show. I may have delayed it, but that is why we are in this, for the student sake.
Keith: For your sake, as an arranger, would you still have gone forward with the show?
Knowing what you know today, would you have gone forward with the songs you had arranged for which you had not received permission?
Ellis: Yes I would have gone ahead and I would have done everything in my power to make sure all of the songs I had arranged would be approved. If they weren’t approved, I may have changed my mind. We still had other songs we could have performed and we would have gone on with the show.
Keith: Would you have allowed the students to perform the songs you arranged and hadn’t gotten permission?
Ellis: Yes I would have but I would have done everything retroactively to get permission. IF we didn’t get permission I might not have used them. I would have tried my best to get permission.
Keith: Had you not received permission, would you go forward with the performance?
Ellis: It is hard to answer yes or no….I postponed the show to allow more time for permissions and I would have continued to perform those songs….Knowing what I know now, I would not have put those songs on the stage if I hadn’t gotten permission. (Said he would have delayed the show to get those permission)
Keith moves to exhibit 31. It is the MS educator code of ethics. Keith said standard 1 talks about professional conduct. 1.1.2 talks about respecting other educators.
Keith: Do you believe in light of what you said in exhibit 2, do you believe you were following that?
Ellis said yes.
Keith talks about exhibit 2 that calls for forthrightness. He asks if Ellis thinks he exhibited that when he talked to boosters about copyright
Ellis said yes.
Keith refers to exhibit 4. Says an educator should maintain a professional relationshp with all students inside and outside of the classroom. He reads examples of specific transgressions such as sexual inneuendo and electronic communication - such as text messaging- with students. Keith asks if he believes Ellis followed that in relation to the Friday event.
Butts objects because none of that is mentioned in the charges.
Keith said that evidence came out about the Friday night event and that can be considered by the board. He asks Ellis if he followed that standard.
Ellis said he did.
Keith refers to standard 5, calls for collegial relationship with collegues. He asks Ellis if he feels he maintained that in light of exhibit 2.
Ellis said he does. He said he believes professional relationships are a two-way street.
Keith goes to exhibit 26. Ellis’ contract for 11-12 school year. Ellis said it is identical to his 10-11 contracts.
Keith said the first page of the contract emcompases both his duties as teacher of music and his supplement as choral director.
Keith: You performed your music teacher duties during school day? Ellis said yes. Keith: You performed your show choir duties, afterschool, evenings and weekends. Is there any time you didn’t perform your show choir duties? Ellis: yes
When did you perform your duties as an arranger? Ellis said during the summer.
Keith: Are you testifying under oath that you enver worked on arranging music during the school day?
Ellis said not to his knowledge
Keith asks if he ever worked on his arrangement while he was working with show choir.
Ellis said not while he was working with students, but sometimes he would change parts that didn’t work.
Keith: You did not ask administration if it would be permissible to charge the booster club for arranging?
Ellis said yes
Keith asks if the arrangements were solely for the Tupelo show choir? Ellis said yes.
Keith: You arranged those songs because you are show choir director, not because you are an independent contractor?
Ellis: I arranged those songs because I am show choir director for Wave Connection and Sound Wave and I wanted to contrubite to their performance.
Keith asks if Ellis arranged songs for any other show choirs. Ellis said no.
Keith: You were performed by your principal you would not be able to go forward with performrnace for songs for which permission had not been given?Ellis said yes.
Keith: Where does it say in your contract that certain work you do for your show choir performance isn’t covered by your contract or your supplement?
Ellis: It doesn’t say that, but supplements in my understanding are put in place for the time you spend with students outside of school hours. We pay other outside arrangers. I would never expect arrangement to put expected of me as part of my supplement.
Keith: Who made decision of which arrangers to hire?
Ellis: I made the decision
Keith: You were in effect recommending yourself to the booster club?
Ellis: For years I had taken other arrangers work and adapted it to the program. I thought I could do other arrangements for the program that would be cheaper. The budget for arranging was $10,000. We would hire arrangers and the arrangement would be wrong and we would have to spend $1,000 on one song to redo. I did start that process and the boosters agreed.
Keith: The amount of money you billed the booster club over a two-year period of time was approximately $10,000.
Ellis said he does not recall the approximate amount. He said he knows it is over $8,000.
Keith refers to exhibit 15. District policy for staff conflict of interest. It says that no employee will use their position to obtain pecuniary benefit for themselves.
Keith said number 2 says prohibited activities. 2.9. One of the activities is using his or her position to influence purchase of goods or services from a school, booster club, etc.
Ellis: I wouldn’t agree that I tried to do that to help myself. I was actually trying to benefit the school.
Keith: You just testified you received in excess of $8,000 benefit and at the same time you did that, you were the show choir director?
Ellis: I was
Keith: Yesterday you testified you were concerned about kids being bullied and forced to sing. Didn’t Mr. Meadows ask you to sign a letter asking the kids in the two show choirs to cooperate.
Ellis said that is not all the letter said.
Ellis is given a copy of the letter. It is dated Oct. 18. It says due to fact that copyright permissions have not been obtained, permission has been postponed, In the meantime, we ask for you to all work hard in class. It would have been signed by Ellis and Jason Harris
Keith asks You refused to sign the letter?
Ellis said he did. He was uncomfortable with the fact that they were putting copyright permissions as what was going on with him. He said he would have been glad to sign something asking for the work to go on but he was uncomfortable signing something saying the reason he was not at school was because copyright permission hadn’t been obtained.
Keith: Did you present any amendments?
Ellis: I asked him about rewording the first part of this and I said we could work on it together. There were no more conversations.
Keith: Did you submit a revised version of this letter?
Ellis: They didn’t ask me that.
Keith: You had already sent out an email that the show had been postponed because of copyright permissions, correct?
Keith: You knew it was wrong to tutor your own students during the school day for pay?
Ellis said yes
Keith: You tried to justify it yesterday by saying you only did it twice?
Ellis: I did it twice to help the student
Keith: You stopped because the student’s parent told you it was wrong.
Ellis said she did not tell him it was wrong. He was another employee was talking about it in the community and she warned him to watch his back.
Keith: Yesterday you brought up the Alabama trip and talked about parents asking you to take students to lunch?
Keith: You already said that students could eat in the cafeteria. Ellis said yes
Keith said that by letting them go to the mall, he turned over supervisory responsibility and he could have asked them to say. Ellis said yes.
Keith said that last week when he questioned Ellis if he had talked about the issue with the principal, he testified that the only supervision issue that was brought up was the issue of no staff member being on the bus back to Tupelo.
Ellis said yes and then you showed me a letter referring to supervision issue at a mall. Ellis said he thought he was talking about something else at the mall.
Ellis said he does not recall discussing the issue at the mall with him. He said that he read the letter but the discussion just talked about returning to school without a staff member.
Keith refers to exhibit 74. A March 28 email from Ellis to Stratton. Keith said he wants to email parents about the proper protocol to report a problem. Keith said that is because you knew a parent had reported the incident at the mall.
Ellis said he did know that but the discussion, he was confused about the unsupervised complaint because he was at the mall Friday and Sunday with students who were chaperoned and went in groups. He said he didn’t understand why there was any reporting of supervision. (He said that and the incident at the mall were two separate things).
Keith: Are you saying you were not aware that on Saturday there were students at the mall and you were not.
Ellis said he was aware students were at the mall but he didn’t know there was a supervision problem.
Keith asks if when Ellis discussed the issue with Stratton, whether a mall supervision came up in the discussion.
Ellis said he told Stratton that the allegations of the students being unsupervised at the mall got him upset because there was supervision. But you are talking about another incident at another mall and I wasn’t there.
Ellis said he told boosters if there is a problem with anything please come to him. He said he wants to know the issues….If all these parents are going straight to the top and not saying anything to me, how can I fix these problems?
Keith: Did you approach any of the parents before this email from Lee Stratton?
Ellis said he did not know there was an issue before this email.
Ellis said he can’t remember the actual order of events. He does remember Stratton coming to him and talking about the ride home without an administrator. He said he doesn’t know the time frame.
Keith; How did it come to your attention there was a mall supervision issue that prompted to write this email
Ellis said he doesn’t know. Maybe he had a conversation with Stratton in passing.
Keith: You were upset because you said, “I don’t know why someone would come up with this other than vindictive reasons of their own?”
Keith: Did you think someone was being vindictive by reporting that issue to the administration?
Ellis: I knew I was bothered by the fact that there was a report of unsupervision when I knew there was none. There had been amny incidents that year of people going to higher authorities saying things that werne’t necessarily true.
Keith: Yesterday, you said a student had to cross the street to eat lunch. You don’t know where she was prior to that?
Ellis said he would assume she was at the hotel.
Keith: Do you know whether she was under adult supervision prior to going there?
Ellis said they were in their rooms getting ready for a performance. He does not know if there was a parent outside every single room. You can not watch every single student, every single time, every single event at a hotel.
Keith: I believe you testified you didn’t go outside to supervise students running laps if it was daylight hours. Ellis said that is correct.
Keith: At night time, you supervised them? Ellis yes.
Keith: You obviously didn’t supervise them the entire time they circled the building?
Ellis said you can not supervise every single step but he was outside counting laps.
Keith asks Ellis about statement that Ellis did not know about Petal incident.
Ellis said he did not know about not being asked back. He said he knew there was an incident and that the Petal principal approached him about it but he didn’t know about ruining the reputation.
Keith asks if Ellis informed the Tupelo administration?
Ellis said no because he took care of it and went back and talked to the students. He said he saw Petal parents being rude to them.
Keith: You didn’t think it was important to tell the administartion
At the time I did not think that was important for the principal to know because I dealt with it. I don’t run with the principal for every issue, I try to deal with it. That is what most principals want.
Keith said that Ellis testified yesterday that it was not a matter of being invited to competition, it is a matter of filling out a form. Petal doesn’t have to accept the form does it?
Ellis said no but he had never had an application not be accepted.
Keith asks if Tupelo has gone back to Petal since. Ellis said no but he didn’t want to because of the way they were treated.
Keith asks Ellis about his arrangments and his relationship with the boosters.
Ellis: There were no arrangements that had already been arranged by other people. My arranging project was the very first music project of the school year. When I had to seek other arrangements to fulfill other performance needs, I did not inform (The boosters) because I had done that for years.
Keith asks giving copies of the music to the boosters. Ellis said he wasn’t asked by the boosters for that until this year but that he did provide it to Terri Stewart this year.
Keith asks what the dates were. Ellis said it was August or September. Keith asks if he provided anything prior to that. Ellis said he was never asked prior to that.
Keith refers to exhibit 18, a Tweet..
Keith: Did you have that conversation with the individual who Tweeted that message?
Ellis said it was a Tweet by a student who took a picture of a text message.
Keith: Did you make the statement with anyone that (they couldn’t get a zero for an event that happened outside of school)
Ellis: I had a discussion with this person buecase she informed me that the kids had been builled at school. I tried to give a student a zero for an event at Ole Miss and the administration told me that I couldn’t do that for an event outside of school. I wanted the student to know that.
Ellis said he did not tell her to disseminate that.
Keith said the date of that was Oct. 24. Was that the approximate time you had that conversation?
Ellis said yes
Keith refers to next page that says “Go for it. Tell all WC students and make sure they don’t show up.” Did you also have that conversation?
Ellis said no.
Keith asks about Ellis’ conversation with Whitwell. Ellis said Whitwell called her.
Ellis said he called her prior to him being placed on leave about the incidents on Sept. 30. The conversation in which he infromred her he was palced on leave, she called him.
Keith: After you were placed on leave, did you call Ms. Whitwell?
Keith: After you were placed on leave, you were instructed not to have contact with any TPSD employee but Mr. Turner. He asks about what Mr. Meadows told Ellis about creating a report of his copyright activities.
Ellis said he was told to create a report. HE doesn’t recall him telling him he needed a daily log.
Keith: You don’t recall him giving you a pad and pen and telling you to write down these instructions?
Ellis: I believe he asked me, maybe on the 21, I don’t recall him telling me about every contact. I still have the memo I wrote and I don’t think it said to make a daily log. It was difficult for me to log every conversation because I was in the process of waiting for approval. That is why the report was as extensive as it was because that was all of the work I had been doing.
Keith: You were on full paid leave and he wanted documentation of what you were doing.
Ellis said that is not true and the only thing he was to do daily was to call at 3:00.
Keith: Are you aware your Wave Connection shows for 2009 and 2010 are on YouTube?
Keith is finished with his questions. Butts will begin his redirect shortly.
Butts asks Ellis about his meetings with Jason Harris and David Meadows. He asks whether any of those meetings conformed to district policy about how complaints should be handled about licensed employees
Ellis said no
Butts asks him about a point he said he wanted to clarify from prank night?
Ellis: There has been a great deal of discussion about the use of materials, the condoms and bananas. I think there is a misconception of how those materials were used. The bananas were smashed on the windows. The condoms were thrown on the ground. The Vaseline was on the door handles and the paint was on the windows. I think there is a great misconception about how those materials were used.
Butts: Had you been informed there existed any copyright compliance policy in the district?
Ellis said no. He said no administrator ever came to him and told him there was such a policy.
Butts: You were asked if you sought district advice on legal matters. Have you seen district policy on that? Ellis said no
Butts: Were you ever informed you could go directly to the district legal counsel and ask a question.
Ellis said he was never informed but he did go on one occasion. It was about the Smith Lake trip. They were thinking about taking parent cars to Smith Lake and he was asking for a form that could release them from liability.
Butts: You were asked if you went to your principal about the problems with copyrights, to your knowledge does Mr. Harris have any expertise on that?
Ellis said no.
Compton: I have a question about the condoms, were they taken out of the packages?
Ellis said they were taken out of the packages.
Jim Keith and Kelly Stimpson are conferring about a possible question. They will not ask it. Ellis is done with his testimony.
Keith said the district will submit three affadavits as rebuttal witnesses. They will submit them this afternoon and Butts will have the opportunity to submit counter affadavits.
Compton wants them to file those today and he will talk to Butts about whether he needs counter affadavits. The hearing is now in recess waiting for those affadavits and possible counter affadvits. They will then be in recess until the hearing officer gets a copy of the transcript and is able to prepare his report and get the transcript and report to the school board. He will notify both counsel at that point.
The hearing is done, as far as live witnesses.
When the school board gets its report from Compton, it will have a 30-day window to make a decision. The two lawyers will also make closing statements to the school board sometime within those 30 days.
(Last update 4:39 p.m.).
The ninth day of Calvin Ellis' personnel hearing has begun.
Witness is called Dr. Jerry Jordan. Lives in Oxford. Owns four businesses in Oxford and was director of choral activities at Ole Miss for a number of years.
He directed two choirs and supervised other choral directors. He taught conducting and choral methods and supervised student teachers.
He directed concert singers. It is a high-level choir with the most talented students at Ole Miss. They performed around the world and in 1998 and 2000, they won one of the most prestigious music directors in the world.
David Butts: Have you had occasion to purchase music that was never performed?
Jordan.: A tremendous amount of music that was never performed.
Jordan said most of his show choir experience is supervising show choir directors. He said early in his tenure at Ole Miss he directed the show choir and later on, others did.
As part of his job he went into school districts and evaluated choral programs. Sometimes he was asked to come in and more often it was informal.
Butts: Will you generally describe the undergraduate curriculum learned?
Jordan said it grew out of conservatory tradition. (emphasis on being performers). He said it is unfortunate because it weights things too much to voice and not enough on conducting. One course on choral methods.
He said it doesn’t include education on copyright law. Said there is no formal exposure at all. “I don’t believe I have ever seen a course on copyright law included on the syllabus.
Choral directors are told not to copy copyrighted music and that is generally the (Depth of knowledge on copyright law.).
Butts: Are your students trained to direct showchoirs?
Jordan: Only the musical rehearsal aspects of directing a show choir.
Jordan said they don’t receive any training in choreography or arranging music.
Butts: Would you agree graduates are not showchoir directors.
Jordan: I would agree with that. (Also that they are not choreographers or music arrangers).
Butts: Asks why directors are not trained in creating derivative works
Jordan: There are millions of pieces of choral music to select from. Also said there is not time to train them in arranging, it is a secondary skill. Said we often think of great composers and great conductors but they are often not the same person.
Butts: Are choral directors, do they arrange?
Butts: IS that a specialty outside of school activities?
Butts: Were you ever expected to arrange?
Jordan: I had my first high school teaching position in 1967 and supplements were already established as part of a teachers pay at that time. I was not expected to arrange (in any fashion. Said that supplements were intended for additional time needed to work with groups outside of school hours).
Butts directs Jordan to exhibit 26. It is a contract for employment with Mississippi Public School Districts.
Butts: Is it similar to contracts you have had with Ole Miss or other directs you have seen?
Butts: Would the descriptive term show choir director imply he was expected to arrange music?
Keith objects saying the witness has no knowledge of the terms of Ellis’ agreement with the school district. Compton overrules.
Butts: What does term show choir director mean?
Jordan: Typically, in my experience, it would never include choreography or arranging. He said after it is done, it may include sharpening it up, but in terms of arranging the music, it would not be considered part of their duties.
Butts asks Jordan about his familiarity with Tupelo School District choral program.
Jordan said that over the last 30 years there have only been one or two directors he has not personally trained.
Jordan said that the duties of those directors were to assign other choral directors to groups, to assign who is to teach what, to group students by ability level and to place in choirs according to their ability level, to develop the curriculum to determine (consistency) and to schedule events and determine how money is spent.
He said that student scheduling for choral students is difficult and frustrating because ability level and talent level does not necessarily correlate with grade level.
“It is difficult to do. It is a very intense area that every choral director goes to at the beginning of a school year.”
Butts: Do you know of any area where a choral director does not do the things you have enumerated?
Jordan said that Ellis was his student for three years. He said that Ellis was an exceptional student, always prepared. Probably the best baritone I had. Has a wonderful singing voice. Terrific conductor
“You could always count on Calvin. Always on time, very communicative.”
Butts: What was your opinion of him as a person?
Jordan: My opinion was the same. He is an exceptional person. What struck me about Calvin from the very beginning was how gentle and kind he was. I asked my wife if she remembered any events that would attest to Calvin’s character. She said every day was a testimony to Calvin Ellis’ character. I do remember two specific things that greatly impressed me. One was that Calvin volunteered to start the Oxford children’s chorus (Said Ellis never received any pay for this). He did an exceptional job with this group and there was no obligation for him to organize a civic choir (in addition to his studies)
Jordan said that in his last year he had to leave his job because he developed tinnitus in his ears and his ears rang. He needed hearing aids and knew it would be his last year. He became emotional in one of his rehearsals and had to leave. When he got home there was an email from Calvin.
“Calvin not only thanked me for my influence as a person and a teacher but he emphasized with me the things I may be feeling. It displayed great courage and character than an undergraduate would express those things with his professor.”
Jordan said since then he has seen Ellis at several choir reunions. He came to Tupelo and observed his choirs and performance. He has observed a rehearsal. He said he hadn’t had a great deal of correspondence but had had some emails.
Butts asked about the nature of the group’s performances.
Jordan: “I would say it was professional. Not what you would expect of a typical high school chorus.” He said sound was wonderful, performed difficult arrangements, choreography was precise and together and staging, costume and sets were excellent.
Butts asked what he noticed about Ellis.
“Calvin was a hero to his kids. He is very professional in the way he goes about his business. Kids responded to him as they had to to achieve that level of excellence, students had to be very responsive to a person such as Calvin?
Butts asks about crowd at performances. Jordan said the performances were packed and a lot of people expressed feedback afterward about how good of a job they felt Ellis was doing and about the support of Ellis’ wife. He said that a lot of community members would take Ellis’ children into their arms so that Ellis was not directed.
He said the reputation of Ellis’ showchoirs was superior and he was one of the best directors in the MidSouth.
Jordan said he also knew Jauna Ellis, that she was also a student at the same time as Ellis and that she sang in his wife’s women’s glee choir.
Butts asks his opinion of Ellis
Jordan: I always thought Calvin was a very upfront person. Calvin was a leader. If he felt like students in his baritone section needed to know something or needed clarification, he was the first to ask.
Butts: What is your opinion of Calvin Ellis’ ethics?
Jordan: I thought he was a very ethical person. He said he has never known Ellis to be dishonest and that he always found him to take responsibility where responsibility was do.
“Choral music directors spend an extraordinary amount of time well beyond their compensation. Being the heroes they are and the hero that Calvin Ellis was to his kids, it takes a selfless person to do what Calvin Ellis did in Tupelo.”
Jordan said the charges against Ellis appear to him to be a contrived laundry list of despicable rubbish that have absolutely no connection to Calvin Ellis expect in a couple of cases they charge him with doing exactly what he should have been doing.
Butts ends his examination and Jim Keith begins his cross.
Keith asks Jordan what knowledge he has of the nature of Ellis’ charges.
Jordan: The charge of manipulation of student schedules is exactly what Calvin Ellis should have been doing if he wanted students in the appropriate class.
Keith asks if Jordan knew that class had been assigned to another employee and that class was taken away from that teacher?
Jordan said he knew something to that effect.
Keith: You don’t know Calvin Ellis’ role in that do you?
Jordan said copyright violation charge was contrived. “In my opinion, I served on the Walton Music Corporation board for a number of years and I have some familiarity with how the industry works on copyright violations. I am no lawyer but I have been advised by lawyers on copyright violations but I am knowledgeable on fair use violation and as is practiced in the industry, any one who is trying to do right by copyright holder or publisher has no chance of being punished for violation of copyright law.
Keith: You are saying that because law said it is a violation to arrange without permission, you don’t have to worry about that law?
Jordan said the law is complex. Mentions fair use and educational exclusions. He said that as a practical matter, they are never going to be prosecuted (if they are making efforts to get permission).
Keith asks what it was by fair use that Ellis was not going to be charged. Butts objects.
Keith: Do you know what the specific violation was that Calvin Ellis had been charged with? Butts objects.
Compton said the witness already testified he was familiar with the charges.
Keith: What information do you have about the nature of the charge?
Jordan: As I understand the fair use provision, I am not a lawyer but as I have seen it play out, any choral director who is attempting to see an arranger or a copyright holder is fairly compensated (may be technically in violation but won’t be punished)
Jordan: That the district is exposed to any liability is laughable to me. Said publishers don’t want to go after schools when schools are making efforts to ensure that appropriate parties are fairly compensated.
Keith: Do you know what it is that Calvin Ellis is being charged with?
Jordan: As far as I am concerned he didn’t fail to do anything that led to charge number 1.
Jordan: What I have been told and what I have read is that Calvin was attempting to get the rights.
He said he heard that from several sources and that he read some of the newspaper articles.
Keith: Did Calvin tell you he had used songs he had arranged without getting permission from rights holder?
Jordan: The answer is no but it would not have been pertinent to me because it is commonly done.
HE said it means the person plans to cover themselves with the fair use issue. He said he knows that because it is commonly done.
Keith: Are you aware that if you are a repeat offender, there are violations in the law?
Jordan said he is not aware of that because he does not know that anyone has been violated for being a repeat offender.
Keith: Are you still saying it is OK?
Jordan: No. I am agreeing that as a practical matter the industry is not going to go after you but I am saying those provisions to which you refer are preempted in the minds of directors and most companies by the fair use policy.
Keith: Are they preempted in the law itself?
Jordan: That is my understanding.
Keith: What is it about charge number 2 that you believe is contrived?
Jordan: In the first place, the show could have gone on. The timely manner of business is not of great importance. He was seeking to get permission and whether that permission came just before the show or just after, in my view, is irrelevant.
Keith: You are not a lawyer. Would you advise a show choir director to go forward with a performance if there are songs in that performance that had been arranged without permission of rights holder?
Jordan said he would if they were seeking permission.
Keith: If they are seeking it, that does not mean they are going to get it, does it? Jordan: There is pretty good assurance that someone who is in the business to make money (is going to want to make money by selling those rights. He said there is a strong assurance you will get it but not absolute)
Keith: If someone believes you are deliberately taking their music, and using it, there is no assurance they will give you that permission?
Jordan: I suppose the literal answer would be yes, but it is so far from the realm of the likely that it is (not relevant).
Keith refers to song owned by Hendrix estate and that permission has still not been received.
Jordan said he is not familiar with that.
Keith asks if he would have still gone ahead with that Hendrix song.
Jordan said if he had done his best to compensate the rights holder, then he would have gone ahead.
Keith: You said you were employed at Ole Miss, when did you cease working at Ole Miss?
Jordan: 2001. It was Ellis’ third year in the program
Jordan said he has been in private business for 45 years. His private businesses were side to his teaching at Ole Miss.
Keith: In 2001, you were a professor at Ole Miss and had retired. At that point in time, had you done anything to keep up with the specifics of the show choir industry?
Jordan said he hadn’t kept up on a daily or weekly business but he has kept up with what has gone and he knows what the trends have been.
His primary involvement since 2001 has been to judge international choral competitions, work with community choirs and help at clinics. He said he has done little with show choirs.
Keith: You made a comment that when you ceased being a professor in 2001, there was little in the curriculum regarding copyright law?
Jordan said that was correct.
Keith asks if he knows about curriculum today?
Jordan said music educators find the law daunting and most find it even more daunting than he because he has had experience with a publishing company. He said most people in the field would leave it school districts to establish policies and the standards by which educational exclusions apply.
Keith said that since it is so daunting, wouldn’t it be a fair statement to ask those involved to make sure they know what they are doing.
Jordan said arranging has become much more common to the modern show choir. The primary concern for most of the time choral music has been in existence under copyright law has been that you don’t copy printed choral music (He said that is the biggest thing that was stressed).
Keith asks if arranging is a whole different issue. Jordan said in some respects it is.
Keith: If people are going to arrange music, you need to know there are copyright issues you need to be aware of
Jordan: I would be surprised that a choral director would not have an awareness he needs to comply with the law.
Keith: In order to comply with the law, you would seek advice from someone with knowledge of the law? Jordan said that would be the responsibility of the school district.
Keith: Are you aware there was another director in Tupelo who was obtaining permissions for songs for her group?
Jordan said no.
Keith: Are you aware that person successfully got permission?
Keith: are you aware that was also the person who told Mr. Ellis he needed to get permission for his songs as well?
Keith: Have you ever seen Calvin Ellis’ job description?
Jordan said just the documents placed in front of him.
Butts objects saying that if such a job description exists, he has never seen it.
Keith: When did you visit performances of Tupelo show choir?
Jordan: As recently as 2008-2009.
Keith: So the 2008-2009 show choir performance would have been about the second or third year, Mr. Ellis had been in the Tupelo school district?
Jordan: I believe he had been here longer than that, but I don’t know how long he had been doing show choir.
Jordan said the last performance he had seen could have been as late as 2010, but he thinks it was 2008-09.
Keith asks about subsequent contact with Ellis. Jordan said there have been three or four reunions that Ellis has attended.
Keith: What was it based on when you said Mr. Ellis was one of the top directors in the mid south?
Jordan: Conversations with other directors.
Keith asks if Jordan is familiar with any awards Ellis had won.
Jordan said no.
Keith asks what reputation Tupelo show choirs had before Ellis
Jordan: I would have to say generally the sophistication of the show choirs has become greater and greater here in Tupelo.
Keith: What about the overall choral music program?
Jordan: The overall choral music program has always been very good in Tupelo and Calvin has carried on that tradition if not improved it.
Keith asks if Jordan has any personal knowledge since 2001?
Jordan said he can see their performances and he knows what the quality is.
Keith: Back to the list of charges you said was contrived. Look at number 3. What do you know about allegations under number 3 and the booster club funds?
Jordan: Every major show choir in MS pays professional choreographers. As I previously testified, the timing of the copyright clearance is not an issue. Thousands of dollars are always spent on these show choirs.
Keith said he wants to know specifically what Jordan knows about allegation Ellis has squandered funds.
Butts objects saying that the charge is not specific and Jordan said what he knows. He said if we were dealing with some specificity, that might be a fair question.
Keith: My question is simple. I can read number 3 as well as Mr. Butts. My question for this witness is what knowledge do you have specifically about the charges regarding the booster club fund that you think is contrived.
Butts: That is not what the witness stated?
Compton: The question is what is his personal knowledge.
What knowledge do you have of Mr. Ellis squandering booster club funds?
Jordan: I don’t know that he squandered any booster club funds.
Keith: Do you know how he spent booster club funds.
Butts objects, saying Ellis isn’t the only one who spent booster club money.
Jordan: I have knowledge that funds were spent paying for professional choreography (and their out of state travel. He said that is all appropriate).
Keith: You do not know how many times songs had to be redone?
Jordan said he doesn’t specifically know how many times.
Keith: Did you read the testimony of the booster club individuals who have testified in this hearing?
Jordan: I have not read the testimony. I have read the first couple of days of blogs.
Keith: Have you read the testimony of Terri Stewart?
Jordan: I don’t remember it. I may have read it, but I don’t know the same.
Keith asks about charge 4.
Jordan said he knows it as it has been told to him by Ellis and Butts. He said one student was taught during the day.
Jordan: I think it is purely a technical violation, something that was a matter of convenience not a matter of practice and it caused no harm to anyone else.
Keith asks if it is OK to violate board policy with out getting permission for a principal.
Jordan: I think if a choral director ran to a principal every time he was going to spend 15 minutes doing something that might be questionable, the principal wouldn’t have time to do anything else.
Keith: I am asking if it is OK for a choral director to violate a school board policy?
Jordan: In this case yes.
Keith asks about the charge with students getting on the bus on the Birmingham trip. He asks about those students needing to ride in a car with parents. He asks if Jordan knows who was in charge of supervising those students?
Jordan: Ultimately Mr. Ellis.
Keith asks if he was aware of whether any Tupelo staff were with those students at the mall.
Jordan said no. He said he is aware of thousands of trips choral directors take with their students in which it is possible for the directors to be with all students all of the time without parental assistance.
Keith: Are you saying in that case it is OK to violate board policy?
Jordan: In that case, yes
Keith asks about charge 6. Jordan said he does not believe the allegations of number 6 are characteristic of what Mr. Ellis would allow to happen if he was aware.
Keith asks about 7. Jordan said he does not know anything about the running of laps.
Hearing takes a 10-minute break at 9:47 a.m.
Hearing resumes at 9:58 a.m.
Jordan said he has no knowledge of students running the laps.
Keith: Do you have any specific knowledge of allegations in number 8?
Jordan: My specific knowledge would be in general, rooms used by high school students…
Keith: I am asking you your specific knowledge of this incident. That is my question on each of these, what specific knowledge do you have?
Jordan said he has no specific knowledge.
Keith asks about 9. Jordan said it would be appropriate if Ellis had done that.
Keith asks about charge 10. Jordan said he had been told that Ellis had done that and it would be appropriate.
Keith asks who told Jordan. Jordan said several sources, maybe Ellis’ wife or Mr. Butts. He said he has only had one conversation with Ellis, about a 15-minute conversation about a week about. He said he had a telephone conversation with Mr. Butts and he also met with Mr. Butts on Saturday. He said that Butts did not go through each of the charges.
Jordan said he is not sure (if Butts gave him the charges). He said he read the article in the Tupelo paper about the charges and he heard from Ms. White Williams. He said he didn’t have to hear about them from anyone to know that they are without merit.
Keith: Are you saying it is OK to charge the booster club for songs and not use those songs?
Jordan said yes. Keith asks if he knows how much money was charged and Jordan said no.
Keith asks about 11. Jordan said that the duties of Ellis would not have covered everything required and that the booster club helps cover those things.
Keith asks about 12. Jordan he is aware of an instance where Ellis had been told a piece was cleared and he took that to mean permission had been gained.
Keith asks about 13. Jordan said he stands by his characterization of the charges He doesn’t need specific knowledge of each of the charges because he knows his characterization of Ellis as a person.
Same for 14.
Keith asks about 15. Jordan said he has specific knowledge. His understanding is that the children were not out after midnight, every description he had heard was that this was prior to midnight. He does not know what time the city curfew is but he knows this was an evening of an announced event and that parents apparently gave students permission to take their cars and go to MR. Ellis’ house. Given that parents knew students were out, I would assume they were better off in Mr. Ellis’ presence than not in his presence.
Keith asks if Jordan knew the students went to Walmart and Jordan said yes. Keith asks if he knows what the students purchased. Jordan said bananas, some kind of paint and condoms and that they threw these on cars.
Keith asks who told Ellis the event didn’t happen after midnight? Jordan said he had not read that it was after midnight.
Keith: The information you have on number 15 is what you have read and what you have been told. You have no personal knowledge. Jordan said he was not there.
Keith: Do you think that activity was OK?
Jordan: I think that activity would have required investigation and perhaps counseling of Mr. Ellis.
Keith asks if he has knowledge of number 16 and Jordan said no. Keith asks about number 17. Jordan: I have knowledge that while choral directors may serve on a board, their position on that is as a choral director not as a board member.
Keith asks if he had read bylaws and Jordan said no.
Jordan: I don’t need to read them to think this is a mountain made out of a mole hill…I don’t believe in hanging people over a technicality.
Keith: You think a violation of a bylaw is a technicality?
Jordan: I think violations of bylaws are violations of bylaws.
Keith: You haven’t read the booster club bylaws?
Keith: Do you think it is OK to violate those bylaws?
Jordan: I think bylaws are violated every day where it is clear to everyone they are not appropriate to a certain situation.
Keith asks about binding the school district to a contract. Jordan said choral directors bind a district by implied authority.
Keith asks about allegation 19. Jordan said he does have facts. He said he knows that Ellis came to Tupelo schools to work with Vicky Wilson, that they had a wonderful relationship and that she considered him her heir apparent and that he has never heard about Calvin being uncooperative to anyone.
Keith asks about specific facts on number 19. Jordan said he had no direct knowledge.
Jordan said he had no specific knowledge of 2. Number 3, no specific knowledge and would be uncharacteristic and that is takes two to tango. No specific knowledge to number 4.
Keith objects that the witness is editorializing
Jordan said the Madrigals class has traditionally been in the purview of the person in Ellis’ role.
Jordan: We can dismiss with all of these questions if it requires that I sat in the classroom. Everything I know is second hand.
Compton: You made statement that all of these charges are contrived. When you made that statement, I knew these questions were coming. If you have no specific knowledge say you don’t have it.
Jordan: I don’t have first-hand knowledge but that doesn’t prevent me from making a valid opinion on these charges.
Keith: When you retired from University of MS, was it a retirement, a resignation or were you asked to leave?
Jordan said he took an early retirement. Keith asks if there was more to that than the health issue. The Jordan said the health issue was a big reason and he was unhappy with the direction of the administration.
Keith asks if there were any allegations against him before he left.
Jordan said no.
Keith is finished his questions. Butts will begin his redirect in closed session. Hearing goes into closed session at 10:21 a.m.
Witness has reopened and Jordan is done with his testimony. The next witness is Carrie Haadsma.
Haadsma lives in Tupelo. She said she has six children, all from the same husband. (laughter).
She taught for 13 years in Michigan, high school.
She has a senior and a sophomore at Tupelo High School. “We’ve got 3 out and 3 in at my house.”
Butts: Have you been involved with the show choirs and with the booster club?
Haadsma said she has been bless with 13 years of kids being involved with show choirs, 13 ad campaigns, 13 times of kids putting on a show.
She said that she has been involved the whole time Ellis was involved.
Last year she was on the show choir board, which was a new thing. Prior to that she had gone to the general meetings. Her niche had been helping with the programs. That is a big undertaking and it has become her niche.
Butts: As a board member of the booster club, are you familiar with the way the booster club raises and spends money?
Haadsma said she is pretty aware of that.
Butts asks about how it generally happens
Haadsma said her understanding is that the budget is basically a guideline to where they need to be. Students must pay a fee to participate and there is also an ad campaign, those are the main fundraisers. Occasionally they have done other things to add to the pot.
Butts asks how large the budget had gotten
Haadsma said she didn’t know exactly but that it would be a pretty large budget.
Butts asks how budgeting was done by various committees. Haadsma said they set budget based on what they’ve done in the past. She said it is a guideline, they don’t vote on that and it is to give them an idea.
She said that the budget has never been voted on by the board since she was involved, since 2002.
She said the board never voted on individual expenditures. The only time she remembers things being voted on was for general chorus, such as for risers. Never for show choir.
Butts asks about Ellis’ role.
Haadsma: The show choir board, we were a support system for the director. He was the director, the artistic director. He was large and in charge. We were folks trying to help him in whatever way we could. We were just trying to do in his direction.
Butts: Was any public money every given to the booster club by the district?
Haadsma said no. She said all of the money was from fees and fundraising. She said that she has been involved with other booster clubs with other children. She said her job with the basketball boosters is just to give the coach whatever he needs and that is how she sees it with Ellis.
Butts asks about Ellis being paid by booster club for doing arrangements.
Haadsma said he was.
Butts if Haadsma ever heard complaints about that arrangement.
Haadsma said the thought was that if we were going to pay someone to arrange a song, it would be good to pay Calvin because it would be cheaper and that it would be better to pay him than an outside arranger. She said that if people were upset with things like that, she wished someone had discussed it with her.
“It is my idea we try to work things out among ourselves before you go on to bigger things.”
She said that last year when it originally came up, no one was unhappy with it to her knowledge.
Butts asks about songs being rearranged that someone had already arranged.
Haadsma said she doesn’t think that is what happened. She said that Ellis would arrange a song and then pay another arranger to help work it in, to get the best song possible.
Haadsma said she didn’t hear any complaints about that at the time.
Butts asks if anyone ever brought to her a complaint that songs had to be rechoreographed
Haadsma said no and that she does not know of it being brought to the board.
“A lot of times you get mommas with one or two children who are used to having a real opinion on the activities their children are in (She said one of the blessings of having six kids is that they learn the world is not going to revolve around them. She said that choreography they would bring someone in and sometimes they would need to rework it. She said she thought it was great that whatever he needed to do, he had the expertise).
Butts: Are you familiar with any allegation that Mr. Ellis was improperly charging the booster club for anything?
Butts: What do you know about the credit card?
Haadsma: I didn’t know a whole lot. That was something I had heard one time in passing, maybe there was some food charged and the receipts didn’t come in so the decision was made to do away with the credit card.
Butts asked whether there were allegations Ellis had done anything improper with it? Haadsma said no. She said it wasn’t a charge, more of a conversation.
Butts why would booster club money be spent to pay choreographers
Haadsma: When you invite someone in, you pay for their food….I thought it was right and gracious to pay for people who came to Tupelo.
Butts: Do you know the hours worked during choreography?
Haadsma said long hours and very intense. She said it was normal to have food and normal to feed Mr. Ellis if he was there. She said the basketball booster club feeds people.
She said she would honestly feel bad if they didn’t (pay for the food) and she means that sincerely.
Butts: Are you familiar Mr. Ellis would have to provide transportation to the choreographers to the airport?
Haadsma said yes
Butts asks if she would have an objection to Ellis using the credit card to pay for gas
Haadsma said obviously not.
Butts: If Mr. Ellis had his child with him and used the credit card to purchase a Happy Meal for his child, would you find that objectionable?
Haadsma said any sane person would not think that would be a big deal and she would be happy to purchase an occasional Happy Meal for his kids.
Butts asks about committees. Haadsma said there were probably six or eight. She said Ellis was in charge of all of them, but that he concentrated on the music and the show and he left the other committees to do their things.
She said that the show choir board was trying to police all of these people. “We tried to hold them (the other committees) more accountable.”
Butts: What if they went over budget?
Haadsma: We didn’t have any authority over them, so the money would have to come from somewhere else.
Butts: Had you heard costume budget had been increased this year? Haadsma said she had because not enough money had been set aside in previous years.
Butts asks how Tupelo’s budget compared to other show choirs? Haadsma said it is actually much smaller.
Butts asks if Ellis dictated to the booster club what it could and couldn’t do. Haadsma said no. She said he would tell them what was needed and the booster club would do that. She said that Ellis was different than her, that he was more of the pie in the sky than the stick in the mud.
Butts asks if Haadsma is familiar with the NY trip.
She said she was. She said she was the stick in the mud.
Haadsma said that they had the opportunity to go to NY and they tried to do it and did several fundraising opportunities.
Butts: Did that trip fall through?
Haadsma: It did fall through. I was probably the one who wasn’t high on his list at that time because I didn’t think we would have the money to do that. (She said Ellis never held that against her. She said she was fine with trying to make the trip happen but that in the end it never happened).
Haadsma said Ellis was getting really wooed by the company that was putting it on and they were trying to entice Ellis to make the trip, offering to cut the cost and get sponsors. She said she thought it would have been inappropriate to not pursue those opportunities.
Butts: During this process for the NY trip, were you aware whether official approval had been given for the trip?
Haadsma: I can’t remember now…..I thought it had been, but I just don’t know.
Butts: Would you have knowledge of the process in trying to plan for a trip in that Calvin would have to see if there was interest in a trip before getting approval.
Keith objects, says Butts is leading the witness.
Butts asks her to describe the process.
Haadsma: He had the opportunity and he called us together as a board. We were excited about the thought, but we thought it would (be tremendously difficult to get the money. Haadsma said that she as the naysayer recommended surveying the parents first to see whether there was interest)
Butts: Were you aware it was inappropriate, or against school policy for Mr. Ellis to say anything about the trip without getting approval from the administration for the trip?
Ellis: How did Mr. Ellis treat your kids?
Haadsma: Mr. Ellis treats every child like they matter and like they are important to him. It really is a sight to behold. (He walks through the hallway and scoops up the kids and asks how they are doing). He really treats them like they are a precious gem, which they are.
Butts asks how kids respond to him.
Haadsma said they respect him. Said it is a love-hate relationship. Said they love him but sometimes he tightens the screws before a performance. She said the statements of the kids on Facebook and the number of likes on the Team Ellis page is an example of how much they like him.
Butts asks if Ellis plays favorites.
Haadsma said no except maybe for the kids at the bottom of the barrel. She mentions her daughter who was in Sound Wave as a freshman and sophomore and took lessons from Jauna but was placed in Sound Wave and not Wave Connection as a junior. Haadsma said she thought Ellis should put him there and that it would be an opportunity for him to play favorites because he likes her momma, but that he didn’t play favorites. The next year she did make Wave Connection.
Butts asks if Ellis played favorites for the students who took lessons from Mrs. Ellis.
Haadsma said the first year her daughter took lessons, Mrs. Ellis said she would love to give her lessons but that she couldn’t close to the show choir auditions because it would not be appropriate.
Butts asks if Haadsma had ever heard that parents would pay Ellis money to give their kids a better position in show choir.
Haadsma said she had not heard that and that if she did hear that she would be suspicious of it.
Butts asks about parents who have a hard time paying and what Ellis would do about that.
Haadsma said she has had a hard time paying it before. She said it is a fine line because you need people to pay them but she would have thought less of him as a person if he would have looked someone in the eye and told them they were out because they didn’t pay their fees.
Butts asks if she ever saw Ellis discriminate against a person because of financial position, race or social status. Haadsma said not at all.
She said that Ellis looks at the whole child and that is what makes him great. He wants what is best for each individual child.
She is thinking of a white child who kept not showing up for practice and he was asked to leave. A couple of weeks later, she saw that child on stage crew. She said Ellis told her that child really wanted to be back and it was better for that person to be on stage crew than out on the streets so he let him back.
Butts: What has been the overall experience for the kids, parents, community?
Haadsma: I’ve always thought the show choir was not about the singing and the dancing….It is the whole idea of working toward a common goal and the camaraderie you build up and the kinship working toward a common goal. It has been an integral part in the formation of my kids.
One of her sons who is a senior at Ole Miss tried out as a freshman in high school to met girls. Mr. Ellis infused him with a love of music and this boy is a singer, a musician, plays keyboard and guitar.
“This kid grew from the whole experience and his appreciation for music is so much bigger than being in show choir.”
Butts: I want to ask you about some of the charges. Do you know whether Mr. Ellis has ever squandered booster club funds?
Haadsma: I have not know that he squandered any funds.
Butts: Have you ever known him to endanger students on a field trip to Alabama or elsewhere?
Butts asks about him neglecting students to have to get food on streets of Birmingham. Haadsma said no
Butts asks about trashing room in Petal?
Haadsma: My son was one of the ones on that trip. He tells me absolutely, they did not trash the room.
Butts asks about them not being invited back to Petal. Haadsma said she has knowledge of that but thinks it was more because of Petal’s jealousy or the rivalry.
In response to questions, Haadsma said she has never know Ellis to intimidate or coerce student not to attend class.
Butts asks about hair and makeup night. She said her understanding was that it was a social event that didn’t need school approval.
Butts: Would you be surprised if the kids pranked each others’ cars during such an event?
Butts: I’m sure you may have heard of this prank and the use of several kids of items. One that is repeatedly mentioned is the use of condoms. What is your opinion of that and what is your reaction?
Haadsma: That night, the girls came to my house. At 11 or 11:15 I got a call from a girl (said come down here to the cul-de-sac). They had turned up the music and were dancing and you could see they were excited.
She said they told me they were going to prank the boys. She said call me a bad parent but she didn’t mind that. She said there were other things they could have done, a bad school dance or parties in the field. She is glad they weren’t doing that. Honored they called her to go outside and see them.
“We are one of the most conservative families in Wave Connection so I would think I am a credible source. I have boys. When boys retaliate, they think what can we do that will really embarrass the girls…They bought condoms and out it on the cars…IT was obvious they were going for a reaction they got….It has all been blown out of proportion....They were being goofy boys.
Haadsma said her understanding is that Ellis didn’t know they were doing that.
Butts asks about Ellis being paid by the booster club. He asks if she is familiar with booster club rule that members are not to be compensated.
She said know she is but she took that to mean that you are not to be paid for being on the board not that you are not going to be paid for anything.
Butts asks if in being paid for arranging, Ellis was doing something directors had done for years. Haadsma said yes.
Butts asks about Stewart. Haadsma said Terri Stewart would be the only one with access to money and with the authority to write a check.
Butts finishes his examination.
Hearing takes a short break at 11:20 a.m.
Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith: Do you have any familiarity with whether the booster club has paid any directors for arranging?
Haadsma said she does not have any knowledge that they had done that.
Keith asks which board Haadsma was on. She said she was on the show choir board.
Keith: That was the board that was hand-picked by Mr. Ellis for the sole purpose of overseeing show choir activities? Haadsma said that was correct.
She said she did not serve on the general booster board. The show choir board no longer exists, it disbanded at the end of the 10-11 school year. She said that board existed to try to be a help with the director and do some of the logistics.
Keith: Did you attend booster club meetings?
Haadsma: I assume I did, but I can’t swear to that. They have a general meeting, they have two or three a year.
Keith: The show choir board, you attended those meetings?
Haadsma: Not every meeting but yes.
Keith: Were you there the night the NY trip was cancelled?
Haadsma said she thinks she was but she was not sure if that was the exact one.
She said the board did not take a vote on that. She said they told Ellis they didn’t have the money and couldn’t go on the trip.
Keith: You were aware he continued to work on efforts to make trip happen any way?
Haadsma said yes.
Keith asked if he discussed that with the entire board or just with her?
Haadsma said it is hard for her to remember exactly what she knew when but that she would imagine he had told the whole group. Keith asks if he told the whole group at a meeting. Haadsma said she is not sure.
Keith asked about whether Haadsma had read bylaws. She said she had. She said this year’s bylaws are new because there was a different board.
Keith asks if the purpose of paying Ellis to arrange songs was to save money.
Haadsma said potentially, yes.
Keith asks if she knew how Ellis’ fees compare to other arrangers. Haadsma said she does not know.
Keith: On credit card issue, are you aware of receipts not being turned in in a timely manner?
HAadsma said she remembered hearing the treasurer say something about that. She said that she was also treasurer of a junior auxiliary club and she would not for anything if she didn’t get a receipt. She said people made that mistake one time.
Butts asks what credit card was used for. Haadsma explained. Keith: Every one of those expenditures lent itself to having a receipt?
Haadsma said treasurer should have tracked that down.
Keith asks if she knows board policy for field trips. Haadsma said she is not.
Keith: Are you familiar with who makes decision on who gets into Wave Connection?
Haadsma: They perform before judges. There is a scoring system. (MR. Ellis does it with others who are trained in that).
Keith: It is more than Ellis who makes the decision? Haadsma said yes. She said she would imagine Ellis has sway on who gets in but she doesn’t know exactly how the process worked.
Keith asked about the $750 fee to be in show choir Haadsma said it was paid in installments.
Keith: Was the board made aware of students who were not meeting their financial obligations?
Haadsma said Stewart was the only one who knew but she would tell them numbers of folks, not who they were.
Keith: You said it was the right thing to do to allow people an extension of those opportunities if they couldn’t pay to do it?
Haadsma said yes, it is a balancing act.
Keith: Kids know about the fees going in, don’t they?
Haadsma said there is (a certain obligation). She said some kids worked the whole school year to get their money. She said they were trying to work with people even though they liked to have the money by September when they had to pay their fees/
Keith: Would you agree with me it was unfair to let those folks in when they couldn’t pay when there is someone who just missed the cut who could pay.
Haadsma said she thinks it is a balancing act. She said if it was a deal breaker for someone, she wishes someone would have told her. They would have sent an email to parents asking them to contribute for that child.
Keith: But if you have too many kids who can’t meet their obligation, it would be a strain on the program?
Haadsma: It would be, but that is not the situation we are referring to.
Keith asks if Haadsma was there for the competition at Petal. She said she wasn’t there but her son told her it never happened.
Haadsma said she hadn’t heard about it previously.
Keith asked if Haadsma had heard a Petal administrator talked to Elis about the incident. She said she hadn’t until recently.
Keith asked about the girls coming by Haadsma’s house before pranking the boys.
Haadsma said they told her there were some guys at Mr. Ellis’ house and they were going to prank their cars.
Keith: Who was supervising the girls?
Haadsma: My child is 17. When she is at my house, I don’t even supervise her much. Ms. Jauna was with her. I just thought it was the coolest thing this adult was hanging out with the kids….(She told her husband about it the next day)….I just thought it was a really neat memory.
Keith: With regard to what Mr. Ellis knew or didn’t know that night, you didn’t have any knowledge at all did you?
Keith: Do you know whether there were any Tupelo staff people involved in that Friday night event other than Mr. Ellis
Haadsma: I don’t know
Keith: You characterized the boys decision as a dumb decisions, was that in what they purchased?
Keith: What should an adult have done about hat dumb decision.
Haadsma said it would be a problem if he paid for it with the credit card.
“When you are dealing with teenagers you make a 100 decisions in 20 minutes and you do the best you can.”
She would have never told her child to buy condoms and put it on a girls car but if that was the worst thing he had done, “we’re in business.”
Keith: Who knew MR. Ellis was being paid by booster club to arrange music?
Haadsma: Probably booster board.
No one called me and said we just sent a check, but I knew that was our understanding.
She said she didn’t know how much he would be charging the booster club.
Keith: Were you aware that the music and choreography budget was consistently over budget?
Haadsma: Not necessarily. I hadn’t thought about that.
Keith asks about different committees. Do you know which of those committees were overbudget?
Haadsma: I know we had issues with the costumes and sometimes we had issues with the sets, but I think they got the message to stay under whatever amount we gave them.
Keith: You said, you expect Mr. Ellis to be the in charge person and you were there to support?
Keith: Does that mean he was the one making decisions? Haadsma said he made some objections/
Keith asks if she disagreed with him on his decisions. She said that on things like choreography she felt like that wasn’t her decision.
Keith: Do you know which of the songs Mr. Ellis arranged were not used in the performance?
Haadsma said she doesn’t. Keith asked if she looked whether Ellis was a better deal than outside arrangers. Haadsma said she didn’t. She said that if the treasurer didn’t think it was a good deal, she would have told them.
Keith: You mentioned Tupelo budget is much smaller than comparable programs?
Haadsma said she doesn’t know but that she had heard that.
Keith: Do you know order of magnitude?
Haadsma said she heard Attache’s sets were $30,000.
Keith: Do you know what budget was for show choir program?
Haadsma around $100,000. Said she doesn’t know for sure.
Keith: Whatever it is, it is a significant amount of money? Haadsma said yes.
Keith asks if that is why they had to look closely at expenditures. Haadsma said yes but that it wasn’t because they thought money was being spent in an inappropriate way.
Keith: You were asked questions earlier about the process for determining interest in a field trip and how that fits with board policy. Do you recall on that NY trip, did the show choir board vote to have Mr. Ellis spend $1,000 on a non-refundable deposit?
Haadsma said they didn’t vote but that Mr. Ellis discussed that. She said obviously they knew it was a chance they were going to take.
Keith: That was a decision the entire board made?
Keith: One of the questions, you were asked was about Ellis’ treatment of children. Were you at a lot of the practices?
Haadsma said not a whole lot. She said that in during programs, when handling money she would be there 3 or 4 hours that night. Sometimes she would need information or sometimes she would bring food but she wouldn’t just hang out there.
Keith: Had you seen Mr.Ellis discipline kids?
Haadsma: I had seen him give talks where they had to buckle down and focus.
Keith: Did you see him make child run laps?
Haadsma: I was not there but I did have a child who had to run those laps…I did not have a problem with that in the least.
Keith finishes and Butts begins redirect.
She said her daughter Colleen participated in hair and makeup night and that she had Haadsma’s permission to be there.
Butts: Did your permission for her to attend also extend to permission for her to go to Walmart?
Haadsma: Yes, my child, when she goes out on a Friday night to some place, she is a fabulous child, she lets us know what is going on. She goes to Sonic sometimes. Walmart is great.
Butts: Did that include pranking boys cars
Haadsma: Yes. I actually told her to go for it (laughter)….Said she told kids they could roll people’s houses but it could never be damaging and it could only be people they liked. It could not be people they didn’t like.
Butts: Did your permission extend to your child being out after midnight as long as there was an adult present?
On questioning, Haadsma said she did not convey to Ellis or Mrs. Ellis that her daughter had permission to go to Walmart.
Haadsma’s testimony is completed.
Hearing takes a lunch break at 11:59 a.m. until 1:20 p.m.
This break gives me an opportunity to note something that happened at the beginning of the hearing that I hadn’t yet had a chance to note.
Before the hearing began this morning, Hearing Officer John Compton issued a ruling on the testimony of Lynne Johnson from Feb. 3. Jim Keith had made a motion that day that Johnson’s testimony should be stricken from the record because she had read the transcript of the hearing on the Daily Journal’s blog and had not thus been properly sequestered.
Compton ruled that her testimony should be stricken but that it can be offered in its entirety as proffer.
Butts said that he objected to that for a number of reasons. He said that even thought he had requested detailed facts about the charges against Ellis, he was not given that or able to determine whom he would need to call as witnesses.
“I would not presume to have the authority to tell any witness who is a member of this community or is a taxpayer that they are prohibited from seeking out any source of information they desire….
There is simply no way to try to insulate witnesses or potential witnesses from information. I believe they have constitutional right to be informed on any information they so choose.
I respectfully disagree with your ruling on that issue.”
Compton: “For the record the blogs have been fairly extensive, almost verbatim testimony of the witnesses and that is the reason for my ruling.”
Hearing resumes. David Butts presents an affadavit with testimony from a Mr. Whitney Williams (I think that was the name, I will double check when I am able). Butts said that Williams presented his testimony by affadavit because of his busy schedule but that he can be here for cross examination.
Next wintess is Amy Mercier.
She said she has a son in Wave Connection. Butts asks if he participated in a social gathering at Ellis’ house on Sept. 30 last year. She said he did.
Butts: Are you familiar with that type of gathering?
Mercier: Last year was his first year in Wave Connection, so yes. She said his junior year. This is his senior year.
Butts: You are appearing here today on your own behalf?
Butts: Are you also appearing on behalf of parents of other students who were at Ellis’ house?
Mercier: I am.
Keith objects, saying she can’t be here on behalf of other people.
Compton said that she can’t be on behalf of other people but she can say what she has heard from others.
Mercier said she had contacted the parents of the other boys and that she asked them if their boys had permission to participate. She said that she asked them for permission to speak for them. She said she contacted seven parents.
Butts: Did you reach any parent who did not want you to speak for them?
Mercier: I did.
Butts: Out of eight sets of parents, seven of them gave you permission and one didn’t?
Butts: Did you child have your permission and your husband’s permission to be at this event?
Mercier: He did
Butts: Were you aware your child would go to Walmart that night?
Mercier: I was not aware of it but it is fine.
Butts: Would you have objection to your son participating in a prank?
Mercier: Not at all.
Butts: Was your son free to go anywhere appropriate in Tupelo that night?
Mercier: He was
Butts: With respect to the time of day, did your son and Mr. Ellis have permission for your child to be out after midnight, if in fact they were?
Butts: These other parents, did they affirm to you their son had permission to be at this event?
Mercier: They did
She said they did not express any objection to their son being at Walmart .
Butts: Did you ask these parents whether they had any objection to their son participating in a prank?
Mercier: I did ask them and they said they didn’t have any problem
Butts: Did you ask them if they had any objection to their son being out after midnight, if they were out after midnight?
Mercier: I did ask them and they did not have any problem with that.
Butts asks her feelings on the items used in the prank.
Mercier: I didn’t think too much about it. I think it has been blown out of proportion…It is teenage boys being teenage boys.
Butts: What did other parents tell you about the items being used?
Mercier: I think they felt like I did It was boys being boys and it has been blown out of proportion.
Butts tendered the witness.
Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith asks if she has served on the booster board. She said no. She did serve on the show choir hospitality committee.
Keith: You said your child was involved with an event prior to last year, do you know what that activity involved the prior year?
Mercier said she does not recall. Keith asked if they went to Ellis’ house and she said she didn’t remember.
Keith: When your son went to Mr. Ellis’ house, did you have any idea he was going to leave with Mr. Ellis and some other young men to go to Walmart?
Mercier: I did not.
Keith: You did not give him permission to go to Walmart?
Mercier: He has permission to come and go.
Keith: Did you give Mr. Ellis permission to take your son to Walmart?
Mercier: No, I did not.
Keith: You did not know there was going to be a prank pulled?
Mercier: I did not.
Keith: You did not call Mr. Ellis and tell him your son had permission to be out after midnight?
Mercier: No, I did not call Mr. Ellis.
Keith: Are you aware if any parent conveyed any permission to Mr. Ellis to take their son to Walmart to buy any of the items mentioned?
Mercier: I do not know of any conversation.
Keith: Did any parent tell you they were aware that a prank was going to occur?
Keith: Did any parent convey to Mr. Ellis that he had permission to take their son to Walmart after midnight?
Keith: If in that trip to Walmart that night with the other young men and Calvin Ellis, who would you be looking to hold responsible if there had been an accident and your son had been injured?
Butts objects to the form of that question and rejects to it as a hypothetical. Compton overrules.
Mercier: It depends on what kind of accident it is. If a car ran into his car, it would be the other person’s responsibility.
Keith: Do you believe Mr. Ellis was supervising your child while he was out?
Mercier: Well, I guess so.
Butts beings his redirect.
Butts: When you granted permission for your son to go to the social event, what permission did you believe you were granting?
Mercier: They went to see the Ole Miss choral group and then all of the boys gathered at Calvin’s as a bonding gathering for all of the boys to get together.
Butts: It has been asked whether you called Mr. Ellis and gave explicit permission to go to Walmart or participate in a prank, but what was the extent of your permission?
Mercier: He had permission to be at the Ellis’ (for what happened that night)
Mercier said her son can drive and that he has permission to go where he drives.
Butts: Has anyone informed you that your son may have been in violation of curfew law?
Butts is finished with Mercier and her testimony is complete.
Butts calls Ellis to the stand.
Butts takes Ellis through his background. He has two children. He grew up in Memphis went to high school in Millington, Tenn., and went to Ole Miss from 1998 to 2002. He interned (or student taught) at Ole Miss from August 2002 to December 2002. He worked with Vicky Wilson, Debbie Bullock and Quinton Harris. He was mainly under the supervision of Vicky Wilson.
He taught a few pieces to the concert choir and shadowed Mr. Quint Harris and his involvement with the show choirs.
Butts: During your undergraduate studies, did you study copyright law?
Ellis: No sir. He said the music department did not offer any courses on copyright law. Said his instructors did not lecture about copyright law.
Butts asks how Ellis came to know Dr. Jordan. Ellis said he recruited at his high school and that he came to know him during his involvement with the concert singers. The only class he had under him was choir.
Butts: During your studies at Ole Miss, did you learn to arrange songs?
Ellis: No sir. (During music theory courses you learn how vocal parts come together but that was the extent of it).
Butts asks where he went after graduation.
Ellis: Hamilton Middle School in Memphis City School District in the middle of the year. He was there for a semester.
After that he went to a middle school in Arlington, Tenn. He was there for three years.
Ellis: My experience at Shadowlawn was great. He said he went out and recruited kids to the program. By the end of his tenure they had 180 kids, including a show choir. They competed on regional and national level. His first year, his show choir won first place at a national competition in St. Louis. His second year they went to Atlanta and placed in a competition. His final year, they participated in another national competition….His treble choir won best in class award…..They ran this festival every week over six weeks. At the end of the competition, they evaluated all of the scores and his treble choir had the best scores.
Under questioning. Ellis said he was happy in Arlington, was satisfied with the support he received and satisfied with the work and the community. He said no disciplinary action was taken against him.
Butts asked how his job at Tupelo came along. Ellis said that Quint Harris was leaving and Vicky Wilson and Mac Curlee invited him to come to Tupelo in February 2006 to meet with them and talk about the position. He knew the program was stellar and he knew the reputation of Tupelo’s choirs. He was torn because he had had a wonderful experience in Arlington and he didn’t know if he wanted to give that up.
HE wanted to be a director of a high school program because as a middle school director you are somewhat limited. He was torn but decided to take the job.
Ellis was hired in August 2006 and was under the supervision of Vicky Wilson.
Butts directs him to his contract for the 2011-12 year.
Butts: IS that contract substantially the same as all of your previous contracts
Ellis: Yes sir
Ellis said job description is music teacher and his supplement description is choral director.
Ellis said his contract never had arranging music in it as part of his job description.
Butts asks Ellis if he ever told the district that he was an arranger and Ellis said no. Butts asks if Ellis was ever told by the administration that his job description included arranging?
Butts: Did Vicky Wilson or anyone ever tell you that your job included arranging?
Butts: When did you first learn that your job including arranging?
Ellis: Dec. 5, 2011, the first day of the hearing.
Butts: Who said that?
Ellis: Mr. Meadows.
Butts asks if Quint Harris left him a book about show choir when he left. Ellis said yes, he describes the book, saying it was an informational book about directing show choir. He said the book didn’t say anything about the need for arranging. He said it contained numbers for the arrangers Harris used.
“There was no mention of copyright permissions in that book.”
Butts: Are you aware of any copyright compliance policy of the Tupelo School District?
Ellis: No sir
Butts: Describe how your job as choral director went for the next few years in Tupelo?
Ellis: I had a great expereiecne. I wouldn’t say every moment was great but overall my experience working as assisntat choral diretor under Vicky Wilson was great. We didn’t agree on every aspect but we were able to talk about it and work in a way that was best for students (He said he helped Ms. Wilson and Ms. Bullock and they helped him). He said he was responsible for show choirs but Vicky Wilson helped him as she could.
“It was a great experience. We had a wonderful experience.”
Butts: Did I ask you to prepare a document describing the awards of your choirs and show choirs up until the time of your termination?
Butts: Hit the highlights of what your choirs have accomplished
Ellis: In 2006-07, the 9th and 10th grade choir received superitor rating at district and state levle. He directed one song for 11th grade choir. Co directed with Vicky Wilson.
Wave Connection his first year received a grand champion award at a competition in Nashville. His first year he was voted as Mr. Teach THS, which is voted by the students.
Every year, they received superiors at district and state and superiors in sight reading.
In 07-08, a very awesome accomplishment, I feel, the Sound Wave group that year was particularly superb. They made the finals at both competitions which is not something that normally happens. SoundWave did and actually placed higher than Wave Connection at one of the competitions.
In 08-09, Wave Connection was first runner up in Nashville. Biggest accomplishment was Wave Connection was grand champion at Petal competition and swept all of the captions. Sound Wave also won a grand champion award that year. The Structure band received the most outstanding instrumental combo award.
I was nominated for teacher of distinction and Wave Connection was featured in the Entertainment Weekly publication as one of the nation’s top show choirs in which the Show Glee was featured.
In 2009-10, Wave Connection was first runner up in both competitions and Sound Wave was grand champion at both of those.
Last year, to be invited to the competition in New York was a great honor. Only 30 schools in the nation got an invitation and Wave Connection was one of those. The choirs continued to do well in district and state.
Madrigals, he took varsity choir to festival at Ole Miss and they received superiors as did Madrigals.
Butts: Did your wife Jauna make any contribution to show choirs?
Ellis: I can’t describe how important it is for anyone who takes the show choir position at any school to have their spouse support the efforts it takes to have a successful program.
Butts: Have I asked you to create a list of her contributions?
Ellis: Yes you have
Butts: How much was your wife paid?
Ellis: Absolutely nothing, it was all volunteer.
Butts: What did she do?
Ellis: There were a few times she spent her own money on Wave Connection kids. She bought samples of makeup and tried them out on the kids. She bough hair samples and jewelry and tried them out. She bought food and snacks for the parties and the gathering sand made brownies. The timing she put in to make sure those gatherings were worthwhile for the kids. On Sept. 23, had happies for the boys and the girls. She has bought flowers for the kids when they were performing at events around town. She has written tons of thank you notes to kids for contributions they made to show choir. She bought journals one year for the girls, little pins for the girls.
Butts: Did she contribute to the success of your show choir?
Ellis: Every year after a competition, I would get started on the next competition. It is a 12-month process. We would sit at computer for hours and hours listening to music. Ellis said he is the choral person and his wife knows more about pop and she would recommend songs. He said his wife helped with costumes for both show choirs. Ellis said she did not do it the first year but he wanted her to do it because they had some difficulties making sure they had the right things. Ellis said Jauna knew what would look good on every single person, for every single body type
Butts: What is her education?
Ellis: Bachelor of fine arts in theater and a minor in music?
Butts asks how many hours she put in. Ellis said he didn’t know, well over 1,000 hours.
Butts: The Tupelo Public School District got her contribution for free?
Butts: anything else you want to say about her contribution
Ellis said she put on a free camp for under privileged kids on things like stage presence. He said that Jauna would often wake up at 5 in the morning to pick up a choreographer and take her to Memphis. One time a flight was cancelled and Jauna’s parents put the choreographer up in their home and drove that person to the airport.
Ellis: Never did I turn in a receipt for them to be reimbursed for gas. They didn’t want to be reimbursed for gas. To be treated in a way that I don’t care about the boosters or the money they spent, it infuriates me when I think of all of the things I’ve done to contribute to this program.
Ellis talked about the sacrifices he’s had to make for the job, time away from his kids.
Butts: You testified how your choruses scored but are awards and scores what this show choir is about?
Ellis: Absolutely not. The most important part of any choral program is the experience of team work. Learning the foundations of music, allowing music to inspire you and move you to a point…..IT is our job to communicate with an audience and if the audience is not moved, we are not doing our job.
IT is how we feel we are communicating with an audience and those are the experiences that matter most.
Butts refers Ellis to his termination letter.
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this termination letter that you were fired for giving students condoms
Ellis: Absolutely not
Keith objects that Butts is leading the witness
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this letter where you were fired for allowing your students to get condoms
Ellis: Absolutely not
Butts: Have you found anywhere in this that you were fired for pranking cars
Ellis: Absolutely not
Butts: Is there any charge you have seen that you were fired by allowing students to engage in sexually-suggestive activities?
Ellis said no
Keith objects that he is leading the witness and just asking him questions he can answer yes or no. Butts said the point he is trying to make is that there is not one mention of the word condom in the charges against Ellis. However, he said, most of the testimony brought to attention that Mr. Ellis was being charged with condom in some way associated with condoms. We are trying to find it in the termination letter?
Keith: In response to item 15, Mr. Ellis went into specific detail about it. I don’t think there is any question Mr. Ellis knew what that involved.
Butts said nowhere in the letter is any charge for condoms or any charge with an improper relationship with any student.
Compton said that the letter is clear but that is something he can make a point of when he has the opportunity to argue before the school board.
Butts: For this event at your home, did you have prior administration approval?
Ellis: No sir
Butts: For prior years, had you had this event every year?
Ellis said he considered this a social event and in the past when he had social events, it was never approved by the school board.
Butts: As far as the prank, were you aware condoms were going to be used?
Ellis: I did not know condoms were purchased or were going to be used. I only know it was discussed the possibility of purchasing them.
Butts: What was your response to that?
Ellis: I told them that condoms were not to be purchased.
Ellis said he told them not to do it but they did it anyway and he found out afterward.
Butts asks how far Ellis was away from the prank while it was occurring. Ellis said it was like 150 yards. From that house, to get to the Whitwell house, you have to go down a hill, around a corner and down a hill some more. He does not know the exact distance
Butts: Could you see the prank being performed?
Ellis” Absolutely not.
Butts: There has been talk about you keeping these boys out after curfew, is that correct?
Butts gives Ellis a copy of Tupelo’s curfew ordinance. He directs him to 19-54, exceptions. Further directs him to sub paragraph 2 and asks him to read it.
Ellis said it is when a minor is accompanied by an adult for a designated period of time and for a designated purpose (I didn’t get the entire language of it down).
Butts: You were placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6, 2011, is that right?
Ellis said yes. He said he was subsequently fired on Oct. 28, 2011.
Butts brings him exhibit 86. He said it is a Tupelo Public School District Board Policy KEB (or KED?). Public concerns about complaints. Have you read this policy?
Ellis: Recently I have yes
Butts: From reading this policy, what is your understanding”
Ellis There is supposed to be a chain of command where the person who has a complaint goes to the principal and the principal directs the employee and that person to work out of the problem. If there is no resolution (a decision would be made on how to proceed)
Butts notes that the policy calls for a conference and said that the principal is to make a written report of that conference. Then if there is no resolution, that person can go to the superintendent and attach memorandum of meeting from principal. Superintendent is then to investigate those facts and notify both parties in writing.
Butts: Was that followed for any charge?
Ellis: No I never had a meeting with my principal about any charge against me other than when I went to him because I heard there was an investigation.
Butts: were you afforded any of the procedures stated in Tupelo Public School District policy KEB?
Ellis: No sir
Butts asks if he (Butts) wrote a letter to Ms. Stimpson requesting a meeting. Ellis said he did but that meeting wasn’t granted.
“I really wanted to get back to Tupelo High School to establish normalcy to that program and I asked you to write a letter to Ms. Stimpson to sit down and talk about any complaints and we were not awarded that meeting at all.”
Butts offers the letter he wrote to Ms. Stimpson
Butts asks about Stimpson’s reply. Ellis said he had seen it. Butts offers it as exhibit 88.
Butts said his letter asked if Ellis could get back to work during investigation. He asked why Ellis wanted to get back to work. Ellis said he had heard about things happening in the choral department and he was concerned about the wellbeing and success of the program. He was worried about the kids being bullied and threatened and having security officers in their class forcing them to sing. He was concerned with what was in his mind and he wanted that program to continue. He said if there was a way to continue investigation so that some sense of normalcy could be brought to the school, he thought they would like that idea.
Butts: I’d like you to go to your termination letter. I’m going to bypass for now charge 1, lets go to charge 2. That he failed to provide them a curriculum that allowed them to perform songs for which copyright permission had been obtained.
Ellis said that is false. Said that we know now we didn’t have to do all of the things for copyright they are claiming in that charge.
Ellis said he did postpone the show because he wanted to do what he was informed by Mr. Greenburg regarding copyright. He wanted to do everything he could do to comply. He postponed the show so they could have more time to obtain the permissions they thought they needed.
Butts: What have you learned now about those copyright permissions?
Ellis: I was doing as much as I could when I had been told this was a process that needed to be done for every song. I did everything I could to go back and correct this problem. I know now that in just about all instances that wasn’t needed.
He said he didn’t ignore anything. “If you look at all of the emails you will see I was doing everything in my power to make sure the kids were able to perform those songs….I know now that wasn’t necessary.”
We know now students could have performed those songs and they could have had the show and the season they deserved. These are students who worked diligently for those experiences. For the administration to talk to a businessman who works for a living to get copyright permissions and didn’t know the full extent of the law and then to say I didn’t know the law is crazy. It is so wrong. We are tyriyng to be student centered and we have this situation where these kids had performed for years and had wonderful epxerinces and it is taken away in a way that didn’t make the best possible judgement for the students.
Butts: AT the time were you of the impression you neded copyright permissions for all of your songs?
Ellis said at the time yes
Butts: What led you to believe that?
Ellis said the letter he received from Hal Leonard and subsequent conversations. He was asking why this was all of a sudden happening. He had already begun structuring his show and they are telling him this was something he needed to be doing for every song.
He said that informed Dr. Williams she needed to obtain permission for songs Debra Atkinson had already done. Suzy did find this company called Tresona. I called this guy because I knew at the time I was having to go back and retroactively get my permissions. He was the one who informed me.
I was trinyg to gain an education on what was going on. I asked him a lot of questions. I asked him about the fact that his colleguaes are performing songs all ove the region where they ahven’t gotten permissions. I asked him why it was suddenly an issue. I asked him what was the fine. I wasn’t thinking I was going to go out and do this. I was just trying to educate myself. He gave me all of this false information that we know now. Ofrourse it scared me.
Butts: You said you informed Suzy Williams she neded to get permissions?
Ellis: This was August or September. I told her about this process. She didn’t indicate to me that this was something that needed to be done.
She got a whole new set of music and she started working on approvals. She ran across Tresona company and she told me about that.
Butts: Steve Anderson was the arranger she was working with? Ellis said yes. Butts asked if Anderson had a contract that required the school to get permissions?
Ellis said yes
Butts asked who was responsible for getting the permissions for the other songs?
Ellis said it was the arranger
Butts asked if he knows now that when he was an arranger he was responsible for getting that permission?
Ellis said he knows now that as an arranger it is his responsibility to get permissions and that he will do that and will retroactively correct that.
Butts: If there are any payments to be made, will you do that?
Ellis: Yes sir.
Butts: Any other comment about this copyright infusion and quagmire that has been created here?
Ellis: No sir.
Butts: Lets go on to next charge (squandering booster funds for songs that didn’t get permission)…Is that true?
Ellis: Now I know that is not true. I did what I have done every year for choreography.
Butts: Would you every hire a choreogpraher to choregrpaher and tehn have them rechoreograph something?
Ellis: That is the nature of the beast. You never know how a choreoegrpaher will present something to the kids until it is done. You don’t know until they have learned it and moved on to something else whther or not this will work. In Sound Wave where you have all girls, it is different. They get ther choreography and oyu don’t have to change much. Wave Connection with the boys, you have to consider the changes that need to be made to make sure the songs are ready for performance. You have to redo a lot of things in Wave Connection.
Butts: Did you squander booster club money be redoing choreography?
Ellis: No. that is a necessaity. You can’t take mediocre work and put it out there.
Butts: It says you squandered booster club money on travel expenses for out of state choreographers.
Ellis said he doesn’t kow exactly what that charge refers to. He said they tried to find the best rates for their travel but he doesn’t know how it is squandering money to pay for their travel.
Ellis said that before his termination he was never informed that he had been squandering money?
“The booster club as many times as we met never once opened up their mouth to say why are we paying for choreography for this song.”
Butts: Does it have something to do with a lfight instead of someone driving?
Ellis: I don’t know what they are talking about specifically.
Butts: Lets go to charge 4, tutoring students for pay. Tell us about tutoring students for pay and the charge refers to tutoring students during a school day. Is that charge trure?
Ellis: Yes it is ture. There was one student who came to me with a conflict of some after school acitivity she had to be at a particular time. She asked me to start her voice lesson that normally started at 3:05 at 2:45 instead. I started her lesson at 2:45. We did this twice. I am talking about a total of 30 minutes where I was trying to help the student to get to her other activity at a reasonable time.
Butts: Have you ever done this before?
Ellis: I may have done it one time, helped a student at lunch. I’m not sure. I don’t remember
Butts: We are talking about a total of 30 minutes of student time?
Ellis said he was not summoned to the principal’s office about it. He said he had a discussion with Mr. Meadows about it on Oct. 21 or 22.
Butts: Did you tell him what you just told us?
Butts: So he knew it was a total of 30 minutes for one student?
Butts goes to charge 5 that students were endangered when they were left behind at a mall. Is the charge true?
Butts: Briefly, where were you and what happened?
Ellis: At this particular incident, I was at Homewood High School working with stage crew and Sturcture band getting ready for the Wave Connection performance. The parents asked for my permission to take students to lunch and I said yes.
Butts: Why did you let them go?
Ellis: The parents wanted to take the students to lunch. It was right across the street. I thought it would be fine.
Butts: Had you ever been informed that it was absolutely prohbited to take a student anywhere without a staff member?
Ellis said no.
Ellis said they are talking about three buses and 150 kids. He said there is no way for three staff members to attend to every single student thtat is there. You have to have parent help. You have to have parents help the kids with the problems they have with the costumes and with their hair. There is no way for me to be in every place at every time.
Butts: When was the first time you learned of this charge?
Ellis said on Oct 28. He said he did receive the letter from Mr. Stratton. In that letter, he talked about there being a supervision problem at the mall. At the time of that letter, the only mall he had been to was the Summit mall on htat Friday and the next Sunday and he knew there was no superivison problem. He never knew there were three students left behind at a mall when you and the other students departed on the buses. I never knew about that until Oct. 28.
Butts: What bus were you on
Ellis: The bus didn’t exist that I departed on and left other students behind. That didn’t happen to my knowledge.
Butts: Was that lack of superivison on your part?
Ellis: I don’t think so.
Butts asks Ellis about students needing to fend for themselves for food. Ellis said he doesn’t know anything about that and the first time he had heard about that was Oct. 28.
He said what he knows now to his knowledge it was only one student.
Butts: Was that student wandering the streets of Birmingham to get food?
Ellis: My knowledge she walked across the street to get food. That is not wandering across the streets.
Ellis said it was a Wave Connection student. They had gone to watch the Sound Wave performance. Because they were staying over night, he gave chaperones permission to take them back to the hotel to prepare for their afternoon performance. Ellis said he was with stage crew and structure.
Butts: Is that a lack of supervision on your part?
Ellis: I don’t think so. I entrusted chaperones to give the supervision they needed.
Butts: TO your knowledge the only wandering this student did was walk across the street to Subway?
Butts is the charge true that you sent a bus home without any staff members in violation of school policy.
Ellis said it is true and he knows that now. He said it had been common practice to send buses without staff members. He said that practice started before he was director, back when Vicky Wilson was director.
Keith objects because the testimony .
Butts asks if Ellis sent students to run laps for being late. Ellis said yes, he did so to teach students responsibility.
Butts asks about nighttime rehearsals. Ellis said was not nighttime when they began but it was when they ended. He said if the student was only a couple of minutes late, he had them run their laps in the beginning of the class. If they were really late, like 20 minutes late, he had them run them at the end because he didn’t want them to miss any more rehearsal time.
“Every time there were kids running laps at night, I was outside counting the laps. I would only have them run laps at night when they were significantly late. It was in the 15s and the 20s how many laps they needed to run.
Butts: Did you endanger the students in any way?
Ellis: No. The cross country team runs all over town. Is their coach following up behind them, no. When a teacher sends their student to the office, does that student always go straight to the office. I’m sorry if they were doing other things.
Butts: Do you know they were doing other things?
Ellis: I never heard they were doing other things they were supposed to be doing. I heard that on October 28.
The hearing goes into a break at 3:07 p.m.
On to charge 8.
Butts: Do you know anything about a room being trashed at Petal?
Ellis: I did not hear anything about that at all until this letter.
Butts: Had you heard about Petal boosters voting to include Tupelo from future competitions?
Ellis said he had not heard about that at all. He said that competitions are not a matter of invitation. All you have to do is fill out a form, submit a check and go. He said it is the director’s choice on where to go.
Butts: Said that it resulted in damage to reputation of Tupelo
Ellis: that is false. I do my best to suerpvsie students. He was in cafeteria when he can to supervise students when they are eating lunch before he needs to be back in the room.
When the principal mentioned to him something about Tupelo students, he went to the kids to ask them about what was going on. He said they meet every day to establish expectations so the charge about not having rules is false.
I addressed the students. I was told they had been treated unfairly and quite rudely by the other school and the room was not damaged. Earlier testimony established that.
Butts: Does Tueplo shave a bad reputation?
Ellis said no and that everyone wants tupelo to come to their competitions. He said that it is a large group with 150 students and with parents it is 200 to 250 people in the audience supporting Tupelo. Yeah they are a large group but to call them unruly is totally false.
Butts goes to charges 9 and 10. Charging boosters for music that was already arranged and charging boosters to arrange music that was never used.
Butts submits an exhibit that contains the Wave Connection program, songs submitted by Ellis and songs submitted by Ron Jones.
Butts from previous testimony do you understand that to mean that both you and Ron Jones were paid to arrange certain songs?
Butts: What is a custom arrangement?
Ellis said it is an arrangement done for a group for the first time. You let them know the voices you need and they tailor it to your group.
Butts how much does Ron Jones charge for a custom arrangement?
Ellis most of his are $500. They arrange from $500 to (I think he said $650).
Butts: It said you charged boosters when other arrangers were paid for those songs?
Ellis” That is incorrect. The case is I arranged a number of songs. I participated in an arrangmenet project where I arranged a number of songs. Ron Jones was paid for his arrangmenet of it after I was paird.
Butts: Baby I’m a star. Ron Jones had done it as a custom arrangmenet, $500 or $600 paid by the booster club? Had you done that song?
Ellis said yes. He charged them $300 and he was paid $300. Ron Jones charged $75.
Butts: How is it you are getting an arrangment for $75?
Ellis: Because this is a previously arranged strock arrangement he had in his files?
Butts: Why would you arrange this song and then charge the booster club for a stock arrangement?
Ellis said it was a song he wanted to do. He embarked in a project. Show choir arrangement is a lot like choreographer. Arrangements for a group, it is difficult to find exactly what you need. For several songs, he didn’t feel his arrangemenet was the best possible one for the group. He asksed if he could purchase his arrangement. There were parts of his arrangement that suited the group and parts of my arrangement that suited the group. It was more like a conglomeration.
Ellis said if Jones had done a custom arrangment, it would have been $500. The savings was $175 but that was not the point. “You have to do whatever you can possibly do to get the best possible end product.”
Butts: Why are you concerned about that?
Ellis: If I took Ron Jones’ arrangement alone, there are certain aspects of that that don’t work as well?
Butts: What are you trying to accomplishment?
Ellis said an end result that the students and band members feel the best about. “We are in pursuit of excellence. That is our model. In order to get that excellence, you have to alter you get the best result you can.”
Ellis said there are times when he wasn’t arranging when he ordered a custom arrangment that didn’t work. Then the going rate was $350 to $450. He ordered a custom arrangment that didn’t work and he needed to ask someone else to do it.
“That has been happening since the beginning of time.”
Butts What do you do with arrangements that weren’t used?
Ellis said you put it in stock and put it in the library. Perhaps you use them later. That is the property of the booster club and in the long run, it can save you money because you owe those songs.
IT is common practice, if you see it doesn’t work, you put it in stock and maybe you can use it later.
Butts: You testified to “Baby I’m a Star,” does the same process follow for the other songs?
Butts: Did you charge the booster club for duties contained in your supplement.
Ellis: I did charge the booster club over $7,000. I never understood my supplement was to cover that.
Butts: Do you know of any choral director whose supplement includes arranging?
Ellis: I do not.
Butts: Do ypu have specific knowledge of other choral directors arranging music and being paid by their boosters
Ellis said he does. He said he knows it from discussons with other show choir directors.
Butts: Before you were fired, were you ever infomrted by anyone in the administration that arranging was included in your supplement?
Butts: Lets go to charge no. 12. Lack of trustworthiness on his work to get copyright.
Ellis: That is not true. My intent when I was relying what I thought was necessary to the booster club for copyright was that the terminology relayed between Marc Greenburg and myself that cleared meant I could use those songs. (That was the basis, he said, for what he told the boosters. I didn’t purposefully misrepresent the status of copyright, it was a misunderstanding of terminology.
Butts asks about charge that Ellis had encouraged students to quit the program.
Ellis said that is false
Butts asks about a text
Ellis said the text was between a former parent and a student at Tupelo High School. He can’t remember verbatim what the text said. He had heard from that former parent that there were security officers in the choral room making students sing and threatening them with zeros if they did not sing. There were a lot of crazy things going on and this parent had come to him to inform him of what was going on. Ellis told her he was disappointed in that. She told me that several of the students were thinking about quitting.
“All I did was make an off-handed statement that that would make a huge statement. Did I actually tell them to quit Wave Connection, absolutely not.”
Butts: As of that date, did you still hope to get your job back?
Butts refers to the next charge, threatening , intimidating or coercing students to interfere wit classroom attendance.
Ellis said he does not know which student this is referring to. He said he does not have any knowledge that he has ever threatened or
Butts next charge. We’ve already dealt with that. Knowing what you know now about curfew law, did you violate city curfew law?
Ellis said no.
Butts moves to charge 16, failing to get administrative approval about field trips before announcing them to students
Ellis said they have tried to take several trips since he came to Tupelo. The first thing his supervise always said is that they needed to find out if they had enough interest to take the trip. He said this is false that he announced the trip as if it was a go.I never said we are going on this trip to New York. I suggested to them this was a possibility, who would be interested and who would not be interested so before work was done to plan the trip, you would know if it was worth your time or effort prior to filling out the paperwork?
Butts: Does it make sense to you to seek prior approval before you know there is interest in the trip?
Ellis: To me, policies sometimes seem cumbersome. I am not criticizing anyone who wrote it. I just think some extracurricular directors will tell you that is not practical.
Butts: We have dealt with the exytracurricular activitiy as it is spelled out in charge 16. Was the hari and makeup night and bonding night a required school event?
Ellis: No it was not a required school event. I highly encouraged students to participate but if they told me of a conflict, were there any consequences? Absolutely not.
Butts: You reacall you sent an email to a student’s parents and commented on the failure of that student to attend?
Ellis: I was disappointed….
Keith objects because it is getting into individual student information.
Compton said can identify circumstances but not student or parent
Butts: What was your intent?
Hearing goes into closed session at 3:44 p.m.
3:49 p.m. Hearing is back in open session.
Butts asks Ellis about charge of him being paid as member of booster club. Ellis said first time he learned of the charge was when he got fired. He said no one ever made a complaint to him about it before.
Butts goes on to charge 18, entering into contracts that bind the school district. What contracts are we talking about?
Ellis said he thinks it is Hal Leonard contract and there was also a choreography contract. He said he signed those contracts.
Butts: Was there anything in your mind unusual about signing these contracts?
Ellis said no. He said that it was a contract that would be paid by the booster club. He said the common practice was set before him. He had seen previous choral directors signing bus contracts.
Butts: Has the school district paid anything on that contract?
Ellis: Only thing school district allots the choral department is $4,000 for music but we use every penny of that…we do get uniforms
Butts: You are talking about choral department?
Ellis: Choral, yes
Butts: But to you knowledge has the school district paid Hal Leonard anything?
Butts asks about charge 19. Creating a hostile work environment. He asks about the scheduling process.
Ellis said it has been a very difficult process the past couple of years.
“When we do our choral auditions at the end of the year, we put each student who auditions in a choir. It is up to the counselors to determine how they can be put in the choir they were placed in.”
Ellis said that is difficult to do when students are in different grade levels. HE said some students dropped out when they didn’t make advanced choir. He said every time they tired to work out schedule to make sure those kids got in the right choir. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. It was never purposeful to get those kids into my choir. That was ridiculous.
Butts moves on to charge 20. Charging booster club credit card for meals for his wife and his children.
Tell us about that?
Ellis: Every choreography week we have and every choreography weekend we have, those are strenuous days, long hours of being at the high school and making sure everyone is happy. There are people working hard and diligently for the students.
That is when a bulk of the choreography work happens. He said his wife is helping with costumes and helping choreographers with charts.
He said common practice has been all people involved, whether himself, Ms. Bullock, Jauna, their meals are provided. He said that has been common practice before he got there. “That is just what we do.”
I can only think of that one time, the Happy Meal of my child ever benefitting from the boosters as far as a meal was concerned. IT was a mistake. I ordered everyone’s food and out of common practice, I paid for it. If the booster club had a problem with it, I would have paid them back.
Butts: Does that still apply today?
Ellis: I would still give them the $3 back.
Butts: Did anyone every complain about your use of the credit card?
Ellis said no one every complained. They all get in their little groups and talk about it. He said he told the treasurer that he has a difficulty keeping up with receipts and that was the extend of their conversation.
Butts: Did you ever use the credit card improperly for your own personal gain?
Ellis said never. He said there were things for mailings, for mailing out CDs he bought a scanner that is still at the school that could be used to send things to choreographers and he told them about those major purposes.
Butts: Lets go to 21. You were directed not to have any contact with students, parents or TPSD staff. Did that occur?
Ellis: There were a couple of incidents were that did occur. Valerie Whitwell did contact him the day he was placed on leave. She called him because they had been in contact about the week’s events.
Butts: You didn’t initiate the contact?
Ellis: No, she called me.
Butts: Do you know today even what they are talking about?
Ellis said no. He said he saw parents at church, at his son’s soccer games. He said he saw a parent once when he was at Ichiban. He said it was awkward.
Butts: Was it your intent to be insubordinate?
Butts moves to charge 22. That Ellis was supposed to focus his time during his leave on obtaining copyright permissions.
Do you know now you did not need to get them?
Butts: it says “I” asked you to keep a daily log of every effort you made and to submit it to me by 3 p.m. Did you do that?
Ellis: First of all, that is not true. He asked me to create a log. I don’t remember him asking me to report daily at 3 p.m. He asked me to prepare a report and I definitely did that and submitted it to him on the following day.
Butts: What were you to do at 3:00 every day in your understanding?
Ellis: I was told I had to call central office at 3:00 every day to see where the investigation was going. I did that every single day (He said sometimes he was put on hold for 20 minutes or so or sometimes he never got an answer)
I felt it was a waste of my time to call at 3:00 every day and not get everything.
Butts: Is this the log you prepared?
Butts enters it as an exhibit
Butts: That concludes going through the charges. Before we go into closed session, I’d like to ask what affect have these charges and this proceeding had on you and your family?
Ellis: I can’t stress enough the stress that this whole process has brought to me and my family. I try to live my life in an honorable respectful Christian manner. AS a teacher, I always try to inspire kids and motivate kids, to be a role model to them, to be open to the problems they are having. I have always thought of teaching as more of a ministry than a job.
The worst part of this is my superintendent Mr. Meadows on Oct. 28, sat in the office with Mr. Turner and said to me, I don’t usually participate in this process, an ending event, I usually leave that up to Mr. Turner, but because I have so much respect for you I will sit in on this.
That rings in my mind because if my superintendent has respect for me (wouldn’t he owe it to me to sit down and talk to me about it. That meeting lasted for 10 minutes. For someone to have respect for me, I would think they would give me a chance to talk about it).
To see how this whole process has had a spin on it to say that I’m a perverted person, the students have been spun as perverted students and have been slandered. The motto is student centered.
That is not student centered where you take an event that happened in innocent fund and turn it into something slanderous. That has had an emotional impact on me.
I’ve had digestive issues. My wife has been in emergency room for stress. My son who has been raised in Tupelo choral program has asked me repeatedly why I don’t go to work anymore.
This has had an impact on my family that is beyond words and beyond description.
I am hurt, outraged, disappointed, all of those things. I have worked my tail off for this district and have not been given enough respect that he said he had for me to talk about this.
It has hard to go out into community and think what does this person think about me.
It plays a lot in your mind when you wonder what is this person thinking. Do they think I am a perverted choir director? That is not Calvin Ellis. That is not me. It was a mistake and a prank. That is not what happened.
Hearing goes into closed session at 4:11 p.m.
Hearing resumes at 4:31 p.m. Butts presents Ellis with his evaluations. District’s attorneys are reviewing them.
Butts said that Ellis has another document in front of him. Ellis said it is a compilation of all messages posted to Team Ellis page prior to Oct. 28, before he was fired.
Keith objects. One because there is no foundation that this is what it purports to me and because he does not know what the relevance is.
Butts said it is a demonstration of the support of the community for Ellis by people who have come to know him.
Keith said he has the same objection and that there is no way to test the credibility of the statements or where they came from.
Compton said his concern is that there are full names that may be student names.
Compton said he will let it be marked for ID.
Butts said he rests his case. It is 4:42
Hearing will recess until 8:30 tomorrow.
District will cross examine Ellis at that time and possibly have rebuttal witnesses. Compton said that he is hopeful the hearing will wrap up tomorrow.