I just received the final results from the Lee County School District's reading fair, which was held on Tuesday.
Here are the winners for each division:
Sophie Crouch, Saltillo Primary
Bryant Perkins, Shannon Primary
Megan Davis, Saltillo Primary
Destaan Buchanan, Verona Elementary
Laikyn Boozer, Saltillo Elementary
Mitchell Tharp, Mooreville Middle
Division H (Grades 4-8 Nonfiction)
Cayson Hankins, Mooreville Middle
Division J (K-3 Group)
Mrs. Greer's Class, Shannon Primary
Division K (4-8 Group)
Hunter Tate and Jeremy Hallmark, Mooreville Middle
Division M (K-3 Family)
Max and Ray Arcand, Saltillo Primary
Division N (4-8 Family)
Logan and Mary Morgan Lyle, Mooreville Middle and Mooreville Elementary
Congratulations to each of them.
Reader Note: We've been asked about access to DJournal.com on Tupelo Public School District campuses. According to TPSD officials access to DJournal.com website has been temporarily blocked by the district on school campuses due to it becoming an issue with educational instruction. TPSD has made arrangements for Daily Journal reporter Chris Kieffer to continue to access the site and post on this blog during the Ellis hearing. DJournal.com will continue to cover this important news story. School officials said a full statement is coming soon explaining the reason behind blocking DJournal.com. - Todd Vinyard, Online Editor
UPDATE: TPSD officials inform us DJournal.com is no longer blocked at school campuses. Teachers had requested to see it for educational purposes in the classroom.
Chris Kieffer's blog post ...
I will post updates to the bottom. The last update was at 2:12 p.m.
The eighth day of testimony in Calvin Ellis' hearing is about to begin. The hearing has covered all five days this week, plus three days in December. If it is not completed today, it is expected to be recessed until Feb. 13-14.
The hearing has begun. Keith is resuming his cross examination.
Keith: I want to see if you can put all of these in layman’s terms so I can understand exactly what you are talking about. Lay people are going to have to understand very carefully what is required of a school system to make sure they do not violate these copyright laws.
Most people are familiar with the fact that there is a copyright law out there that may affect them in some way?
DeSalvo said yes.
Keith: We are talking about custom arrangements of copyrighted work?
Keith: Isn’t it true it is necessary to get permission of every customized arrangement that you disseminate.
Keith isn’t it true that making arrangements of copyrighted music and disseminating without permission, can that be a felony
Keith: What can it be
DeSAlvo: Potentially if can be a civil infringement
Keith: Where someone goes to civil court and files a lawsuit
Keith: Isn’t it true that unauthorized dissemination of copyright material is a violation of the law that may rise to a felony in certain cases
DeSalvo Reproduction and distribution of (an arrangement) can be a felony if a certain dollar amount is met and a certain (number of copies are distributed)
Keith: You are aware that Mr. Ellis arranged some of the songs for the October show.
DeSalvo said yes but said that she does not know which songs Ellis himself arranged.
Keith: For the songs, Mr. Ellis arranged, was he legally required to get copyright permission
DeSalvo said yes. Then said disseminating is a different right.
Keith: Was he legally required to obtain permission from copyright lawyers
DeSAvo he would have had to have permission to have a musical arrangement (of that piece). It depends on what he was using it for. There is an exemption. If he is using it for face-to-face classroom teaching that is exempt. IF it is a performance for educational purposes that is also exempt. The exemption for classroom teaching is also extended to online classrooms.
Are you aware how Mr. Ellis was using the music?
DeSAlvo: I understood students learned the music at school and performed the music at school and they were also going to perform at school.
Keith: You are saying there would be an exemption if that was in the classroom face-to-face instruction and there is a performance exemption. But if it was for preparation for a performance, then it was necessary for him to obtain permission from copyright holders?
DeSalvo he would have had to have permission to make an arrangement. (Talks about dissemination. Said teaching would not have to be in a classroom).
Keith: Put he would still need permission to arrange the song
Ketih: If he did not have permission to arrange he would have violated copyright law
DeSalvo: Technically yes.
Keith asks about the agreement with Anderson. DeSalvo said it is a license agreement. She said if it was a work for hire, it would have required Mr. Ellis or the school district to sign off on it.
Keith said it was signed by Calvin Ellis on behalf of Tupelo High School. Keith asked if the permission to arrange the music had to be obtained by Tupelo High School.
DeSalvo said that is what the document said and it allows Tupelo High School to use the song.
Keith said that on the contract it says that the licensee will submit a copy of the song and the arrangement.
DeSAlvo: I want you to understand what this is. This is what is commonly referred to as label copy. It gives appropriate credit so if anyone wants to use this (in the future, they will know where to go to get it….She said the item of submitting a copy is a matter of the contract, not of copyright law).
Keith said that the document said that until they sent a copy of that music, the agreement is not effective.
DeSalvo: Asks to explain this. She said often licenses go out and people neglect them and don’t sign it so often publishes say you have a certain amount of time to get it back to us or the contract isn’t valid?
Keith: Do you know if those songs had been arranged and disseminated to the students before this document was signed on Sept. 6?
DeSalvo: I think they were.
Keith: Should he have arranged and disseminated the music prior to signing the contract?
Here is my question. Would you advise your client to have the arranged music disseminated to students prior to the execution of that document?
Butts objects to the form of the question. Does he mean execution by Mr. Ellis or by Cherry Lane?
Keith; You said you would not advise your client to disseminate that music to students prior to the execution of that contract by all students?
DeSalvo: We are kind of splitting hairs.
Keith: I want a direct answer. Would you advise your client to distribute music to your students prior to the execution of the contract.
DeSalvo: It is not a yes or no answer. Mr. Keith is trying to get me to say something I don’t want to say.
Butts said the witness should be afforded the latitude to answer the question as she sees appropriate.
Keith: My question is would you advise your client to have the arranged music and disseminate it to students prior to having exhibit 24 executed by the parties.
DeSalvo: It depends on where you are in negotiation of the contract. It is common for the two parties to negotiate the terms, arrange the music and sign the contract subsequently….Had there been no contact with Cherry Lane to use the arrangement and then contact to negotiate later, that would be a different scenario. In that scenario I will tell him (to go further with the negotiation first)
Keith asks if she had any information that Ellis had contract with Cherry Lane first
DeSalvo: No, I think that would have been initiated by Mr. Anderson and not Mr Ellis
Keith: You don’t have any knowledge of that
DeSalvo: Yes I do.
Keith asks if DeSalvo had any knowledge of the negotiations.
What information do you have that it was OK for Mr. Anderson to permit Mr. Ellis to disseminate the arranged music to his students prior to the execution of this document
DeSalvo: I can’t answer that question. I don’t know.
Keith asks if DeSalvo has any facts to show Ellis had obtained that permission by Sept 29
DeSalvo said he complied with the terms of the contract and payment ws paid….Based on the effective date of the contract and it wsa mailed with a check on Sept. 8, 2011. It was mailed with two copies at the license explains. That is all a publisher needs…Once a publisher receives this Mr. Ellis is good to go.
Keith: The use of that music had been taken place prior to Sept 6?
DeSalvo said yes but that is OK. She said that this license (secures any defect)
Keith: When you use arranged music without permission, you are going to have to get permission at some point?
Keith: For the songs Mr. Ellis had chosen for other people to arrange, wouldn’t it be necessary for Mr. Ellis or the arranger to secure permission from the rights holder
DeSalvo: IT would be arranger’s job to do that.
Keith: You have no knowledge of the discussion between the arrangers and Mr. Ellis. There is no agreement. Wouldn’t it be necessary for Mr. Ellis and the arranger to ensure the rights had been obtained.
DeSalvo: If Mr. Ellis had been told by the arranger to do that then Mr. Ellis should have done that (Said that without a direct agreement, the arranger is the author of the work and would be responsible for getting the permission)
Keith: You are assuming a lot of facts that should be laid out in an agreement between Mr. Ellis and the arrangers?
DeSalvo: You don’t have a written agreement. (Said if you did, it would have been different.)
Keith; Since Mr. Ellis didn’t have written agreement with the other arrangers, have you seen any written agreement defining who was required to obtain permissions?
DeSAlvo: In the absence of any document it is the arranger’s responsibility.
Keith said there could have been discussions. DeSalvo said that doesn’t change the law. That a verbal agreement doesn’t change authorship. Said that under copyright law when there is an arranger who is the author, if there is a written agreement transferring the authorship, it would change the responsibility. But she said you can’t shift the responsibility without a written agreement.
Keith: When Mr. Ellis asked other arrangers to secure arrangements wasn’t it incumbent on him to make sure (arranger was getting permission)
DeSalvo said if he knew about it.
She said with the knowledge she has, even if it wasn’t a contractual obligation, she would want to understand that care, but Mr. Ellis didn’t have that knowledge….Arrangements are different things….You have a musical composition and you put a fiddle in it, that is an arrangement….When you are talking about cover versions that doesn’t require an arrangements…Just putting music with it doesn’t require permission
Keith: AS a show choir director, you would at least expect Mr. Ellis to understand that copyrights are an issue and you need to seek help to understand it.
DeSalvo said she thinks every music educator should seek knowledge about copyright.
Keith asks about which songs Ellis had gotten clearance of that she had knowledge of. DeSalvo said she does not know the song titles. Knows he got some through Tresona.
Keith proposes a hypothetical. Suppose a show choir performance goes forward without permission having been gotten for arrangements. Suppose someone films that performance and puts it on YouTube. Would the district be liable for that?
Butts objects, saying there is no evidence Mr. Ellis uploaded anything to YouTube and that it is not factually complete for the witness to answer.
Keith essentially repeats the question
Butts objects again to the form of the question. He asks who the someone who videos is, whether it is a parent, an official of the school district, someone who happened to go.
Keith said he is asking about the potential for risk in that situation?
DeSalvo: It is difficult to answer that question because it depends on who arranged the song. Said the performance itself is not the issue (and would not pose any liability to Ellis or the school).
Keith: Let’s suppose Mr. Ellis arranged the song. Could that pose liability?
DeSalvo: Probably if publisher heard that song, if they wanted to, they could get it pulled off of YouTube and contact Mr. Ellis or the school district about licensure. That is generally what the publisher would do because they would rather make money than sue people.
Keith: Where Mr. Ellis arranged the song, that would be a violation by Mr. Ellis and the school district?
DeSalvo: Not by the school district, potentially by Mr. Ellis.
Keith said would the school district be liable if Ellis had done the arrangement when his contract provides a supplement that pays him for the arrangement?
DeSalvo said if there was a direct infringement by Mr. Ellis the only way the school district would be liable would be secondary infringement….(School district would have to know or have reason to know about the violation and contribute to the violation or it would need to be found that the school district had the ability to supervise Mr. Ellis and had direct financial gain as a result of his violation. She said she doesn’t see that in this hypothetical.
Keith: Did you say a knowing violation of copyright law can bring a $150,000 fine.
DeSalvo said it is not a fine it is a statutory violation. The maximum fine is $150,000 (for, I think she said willful violation, or intentional violation).
Keith refers to email from Ellis to Greenburg where Ellis said he first became aware of copyright law at the end of the previous school year and that he now knows that it is something every arranger must get.
Keith: Would you read this email as saying Mr. Ellis now understands what is required of an arranger.
Question over who the word “we” in the email refers to.
Keith asked if DeSalvo knows who Mr. DeSalvo worked for. DeSalvo said Tupelo Public School District. She said we would be he and a group of people. Maybe some arrangers.
Keith: Did you ever ask Mr. Ellis what he meant by the word we.
DeSalvo said no
Keith: See where he asks what is the fine for performing songs without permission. I would never purposefully want to do something like this but I am worried about a song being denied.
When Mr. Greenburg used term $150,000, that was obviously maximum fine.
DeSalvo: It is not a fine, it is a statutory damage.
Keith: But the maximum amount is still $150,000.
DeSalvo: Yes, and those are reserved for the most extreme cases.
Keith: Would you advise a school district to go forth in a musical performance in their auditorium if you knew the performance contained songs for which permission to arrange hadn’t been obtained.
DeSalvo: Would I advise a school? If I knew them in advance I would probably tell them not to, but the performance is exempt
Keith: Are you aware Mr. Ellis had a contract that paid him a supplement for being a music director?
DeSalvo said she heard that in the testimony.
Keith asked if she was aware Ellis’ contract required him to (maintain professional competence though trainings to improve him as a music director)
DeSalvo said no.
Keith asked if DeSalvo is aware that another employee of the school obtained the necessary arrangements for her show choir.
DeSalvo said she had no idea what Ms. Williams did. Keith said it is Dr. Williams.
Keith asks if DeSalvo is aware of music organizations to which Ellis belonged.
DeSalvo said no
Keith refers to exhibit 5. It is an agreement with an arranger.
Keith: If those songs that Steve Anderson arranged and supplied to the school district, if Mr. Ellis never obtained permission but if he used those songs and disseminated them would that have been a violation of the law?
DeSalvo said by Mr. Anderson, not by Mr. Ellis. She said that this isn’t a work for hire agreement so that Anderson would be responsible.
(She said that it is a contract, not a work for hire agreement)
Keith: Don’t you think it would be incumbent of choral director to ensure that permission would be obtained.
DeSalvo said, if Ellis had knowledge of it. Said that would be a better practice.
Keith: It certainly creates potential for a lawsuit involving both Mr. Anderson and Mr. Ellis and the school district.
DeSalvo said it would for Anderson. She said maybe for the school district involving the contract issue.
Keith refers to another email. Asks DeSalvo if Ellis would at least have a rudimentary knowledge of his requirements for copyright.
DeSalvo said it seemed like he had some knowledge by that date (April 28).
Keith: If he had been to Hal Leonard website by that date, (would it appear he had even more knowledge)
DeSalvo said if he had been to the website yes.
Keith: With the knowledge he had, is it reasonable for him to wait until September to secure permissions for those songs.
Keith: Do you have any evidence he did anything before September to arrange permission to arrange other than the Steve Anderson contract.
DeSavlo: If the contract was signed Sept. 6, it would have had to be in the works sometime before Sept. 6. Sometimes you can turn that around in a couple of days, sometimes it takes longer….Said you don’t get permission from the song writers, you get permission from the publishers….two weeks to 30 days is reasonable.
Keith: What documentation do you have to indicate (he started working on copyrights before September).
DeSalvo said the Greenburg emails and those licenses. She said the fact that they were executed on Sept. 6 means that work on them would have had to have begun prior to that.
Hearing takes a 10-minute break at 10 a.m.
Keith is referring to an email in which an arranger had to pay Hal Leonard for not having gotten previous permission in 2009. It includes a contract requiring payment for the license and a fee for not having had the right previously.
Keith refers to an email exchange that it was necessary to clear this up before going forward with anything else.
DeSalvo said she doesn’t know if it was from the email but she learned somewhere that something had to be cleared up.
Keith: In this agreement, it assigns the responsibility to Tupelo High School as the licensee, right?
DeSalvo said yes.
Keith asks who paid that $1,000, was it the arranger or the Tupelo High School booster club
DeSalvo said it seemed to her that Alderman said have paid it. But Keith notes the contract said that the school district was the one that was supposed to pay it. DeSalvo said that is correct.
Keith would you agree that this contract clearly indicates that there are some responsibilities to ensure permission for songs you are going to arrange. DeSalvo said yes.
Keith refers to an email from Ellis to Stewart….It said that Ellis plans on using many of the arrangements he did the year before during this year (2011-12)
Do you have any knowledge whether Mr. Ellis had permission to arrange those songs? DeSalvo said she did not.
Keith if he used those songs, would he need permission to arrange them? DeSalvo said yes. She said instrumentation doesn’t require permission but if you are changing how the work is performed, you would need permission.
Keith: If Beyonce has a song Mr. Ellis wants to arrange, it would be necessary for Mr. Ellis to obtain permission from the rights holder
Keith: How much are you being paid to do this investigation and to testify.
DeSalvo: I’m not quite sure. I’m not there because Mr. Butts or Mr. Ellis are not able to pay me. When I was down last time, I was paid a flat fee of $2,000.
Keith: Do you have an hourly rate as an attorney when you are engaged in copyright litigation.
DeSalvo: Last year it was $250 an hour and this year it is $275.
Keith: Are you charging on an hourly rate for this or just a flat fee?
DeSalvo: I am keeping time on my hours in case they are able to pay me and I will see if they are able to pay me on that. If they can only pay me a flat fee, I will take that.
Keith: How many hours have you accumulated?
DeSalvo her time is probably in excess of $3,000 and her travel time 11 hours which she did not bill for. This past week she put in in preparation four to five hours plus her testimony yesterday and today. She has also been on standby all week (but she is not charging for that)
Keith: If I told you some of the arrangements had been done by Mr. Ellis during the 2010-11 school year in which he did not obtain permission, would that change your opinion you stated yesterday that you did not have any information that Mr. Ellis violated the law?
DeSalvo: If Mr. Ellis arranged songs without permission during the 2010-11 school year, there is potential liability there if he did that without permission.
Keith is finished with the witness. Butts begins redirect.
Butts: If Mr. Ellis had arrangements during the 2010-11 school year, there would be potential liability to whom?
DeSalvo: To him for direct infringement but it depends on if he used the song. (You can do it in your house and it is fine, but if he took them and used them that would be direct infringement)
Butts: Assume worst case scenario, Mr. Ellis created arrangements that would qualify as an infringement and assume he took that to show choir and taught the show choir the arrangement and then that arrangement was performed in a public performance. Assume there is no contract for hire between Tupelo Public School and Mr. Ellis to do the arrangement and also assuming the arrangement was performed under the arrangements you mentioned for schools, and the worst case scenario, would there have been any liability on the part of the Tupelo Public School District on the part of the defendant.
Keith objects, saying question is too broad.
Butts re asks the question
Butts: I would like you to assume that during 2011, if Mr. Ellis for the performance in 2011, he would have started working on arrangements. I’d like for you to assume he did create arrangements. Assume he did not get copyright permission from the copyright holder to create the arrangement. Assume he took it to his show choirs and taught his arrangements and there was no written contract between Tupelo High School and Mr. Ellis and these songs were performed on the school premise and admission fees were charged and they were performed at competitions but Tupelo High School received no private gain from those performances, would the TPSD have any liability for Mr. Ellis’ arrangements without permission.
Keith objects unless Butts includes in his hypothetical that Mr. Ellis is under contract with this school district as show choir director. Butts said there is no contract between Ellis and the school district to arrange music. Compton overrules objection.
DeSalvo: (In the hypothetical) The school district would not be liable for the arrangements Mr. Ellis did. TO be perfectly honest, if it was within the course and scope of his employment to prepare arrangements, the employer could be liable. If there is no specific duty that is required by his job….if it is not something it is specifically required by his job to do, there is no liability.
Butts: In the situation I just gave you, the liability would be Mr. Ellis? DeSalvo said correct.
Butts refers her to agreement where Hal Leonard gave permission to David Alderman for “Ask the Lonely” and “I Drove All Night.”
Butts: Is it your understanding there was no contract for hire between Tupelo High School, Tupelo School District and Mr. Alderman for those agreements?
DeSalvo said that is her understanding.
Butts: Would you know why this agreement from Hal Leonard makes Tupelo High School the licensee rather than David Alderman.
DeSalvo said it is because the school will be using the work. She said Hal Leonard and Cherry Lane and others grant permission to the arranger to arrange but make the school the licensee to perform.
DeSalvo said the publisher still owns the arrangement, this is just a license to use it.
Butts: Since Mr. Alderman did not get permission to arrange the songs back in 2009 and there was no contract for the arrangements, who infringed Hal Leonard’s copyright in 2009?
DeSalvo said Mr. Alderman.
Butts: From your knowledge of dealing with arrangers, would Mr. Alderman be aware of that fact.
Keith objects and Compton sustains.
Butts refers to correspondence
Keith said the language is clear who paid the fee for not having permission to pay the arrangement (the school district was obligated to pay it by Tupelo).
Butts: Has any fact been brought to your attention on cross examination by the district
DeSalvo: No, although since yesterday. I found this in the email in exhibit 5 when Mr. Alderman said he paid the fee for the song. Yesterday I was unclear about it.
Butts: Do you stand fully on your testimony given in this hearing yesterday?
DeSalvo said yes.
Butts is finished with DeSalvo.
Next witness will be Lynne Johnson.
Johnson has children in the school district.
She lives in Tupelo. She has two daughters at Ole Miss who were in show choir for four years and her son is at the high school. He is not involved in show choir.
Butts: Tell me about your involvement with show choir and the booster club?
Johnson said her girls both became part of Ellis’ show choir in the same year. One was a junior and one was a freshman. She was involved for the next four years.
“It the most amazing experience for them and for us.”
Johnson said she became known as the snack lady and she was involved in every practice parents could be part of.
She said that it was a lot of work.
Butts: From your observation, what is the work load on the children and Mr. Ellis?
Johnson: I don’t know how he physically did it, but he was always there with an amazing attitude and the kids respected him. There were long hard nights getting ready for the competitions and the shows.
The loved working with Calvin. They respected him and looked up to him. There was a lot of sweat put into it but they loved working with him.
Butts asks about the trip to Petal.
Johnson said they arrived at school at 7 a.m. Sound Wave always competes first.
Keith said it would be important here to voir dire the witness about her knowledge of previous testimony. Compton said Keith can do that on cross.
Butts: We’d like to know about your participation.
Johnson said she was in the room with Wave Connection the entire time. She specifically remembers that competition because her daughter was sick.
Sound Wave performed, all of the parents go out, we are so excited because we love our show choir and we love our kids. Then we go out when Wave Connection performs and we wait to see who makes finals.
Johnson: I do remember while we were there the Petal parents were very rude to us. I just don’t think they like us. It is just a rival like any sport.
Butts asks about any rules handed out by Petal representatives on arrival
Johnson said she is not aware of any rules
Butts asks about the room. Johnson said they wait to see when everyone leaves that the room is put exactly back in order. She said that just because of the way they were treated, they wanted to make sure room was spotless.
Butts: Was the room our show choir stayed in in Petal trashed?
Johnson: No. When I saw the 23 accusations that came out about Mr. Ellis I was at the Link Centre. I was sitting there reading them and when I saw the accusation that room had been trashed I took that against myself. I am not going to say the room did not get messy. We were in two rooms that were connected to each other. (Two rooms connected by a door. Put girls in back room and boys up front). We are trying to keep these kids comfortable. It is a competition. They are there long hours. The room does get messy….but a group of parents make sure it is always spotless when we leave. We would never want Tupelo’s reputation to be anything but the best.
Butts asks about whether boys and girls changed in the same room
Johnson: We do not change in the same room, but I will tell you. The way they set us up, the girls have to walk through the boys room. There may have been times when they walked through that the boys were in their boxers but I do not find that offensive (Said that was because of the way the room was set up. That is why they put the girls in the back room. Said parents were there to make sure nothing inappropriate happened)
Butts asks about her experience in show choir?
Johnson: You can ask my girls to this day, the thing they remembered that left the biggest positive impact on them at high school was Mr. Ellis and the show choir he was in. I love him. He is the best teacher and mentor and person I have ever known. My girls loved it. They worked very hard. They didn’t mind being there until midnight.
(I can hear sniffles from people in the audience)
Butts asks if she has found Ellis to not be forthright?
Johnson said all of her friends have always thought of Ellis as honest and forthright and that she hadn’t talked to anyone who thought anything else
Butts asks about Mrs. Ellis
Johnson said he always thanked his wife. She thought that union between the couple was so strong. She said Jauna Ellis was always there for the show choir and she is a great lady.
Butts asks about accusations of wasting money. Johnson said it was the parents money and that they knew it was going toward their kids.
Butts: Are you aware Mr. Ellis would have choreography arranged and then have it rearranged?
Johnson said she isn’t the best person to ask about that
Butts asks about planned New York trip
Johnson said it was a big deal to be invited to perform. They had several meetings where they discussed how expensive it would be. They fundraised and tried to raise money, but they couldn’t make the money. They were told they probably wouldn’t be able to go. Then New York contacted Calvin and said we really want you to go and we will try to do something to help you, find a sponsor. We grasped on to that small hope but unfortunately it didn’t happen.
Butts asks Johnson if she perceived a lack of supervision. Johnson said never. She said there were 5 or 6 parents who were always there. She said with two show choirs you need help from parents and that he always made sure parents were there. She said that during her four years, the kids were never unsupervised.
Butts asks about Ellis making kids run laps around the PAC
Johnson said that didn’t happen while her children were there.
Butts asked if Ellis didn’t maintain discipline of the kids. Johnson said no and that if Ellis needed to do something to discipline kids she would have supported him 100 percent.
Butts asked about the experience for her girls being in show choir?
Johnson: IT was such a wonderful experience. I feel very blessed he was our director. Getting to know him as a person .
Butts was Mr. Ellis unfair among the kids for any reason, race or financial condition?
Johnson said never. She said she remembers a student who didn’t have financial means and they made sure they got that child and brought that child to practice.
Butts: Did you child participate in hair and makeup nights.
Johnson said they did. She said she never had concern about her kids being there. She said it was a team building event. She said Calvin really wanted tm to participate but he was never like if you don’t do this, this is what will happen to you.
Butts: Are you aware of the allegations of this last hair-and makeup night?
Johnson: I am aware of what happened. I think it is ridiculous. AS a mom of two seniors who graduated from the high school, I feel like someone could put me on trail because I had children over at my house the night before school began and I didn’t know they had cans of spray paint and spray painted “09” on neighbors mailboxes.
Johnson said that happens with kids. She said she has seen pranks happen and has had them happen to her.
Butts: As a parent of girls, with a prank involving condoms would you be offended?
Johnson: No. Boys are boys. Boys are going to do stupid things. You tell them not to do it and they are going to do it. I don’t think it was anything where a teenage boy thought about being sexual. It is but they are just dumb boys. Bananas and condoms? Really? They are so creative. (Laughs)
Butts asks about Ellis’ influence
Johnson: We feel very blessed that for the four yeas my girls were involved in show choir, he was our director. He is a wonderful person, a wonderful influence. I would love to see my son involved in show choir with him
Butts: Is Mr. Ellis perfect
Johnson: No one is perfect. He is not prefect. I’m not perfect. The kids were not perfect.
Butts: Is show choir competitive?
Johnson: It is extremely competitive. The thing I loved about show choir is I watched these boys who played soccer and would never think about being involved in show choir get involved. It is very physical but it is not that contact sport where you are running into people. The kids he got were kids who would not have been involved but he saw the talent in them. The reason they did it was because of him, because they admired him and respected him.
Butts: Are the kids competitive among themselves….Have you observed children and their parents where they would like to be on the front row or they deserve a solo
Johnson: When you try out for something you are going to want that. But just like anything, you don’t get it, you don’t make it. Sometimes you make it and sometimes you don’t.
Butts: How would you characterize us being competitive with other schools
Johnson said they were competitive, they worked hard and they wanted to win.
Butts: Was show choir supported by community?
Johnson yes, parents were very involved. WE want to be involved because we loved Calvin as a director and it was a good group of kids. We would have been excited it a principal or someone from central office would come to our shows to see how great they were.
Butts asked about the size of the group
Johnson said it was two large groups and they had a large group of people who came to competitions and when they cheered they were very loud.
Butts: Do you have an opinion whether our show choirs acted appropriated and were a good example of Tupelo High.
Johnson: Because I was always there I do believe we represented our school district in a good way. We were raised to know right from wrong. WE didn’t ever want Tupelo High School to come out like they’re this or that. We always behaved and that is why we had parents involved. One person can’t supervise that many kids. As parents we were always there to make sure our students behaved and did the right thing.
Butts finishes his examination and Keith begins his cross examination.
Keith: Have you ever served on the booster board?
Johnson: No, I just served on the hospitality committee.
Keith: You were as
Johnson: I attended a meeting at the Link Centre when Mr. Butts presented the 23 accusations against Mr. Ellis. The one concern in Petal popped out to me. I told David if he would like me to testify and he said yes.
Keith asks whether Johnson had read the blogs. She said she read about the copyright lawyer and part of Valerie Whitwell’s. She said she didn’t really read about the pranking. She read some of Mr. Meadow’s. Part of Terri Stewart’s and part of Mr. Ellis.
She said she is familiar with the testimony that has occurred.
Keith objects to the witness because she has violated law of sequestration.
Butts said the rule applies to witnesses remaining outside the courtroom and that there is no way to insulate witnessed from the newspapers or the blogs or what they made have read. To insist on that kind of sequestration is absurd. Said this witness testified on her personal knowledge and not on the testimony of anyone else.
Compton said he will reserve a ruling on it.
Keith said she knew even before these proceedings that she was going to testify and that Butts should informed his witnesses not to keep up with it.
Compton said he is going to reserve a ruling on it. He will review it and make a ruling this afternoon.
Keith: Were you disappointed in the results from Petal. Johnson said, no. They were very close. They were in second and were very close to the first place team.
Keith asks if Ellis ever told parents that someone from Petal had raised concerns about Tupelo students
Johnson said she heard Ellis ask the boys if they had been disrespectful. She said that the Petal parents were rude to them. She said Ellis told the boys that when an adult talks to you, you need to be respectful of them. Johnson said the parents told Ellis they would keep a better eye on the boys.
Keith: Do you recall where you were when you heard the New York trip had been cancelled.
Johnson said she does not remember. Keith asks about her getting an email about the trip being canceled, was that when she found out. Johnson said she didn’t remember.
Keith asks about students running laps around the PAC. She said she heard that happened this year and her daughter graduated lat year.
Keith asks if Johnson went to all of the rehearsals when her daughter was involved. She said she went to most of them. She said she did not go to all of them, there were many rehearsals and a lot of late rehearsals.
Keith asks if Johnson allowed her daughters to spend the night at the hair and makeup night. She said they were allowed to spend the night but if they did not spend the night she called the parent were they were staying and told Jauna that they were not spending the night.
Keith asked Johnson what is her knowledge of the Friday night pranking incident.
Johnson said she heard the girls spent the night at the Whitwell house with Jauna and the boys were at Ellis’ house. That the girls wrote things on the boys’ cars and the boys bought things and went over and pranked the girls cars. She said she had heard it was all in fun and that the kids were laughing about it and that it got out of control.
Keith asks about pranks that had been pulled on Johnson. She said people had written either 2009 or 2011 on her mailbox.
Keith asks if her children were involved in pranks similar to what happened on Sept. 30. Johnson said they were not.
Keith: Were you at board meeting in May of 2010 when Mr. Ellis stood before board and told where he was over budget?
Johnson said no. She said she did not attend any board meetings.
Keith has no further questions. Johnson’s testimony is completed.
Hearing breaks at 11:45 a.m. It will resume at 1:05 p.m.
The hearing resumes in closed session.
Hearing is back in open session at 1:19 p.m. Parent Kim Burleson is testifying. She was also testifying during the closed session.
Butts asks about her daughter’s experience
Burleson: I can’t tell you how positive it has been for her. She has thoroughly enjoyed all four years….As far as school activities, it has been a major part of her education. (It will be a major part of her high school experience)
She said she has also had a positive experience as a parent. She said her daughter has stepped out of the box under Ellis’ guidance.
Butts asks about her observations on his mentoring of the kids.
Burleson: He is an excellent mentor…It always amazed me how he could encourage them all to be part of a group. I was impressed how he could mentor all different kids of kids. He could always get them to bond, kind of like a team.
Butts: Have you found him to be forthright and honest?
Burleson: As far as I have dealt with him yes.
She said he has treated the children fairly regardless of their financial situation of their race.
Butts: Have you ever had an occasion where you had an impression where Mr Ellis failed to supervise these children?
Burleson: No. When you are dealing with a group of teenagers, you can’t be one on one with them all of the time. Said has never had a concern.
Butts asked if she had seen Ellis endanger children. She said no.
Burleson said she feels he is an excellent show choir director, as far as her experience goes.
Butts: How would you say his show choirs have performed?
Burleson: Very professionally. I am not sure of the record but I would say that we’ve placed (in every competition been in).
Butts: Have you ever observed any incident where you felt the students were not acting appropriately or where they brought disdain on Tupelo High School
Burleson: No, not from what I witnessed.
Butts is done with his questioning.
Keith asks if Burleson has ever served on choral booster board. She said she was treasurer for Sound Wave for one year, two years ago
Keith: Did you ever hear complaints about Mr. Ellis’ handling of money for show choirs?
Keith: What about his selection of students for the show choirs
Burleson said just common complaints from parents about their children not making a particular group.
Keith asks about the trip to Petal. Asks if she heard any complaints by Petal officials to Mr. Ellis about behavior of students.
Burleson said she had never heard that complaint.
Keith: The year you were treasurer for Sound Wave, did you end that year in a deficit position?
Burleson said Terri Stewart was treasurer for all groups and each group had its own treasurer. Stewart was the one who had the final figure and she does not know what that was.
Keith: Did you attend any booster club board meetings.
Burleson said yes.
Keith: What about the one in May 2010 where Mr. Ellis talked abut the budget issues. Burleson said no and that she does not recall that discussion taking place.
Keith is finished his cross examination, and Burleson's testimony is complete.
Next witness is Stephanie Maxcy. She lives in Tupelo and has a child at Tupelo High School, a senior.
Maxcy said both of her girls are cheerleaders.
Butts: Tell me about booster club for cheerleaders.
Maxcy said she has been involved with the cheerleader booster club for six years. Said it is literally to boost cheerleaders and support them. We support the coach as needed.
Butts: Asks about nature of cheerleading.
Maxcy said they are athletes like any other sport. They are competitive.
Maxcy said they have camps and competitions.
This year she is treasurer, the previous two years she was president of booster club.
Butts asks if cheerleaders take overnight fieldtrips. Maxcy said they do as part of camps and various competitions. She said that nationals includes overnight travel.
Lawyers have a sidebar conference.
Butts asks Maxcy about the numerous trips that have been taken that require school approval. When you talk about nationals you are talking about going to Disney World?
Maxcy said that is correct.
She said kids have traveled by bus and have flown out of Birmingham.
Butts: Has an administrator from the Tupelo Public School District accompanied the group on the trips?
Maxcy said not any trips that she knows of.
Maxcy said they are going to nationals next week.
Maxcy said they have an administrator going with them this year, on the trip next week. That they hadn’t had an administrator go with them in the past. She said it was just recently that she had ever heard that an administrator from the district had to be with the group on its trip.
Keith declines cross examination. Maxcy’s testimony is complete.
Next witness is Deborah Bullock. She is a teacher at Tupelo High School. She has been there for 12 years. She is a choral director. She said she has had the same job over the last 12 years.
She teaches guitar, keyboard, music theory, general music, she helps with the two show choirs. She said she assists the show choirs by accompanying them.
Butts: You have been there before Mr. Ellis was there and you have been there since.
Bullock said she has worked with Vicky Wilson and other choral directors, Quinn Harris, Suzy Williams, Debra Atkinson.
Butts: In the last five years, since Calvin Ellis got there,….I understand he came on as an assistant choral director with Vicky Wilson as his immediate supervisor. Bullock said that is correct. She said Wilson was also her supervisor.
Butts asks what coach assistant means in the schedule?
Bullock: It can mean a number of things, it all depends on how we work together. We can take the role while they start the class. Said she has accompanied the class, it can mean working with sectionals or singing with the class.
Butts asks about term assistant choral director. Bullock said she is an assistant in some classes. She is choral director, a music teacher and an assistant choral director.
Butts asks how it is determined who will teach which class?
Bullock said that is determined by the counselors. Usually they are informed during the summer. She said you never know from year to year and it usually depends on how many students sign up for a class and whether that class makes. “It is really not in our hands.”
Butts asks how the three choral teachers confer
Bullock said they try to confer with each other as much as they can. Sometimes their schedules don’t allow them to do that. They try to work together as much as they can
Butts asked if Wilson was Bullock’s supervisor while she was there, and Bullock said yes. Butts asked he took Wilson’s position when she left, and Bullock said Ellis did.
Butts: Did he then become your supervisor?
Bullock: I would say so, yes.
Butts: Would he also become the supervisor of the other choral teacher in the program?
Bullock: I would say so yes.
Butts asks Bullock to describe her working relationship with Ellis.
Bullock said she was accompanist for different choirs and show choirs he directed. They spent a lot of time together. They share the responsibility of teaching the structure band group. They each worked with half of them and put them together. They have been to numerous conferences together and have a good working relationship.
Butts asks Bullock about any problems she had with Ellis.
Bullock: I have never had a problem with Calvin. I’ve worked with a lot of different directors. I have never had one cross word from Calvin since I’ve been working with him.
Bullock said it has been a pleasant experience working with him. She said Ellis has award-winning show choirs and award winning choirs. She thinks he is a very good choir director.
Butts: You do make a contribution to that.
Bullock: I try
Butts asks Bullock if she would trust Ellis
Bullock: I would trust Calvin with anything. WE have done so much together and he has always been the perfect gentleman to me
Butts asks about Ms. Ellis. Bullock said she has a lot of stage experience and a lot of hair and makeup experience and she volunteers he time to help her husband with all of that.
Butts: Are you aware of any incident where he failed to properly supervise his students?
Bullock: I would say he has always supervised his students to the best of his ability.
Butts: Would you have to agree he has to rely on people like yourself, the other choral teachers, chaperones and parents to help him in that task.
Bullock : I would, it is a tremendous task.
Bullock said she has never known Ellis to endanger a child
Butts: Would you know any reason why you would not want to continue working with him?
Bullock: No, I know no reason why. I’d be glad to continue working with him.
Butts finishes his examination.
Keith begins the cross examination.
Keith: Do you know whether or not Mr. Ellis’ contract was changed to reflect director of choral activities after Ms. Wilson left?
Bullock said she does not know, she has not seen Ellis’ contract.
Keith asks if Ellis has ever supervised Bullock to evaluate her performance and Bullock said no. He asks whether Ellis gives the administration an evaluation of Bullock’s job performance. She said she didn’t know, maybe if they asked him.
Keith asks about what awards Ellis’s show choir had won. Bullock said she does not know which years.
Hearing goes into closed session at 1:59 p.m.
The hearing opens back up, and Bullock is finished with her testimony.
The hearing is done for today. It will recess until Monday, Feb. 13 at 8:30 a.m. at the Hancock Leadership Center.
I will post updates to the bottom. Last update was at 4:58 p.m.
The seventh day of the Calvin Ellis hearing is about to begin. They will be in closed session because testimony inovlves another individual's character and reputation.
Hearing is back in open session.
Keith is asking Ellis about when he selected music for his show. Ellis said the process starts in March and continues until July. He said choreographers come into town in July. Ellis said at that point he hadn’t selected all of the songs. The choreographers are from the competition songs, but there are additional songs that would be performed during October.
Keith asked whether any of the songs would need to be arranged. Ellis said all of the songs that were going to be in the competition show would be arranged. He said Steve Anderson and Jeremy Alferra (spelling?) would do the arrangement. He spoke with them at the end of April or beginning of May. He told them which songs he wanted arranged for the competition show and that he sent them the exact songs. For Steve Anderson it was “Cold as Ice,” “Fire and Ice,” “Fire,” and “We didn’t start the Fire.” For Mr. Alferra, it was “Freeze” “More,” and “Set Fire to the Rain.”
Keith asks Ellis when he got permission to have those songs arranged. Ellis said he received a contract from Steve Anderson for the four songs he would arrange. On the contract it said it was the school’s responsibility to get permission for the arranging. He said Anderson said to please make sure to get the permission because they are really cracking down on this copyright business. “So I did it, just for his.”
Ellis: I also need to state, for years since I have been doing this job, every arranger I have spoken with does not do this particular thing. They don’t ask you to sign a contract. You send them what you want arranged and they arrange it. When he was harping on going to Hal Leonard, I did what he asked me to do.
Ellis said he didn’t think about that for the other arrangers because he had never been asked to do that before. “That was the common practice for all arrangers.”
Keith directs him to exhibit 24.
Keith asks if that is the contract from Steve Anderson.
Ellis said it is not. He said he didn’t receive that until August. He said that document is a contract provided by Hal Leonard after he submitted those songs to Hal Leonard in April.
Keith asks Ellis about his contact with Hal Leonard. Ellis said it did it through the website, which was the way Anderson told him to do it. He contacted them in late April or May, toward the end of the past school year. He said he didn’t hear anything from them until he received that document, exhibit 24, in August.
Ellis said that when he received it, he forwarded it to Terri Stewart. It is a contract that says licensor, Tupelo High School, agrees to pay licensee, Steve Anderson, $200, etc. It also says that after arrangement Tupelo High School would send a copy of the work to the copyright office.
Ellis said that he did not read the contract, he forwarded it to Terri Stewart because he knew there was a copyright fee that would need to be paid.
Keith asked if he sought legal advice from the school district to make sure he wasn’t in violation of copyright law. Ellis said he did not.
Ellis signed the document on Sept. 6. It was then sent to Cherry Lane Music. Ellis said he didn’t know at the time it was sent to Cherry Lane. He said he entrusted Terri Stewart to take care of it. He was deep in the show choir season and he didn’t read the fine print and left Terri Stewart to take care of it.
At the bottom of the letter it says the deal will be voided if they don’t get the payment within 60 days.
On the next page is the same form of a contract for “We didn’t start the fire.”
Butts said the last line of questioning is unfair because on the front of the contract it says payment was sent within two days of the signature.
Also attached is a contract for a third song.
Keith said it could not have left the district before Sept. 6 because Ellis had not signed it. Ellis agreed.
Also attached are mailed checks. I think Keith said that one of the days listed was for Sept. 4
Ellis said the fourth song was “Fire” but there was something with the Hendrix estate that prevented them from getting permissions.
Keith asked if Ellis was concerned at that time that he would not get permissions in time for this show in October.
Ellis said he began at that time in August to become concern because he had a better understanding of the process. He said he had done the job for years and the massive scope of copyright law blew his mind. He said he did not have a complete understanding of the details needed for copyright law. That was something he hadn’t considered before.
Keith asked if the students had already begun practicing and whether copies of music had already been placed in student folders. Ellis said yes.
Keith: Had you gotten copyright permission at that time?
Ellis said no.
Keith moves to exhibit 8. An email exchange with Stewart. Stewart asked for any updates on copyright stuff. The last paragraph said she also needed to get copies of the music Ellis wrote.
Keith: She is not depending on herself to do this, she is asking you for the update?
Ellis: She was asking me for an update on the status. At that time, I was also unclear on the full process on how all of this worked. I had submitted the majority of the songs for my show at the end of August when I got all the information I needed to understand that every arranger and every piece of music needed to be submitted and approved. I finally understood that. I submitted all of my songs at the end of August. I had been speaking with Mark Greenburg….I was thinking that when Mark Greenburg would send me an email that said cleared, I thought we were good to go on copyright. I didn’t know the full process was sending back two copies of the music. When I got information from these people that the songs were cleared and you were good to go, I thought that mean we had approval.
Keith asks what Ellis meant when he said he submitted all of his songs by the end of August.
Ellis said he had been working with arrangers before and had never been told he had to get copyrights….Every arranger I had ever worked with never asked me to do this. At this point, I am coming to the summer and I was like I did this for him (Steve Anderson) and then I get this crazy email from Hal Leonard. I am asking can you explain the process to me. I have never had to do this before. One arranger is asking for this and every (other) arranger I have ever worked with never asked me for this. It took me a while to understand that it doesn’t matter what the arranger asked me, I had to get permission for copyright..
Ellis said he finally understood at the end of August, through his conversations with Greenburg. On Aug. 29, he thought he still had two months and all of his songs would be cleared. He submitted all of his songs at the end of August through Tresona.
Keith asks how he found Tresona.
Ellis said Suzy Williams was the first person to tell him about that company. She had found it as she was trying to get copyrights for her songs. It was in the beginning of August and she told him about this company she found that could help get the process going.
Ellis said he has been working with other arrangers and all of a sudden there is emphasis on this. Arrangers are all uncomfortable that there is this legal mess going on with the show choir profession.
He said emailed Jeremy Alferra what was going on and why he had never asked for this before. Ellis was told this was new, I am trying to do a service, that this was new.
Ellis: Here are these colleagues I have been working with for years and years that were uncomfortable with the situation and I am stuck in the middle trying to figure out how do I deal with this. I was trying to get the full scope of this and then I finally understood that I needed to do this no matter what.
Ellis said he didn’t get a straight forward answer from Anderson. He had to ask other people. He had to ask David Alderman and other arrangers to see what the truth was.
Keith asks if Ellis stayed with Mr. Alferra for those songs.
Ellis said he did submit those songs to Hal Leonard. He didn’t think anything of it. What triggered him to think more about the process was the letter he received regarding the Ask the Lonely and Drive all night arrangements that were already done.
Keith asks if Ellis stayed with Mr. Alferra for those songs.
Elllis said he did.
Keith asks why he didn’t go
Ellis as I have stated five times already. I have done this job for five years. Never have I had to do this process. It did not occur to me at that time that I had to go an do this for every single song. It didn’t register with me. I thought this was something he was asking me to do for him.
Keith: You didn’t understand you had to do this for every arranger?
Ellis said it was informal. It wasn’t a full explanation of why. He just did what he asked him to do in the middle of his crazy, insane schedule.
Keith refers to email on Sept. 14 to Terri Stewart at 12:01 a.m. It says that he thinks they are in the clear and that no news means good news in this arena. Ellis said that (no news is good news) was Greenburg’s statement.
Ellis said the email says I think we are in the clear, not that he knows they were in the clear. He said Greenburg told him that if you aren’t able to get copyright you usually hear something immediately.
Keith: In fact, you had no confirmation at that point.
Ellis: I had no confirmation, yes.
Keith asks about board meeting that night. He said Ellis told the board they had permissions on five songs.
Ellis said he can’t remember. He thinks had permission from Mark Greenburg about one or two songs being pre-cleared or on the cleared list. He took that to mean he was approved for it. The language of copyright was not something he was well versed in so he thought cleared meant he could perform those songs.
Ellis said when he met with the booster club, he had the three songs he had signed to contract on (mentioned above) and the two songs on the pre-cleared list.
I understand now that was a misrepresentation because I did not have the copies of music attached but at the time I thought the singing of these contracts and the mailing of the checks meant we were good to go with those songs.
Keith asks what documentation Ellis had from Greenburg.
Ellis said he did not have documentation but that he didn’t understand what he needed.
Hearing takes a break at 10:20 a.m.
Hearing resumes at 10:37 a.m.
Keith refers to the meeting with the board where Ellis discussed copyright. Keith asks about discussion where Ellis said he would go forward and ask for forgiveness later.
Ellis said that is not how the discussion went. He said he talked to several other directors who were working through this and moving forward. Ellis said that he doesn’t recall saying he was going to do it anyway and ask for forgiveness. It was a discussion on how they would make it happen.
Keith: As of that date, you had not sought assistance from the administration or the district’s legal counsel had you?
Ellis said no.
Keith refers to an email that Ellis sent to Greenburg after that meeting. Ellis said in the email that he learned about copyright permissions at the end of the last school year and that he didn’t realize that this was something that every arranger must get. Ellis said he had arrangements that didn’t have copyrights.
Ellis said at this point he knows that wasn’t proper.
Ellis said in the email he was getting worried and he asked what the fine was for performing songs without permission. He said he would never purposefully do that but that he is worried about not getting permission for the songs.
Ellis: Like I stated at the meeting, where there was discussion about going ahead and doing the show as was the example set by other directors, he wasn’t comfortable with doing that, he wanted to get more information. “I wasn’t saying to him that I was going to do it, but I think it is important to know what the full scope of doing something is.”
Ellis said asking him what was the fee doesn’t mean he was going to do it, it was just a question.
Keith: You realize that performing songs without permission, you and the school would be in a lot of trouble.
Ellis: I was beginning to realize that. That is why I decided to postpone the show.
Keith refers to an email from Greenburg, says the fine is the last thing to worry about and it is $150,000. Says that is the last thing to worry about, it is a felony.
Keith asks if that outlined the seriousness of what they were dealing with
Ellis said he began to understand it was not in the best interest to go forward. He began to think they may need to postpone the show after that email.
Keith asked if Ellis shared that with anyone and Ellis said he did not.
The email noted a pre-approved list. Keith said you could not use that list because you had already been practicing songs and it was too late to do that?
Ellis said that is correct.
Keith asks about Stewart and Whitwell agreeing to help Ellis. Ellis said he gave them everything he had in his files.
Keith said they realized that no songs had been approved as of that date.
Ellis: They never communicated with me that no songs had been approved. They never communicated with me that I misrepresented the status. When I said I had four or five songs approved, they never said but Calvin we don’t have any. I feel like if there was disagreement they should have mentioned it to me so that I could understand where the miscommunication was.
Keith: Is it
Ellis: I didn’t say it was the parent’s responsibility. I gave the responsibility to Terri Stewart because she wanted to help. I don’t want to make excuses. My day…you can see all of these emails happened at midnight at 1 a.m. I spend all my day working with kids and there is no way I could do my job and do all that she did. I am not saying it is her responsibility but she offered to help me. Ultimately it is my responsibility because I am the director, but she was helping me. Yes it is my responsibility but I do rely heavily on parents for help.
The other teacher getting these copyright approvals had six periods during the day where she had time to get those approvals. I did not and that is why I asked for help.
Keith said that Ellis chooses his schedule and that his teaching lessons after school and his enrollment in a college course is his choice. Are you now saying your schedule was so bad you didn’t have time to do what may be the most important thing you had to do and that was to make sure this district was not in violation of copyright law.
Ellis: I am not trying to withdraw my education. I realize that this is an issue but before I realized this was an issue I had commitments for voice lessons. Said he thinks it is important to further his education because that helps students. “When this issue came to me, I already had other obligations….I needed help and if I had a fellow colleague who was willing to help and wanted to help, this burden would have been easier.
I am not taking the responsibility away from me to make sure this district is not liability. I am not saying that is not important. But in the scheduling, it is a lot to drop every detail. I did everything I could.
Keith refers to April email from Ellis to Stewart saying that he may need to put the copyright fee on the credit card. Ellis said that was just for Hal Leonard. He didn’t know then that he needed to submit by check and he was trying to think about possible expenses.
Keith refers to email from Daniel Peters about arrangement of “Ask the Lonely” and “I Drove all Night.” The email is to Peters and Atkinson saying copyright agreement had not been obtained. Keith you knew at that time that there is copyright issue in regard to arrangers I need to be aware of. This is July 13.
Ellis said yes.
Keith: After your meeting with the executive board on the 14 th , you were aware that the executive board met with Mr. Harris.
Ellis said he never knew they met with Mr. Harris. He knew Mr. Harris knew about copyright because Valerie Whitwell said she had been approached by Mr. Harris at a laptop distribution and asked her what was going on with the copyright issue. He said he had no idea the board had approached him about the copyright.
Ellis said that was Sept. 18.
Keith: Prior to Sept. 18, you had never gone to Mr. Harris about a possible copyright issue.
Ellis said he did go to Mr. Harris on Sept. 21 when he had a conference. At that point, Whitwell had told Ellis about her conversation with Harris and that she told Ellis she did not know how Harris knew about it.
Ellis said at the end of the conference, he told Harris about the problem he was having. He said that Harris acted like that was the first time he had heard about anything regarding copyright.
Keith: Are you disputing what Mr. Harris testified.
Ellis I just know there is something fishy about that story because he acted like my conference with him was the first time he knew anything about copyright. He testified the other day that the booster club came to and told him about a copyright issue and I never knew that.
Keith refers to an email from Ellis to Greenburg. Said he wanted to apologize for his second email and that he didn’t realize that Greenburg had sent cleared list. It said there was only one song on that list in his show. It said he doesn’t know what to do or how to replace the seven songs he had already practiced. Said he is about to lose his mind over this and he was truly in a mess..”
Keith: You sent that because you realized you were in a lot of trouble at that point.
Ellis I knew our show was about a month away and I didn’t know how I was going to do that.
Keith refers to an email to parents, on Sept. 29. It said they were still waiting for copyright permissions on a few songs. Keith asks how many songs Ellis had permission on at that point
Ellis: According to real meaning of approval that I didn’t find out until after I was terminated. I thought more was approved.
Keith: I am asking you as of this date, how many did you actually have.
Ellis: I understand now…I don’t know. I don’t know when they received the music with the copyright. I may not have had any but what I am trying to explain to you in my mind, I thought we had those cleared…..After I was terminated and I understood the difference between cleared and approved I understood that I didn’t have any.
Keith asks who the district looks to to make sure all songs are cleared and approved. Ellis said “me.”
Ellis said it was his idea to postpone the show, not Mr. Harris’ idea. He said he wanted the parents to know it was important to him that the principal (thought they should postpone the show. Said he thought it was important for the parents to know that the principal thought the same thing).
The email talked about the need for a meeting. Keith asked if the board decided a meeting wasn’t needed to postpone the show. Ellis said that was correct.
Ellis is referred to a letter he sent to parents. Email said they had permission on a few songs.
Keith: At that point, what evidence did you have that songs were cleared.
Ellis: Based on the fact that I had signed three contracts and I had heard at that point on two songs that we had cleared. It was a general representation of what I thought was approved.
Keith: You had told Mark Greenburg the day before there was only one song on the cleared list.
Ellis: There was also another song. I believe it was “Written in the Stars” that he told me was cleared.
Referred to email from Steve Anderson to Ellis saying that he doesn’t have permission on fire and warns that it is highly illegal and he could get in a lot of trouble.
Keith asks if Ellis ever sought advice from administration or district lawyers.
Ellis said he didn’t do that. He said he tried to work with the issue as best as he could given that he had planned his show, hired choreographers and done everything as he had in the past. The process is so extensive that it took him a lot to understand himself. True he could have gone to the administration, but that is something he did not do and he is not perfect.
Keith refers Ellis to booster club bylaws and asks if Ellis had ever read it. Ellis said, to be honest no. Said he skimmed over it.
Keith said Ellis did not read this, contract with Hal Leonard, his employment contract. Do you not read documents (related to your job?)
Ellis: Choral program is a lot from tradition. I learn from my arriving here, under my supervision. Not one revisits these. They are not brought up. I was never even given one of these by the booster club. You learn your job day to day. You assume the people in the booster club are following these and you work. I read things I need to read. I just skimmed over these, but that is the nature of what the beast is.
Keith asks if Ellis is a member of the booster club. Ellis said he understands that now in reading this, but he thought the teachers were just there to oversee it, he didn’t know he was a member.
Keith refers to constitution. It says that all officers and members shall serve the club without compensation. On the next page, at the bottom, the treasurer shall make no expenditures without a receipt.
Keith said that members come and go with their children and that Ellis is the consistency from year to year. He asked if Ellis goes to all of the meetings.
Ellis said he goes to all of the general meetings but not the board meetings.
Keith: You know now that you did not follow the procedures in regard to you being compensated by the booster club.
Ellis: I now know that but I never saw a copy of the booster bylaws (until he was fired?).
Keith: You now know expenditures required a receipt. Ellis said his weakness is keeping up with receipts.
Keith: You now know that major purchases required a majority vote.
Ellis: I now know that.
Keith: Do you believe you have a duty to follow the terms of this constitution and bylaws of the Tupelo High School choral booster club.
Ellis: I believe that.
He said the officers also have a responsibility to inform him of the booster bylaws and that had not been happening.
Keith: You don’t have a duty on your own to determine what your responsibilities are to spend booser club money?
Ellis: I have a duty, but I thought the way the booster club was operated was how I observed it. (Before 2010, he observed how it was run under Vicky Wilson). His work with the booster club was steered by his example.
Keith: In spending booster club money, it was important that you let the booster club know what you were spending, is that correct?
Ellis: AS this process is happening, I see now what that was important. (Said he wished he could go back and change that but he was operating on examples.)
Keith is referring to a February email exchange between Ellis and Stewart. Ellis refers Stewart to a bill from Anderson that he just received. Said he told Anderson that the booster books were closed but that they could pay it after July 1. Then there is an email from Stewart to Anderson the next day paying the invoice. A reply from Anderson said he was surprised to hear that she was just receiving the email because Ellis had had it for a long time. He said that whenever he spoke with Ellis about it, Ellis told him the booster books were closed.
Keith: Does that mean your email to Stewart was not accurate?
Ellis It could be looked at as not accurate. I remember not receiving or not opening that email. I can’t remember exactly. I remember in looking at it, it was not open. I must have missed it in the 60 or 70 emails I get each day.
Keith: He said he talked to you about it.
Ellis: Yes. I don’t remember that.
Ellis said that invoice put the Sound Wave group over budget.
The district presents Ellis with a new email, exhibit 79. It was written by Ellis about the need to pay an arranger, take money from another fund to do it.
Stewart sent it to other boosters.
Response from Mary Thomas, who was the secretary at the time, said they could not keep altering (the budget)
Then Ellis sent out a letter to the booster board. Keith asks Ellis is he was upset at the time.
Ellis said he was very upset.
“Mr. Keith, the difficulty in working with parent groups is that they don’t fully understand, and I think you can tell from the testimony before us they don’t fully understand the scope of the expenses and the need to change things in show choir. We are dealing with a competitive group. Sometimes songs don’t work out and some times choreography doesn’t work out…It is frustrating that I need to do what is best for the group when you have parents who don’t understand what needs to be done. All they are talking about is the dollar, the dollar, the dollar. I am not saying that isn’t important. It is. But I need some free reign to do what is important for my group….I was upset because they try to micromanage, there is no way for them to micromanage every decision I need to make for the betterment of Wave Connection or Sound Wave….I heard through the grapevine Mary Thomas was upset at the way the New York trip money was spent. I had to spend it for those kids….The micromanage everything I do that I know is best for the group. They are not the music director They are not the artistic director.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, you are spending booster club money, and don’t they have a right to question your expenditures.
Ellis: They have a right to question and they have a right to know. I’ve told them on chorography sometimes when you have 26 boys who can’t dance, sometimes it doesn’t work out. …I know they have a responsibility and an obligation, but they have to understand that their questions need to be geared in a way that still allows me to run my program and they are trying to hinder that.
Keith: You got mad because they challenged you?
Ellis: Yes I got upset they challenged the fact I needed to move the money around. I would take away from sets, I would take away from everything else, the two most important things they are judged on, music and visual….Mary Thomas said no altering, but that is what we’ve always done in show choir. She didn’t understand the necessity to alter. I was trying to inform her of that.
Ellis said that every year he has been here there have been budgetary issues in show choir because they are trying to compete against groups with there times the budget…I think we do a pretty good job given the money we spend….This is a problem that existed before I got to Tupelo. I came in here with Sound Wave and Wave Connection not having any money.
Ellis said he talked to parents about having bigger fundraisers.
Keith said you knew board didn’t reissue credit card
Ellis said that is true but they never told him why.
Keith asks Ellis about several large expenditures. $1,000 for NY trip to register, $850 for charter bus to Oxford, $2,500 for a party at Birmingham competition at Auburn high school when you told everyone you were invited to Auburn party, $10,000 plus for lighting without board
Keith: Which of those did you have board approval for?
Ellis: None, can I explain. WE do not operate like that. If we operated like that, why did the treasurer of the booster club not decide not to pay the expenditure. That is not how our booster club has run ever since I have known it. I could explain each of those expenditures and the process behind it if you like me to, but we didn’t operate like that. The booster club could have asked me to reimburse them or could have not paid it. There was not conversation with me that they disagreed.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, when they challenged you, you sent them a hot response about what is going on.
Ellis: It was, but they didn’t understand the scope of the (process?)
Keith about board approval for arranging a song
Ellis said the show choir met and they knew what (he was going to do….the arranging project).
Keith: You didn’t inform them how much you were going to charge until you submitted the bill
Ellis No. Neither did I inform the board of any arranger’s fees before I submitted a bill, ever.
Keith asks about sending students outside the PAC for punishment. When you sent them out, they ran laps around the building. Was there any adult supervision?
Ellis there was supervision at night when the ran. Sometimes I had them run at the beginning of practice and I would not go out when they did that because it was still daylight. AT night, on numerous occasions, I would stand out and count how many laps they had run.
Keith: you did allow students to wrestle on the mats without your supervision?
Ellis: Yes. Let me explain that situation. AS one of your witnesses stated before. You have all kinds of guys in this group, many of whom are athletes. I am trying to teach these guys to sing and dance, many of which have never done that before. I strongly believe you have to let these guys be who they are to get what you can get form them. These guys don’t care about show choir. They don’t care about singing and dancing. They care about having a good time. They use this tradition of wave connection fight club. They are not punching each other in the face. They are just having a good time in their breaks for the long hours that they are rehearsing. Sometimes I would be in there. Despite the testimony of the student yesterday I did not wrestle with them. Sometimes they would try to wrestle with me, but I didn’t stet out to wrestle with any student.
Keith: But you did wrestle with them
Ellis; They jumped on me but I didn’t body slam them or anything. I want you to understand this was just a tradition I wanted them to be proud of. No one got hurt. I wanted them to have fun as part of the group.
Keith asks about supervision.
Ellis said sometimes he would give them a 10 minute break while he worked with choreographer. The guys would sometimes sneak off and decide to have WCFC….I am sorry I couldn’t be in every single place at every single time .Every time they decided to have this, I wasn’t there. It wasn’t like I was letting them run wild and do whatever they want to do. They snuck away and have fun.
Keith asks about board policy not allowing teachers to tutor their students but that Ellis was given an exception tot that policy.
Ellis said yes.
Keith asked about Ellis also violating a policy that prohibited teachers from tutoring during the school day. Ellis said that he did so because the student asked him if he could begin her lessons earlier in the day because she had another school activity at 3:30. Because he was available during eight period, he agreed to do that.
Keith asked Ellis if he had any authority to alter a board policy. Ellis said he did not.
Keith: Did Mary Thomas resign her position after receiving that email from you?
Ellis said yes.
The district said that it is done with Ellis. Butts will not cross examine him because he will call him as a witness.
The district rests, subject to rebuttal witnesses. The district called 13 witnesses over 6.5 days of the hearing.
Hearing is in recess until 1:10 p.m.
David Butts will begin the defense’s case at that time.
The hearing resumed at around 1:10 p.m. David Butts is beginning his defense. The hearing opens in closed session because a student is testifying.
The hearing is now back in open session. Ramona DeSalvo is now testifying.
(NOTE, DeSalvo says later that she may have confused Alderman and Anderson at some points in her testimony. It says that later, but I wanted to be sure to also note that here, in case there are incorrect references to one or the other).
She is a copyright lawyer from Nashville. She is testifying via online video. She has been practicing for 32 years. She holds a degree in political science from Cal Berkley and attended law school at University of San Francisco before transferring to the University of Cincinnati and receiving her degree there in 1980.
She has been a trial attorney her entire career. In 1991, she decided to focus on the music industry….Is a music publisher….Since 1991, she has been focused on copyright and entertainment and she has also worked on trademark.
Butts: Have you had frequent opportunity to work with copyright?
DeSalvo: Absolutely, on a significant number of cases….She said she was involved on the single largest copyright infringement case in United States history.
She was also involved in Napster litigation…..several other high-profile cases….
She teaches intellectual property law and entertainment law at the Nashville School of Law. ...
She also speaks to music educators. Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association. And the Collegiate Music Educational National Conference. She teaches copyright basics to music educators.
Butts asks if she has had an occasion to advise schools and institution on copyright matters. DeSalvo said she has and also outlines that work.
DeSalvo said that she has mostly prosecuted infringers. She represents copyright owners.
She said she calls herself a copyright nerd and that she has been labeled as militant about copyright.
She said that she has often lent advice to attorneys litigating copyright issues and has consulted about copyright ownership issues.
Butts: Are you familiar with copyright law as it may apply to performance of songs in an educational setting, such as high school show choirs?
She said yes. She said is also familiar with how it applies to bands and choruses.
Butts: I believe from your testimony you state you are familiar with application of copyright law not just to universities but also to high schools?
DeSalvo said yes and also public elementary, middle and high schools.
She said that she attended the first two days of the hearing in December and heard testimony of the superintendent, which was quite lengthy. She said she also heard Mr. Greenburg. She said she also heard Terri Stewart.
Butts, from listening to Mr. Greenburg, what business is he in?
DeSalvo said it is her understanding he is doing a licensing. That he was working in an academic setting in licensing music. It sounded like his experience was more related to bands and musical performances and not to show choirs.
Butts asked DeSalvo if she had reviewed TPSD policies regarding copyright, that David Meadows referred to in his testimony.
DeSalvo, I am not sure if I would call it a copyright policy. There was an electronic use policy. I did review it. There was a use policy that people were required to sign. There were four policies referred to in his testimony that were said to be copyright policies but did not seem to apply….The policy said you have to obey the law but it doesn’t saw what the law is.
She refers to IJND.R1
In section 1A, it says transmission of any material in violation of federal law or agency guidelines is prohibited. Includes copyright material….She said that covers transmitting copyright material, she would imagine by email and over the internet.
She is referring to another policy, authorized use of school-owned equipment.
DeSalvo said that in the third paragraph from the bottom, it references the district purchasing software for computers. That you need a license and if someone needed a copy, they needed to contact the owner of the software.
She said those were the only two references to copyright. She also reviewed two other polices. Both called “Responsible Access and use.”
DeSalvo said those addresses use of the Internet and email and webpage. It involved transmission of information and said you should transmit resources in an ethical and legal way in compliance with the law.
She said it would be more helpful to know what the law was instead of to say follow the law because, she said, most people already know to follow the law.
Butts: What is your opinion concerning the adequacy of the Tupelo Public School District copyright policy.
Keith objects. Said it presumes that this was ever intended to be a copyright policy and that this is a misrepresentation by Butts.
Butts: During Mr. Meadows’ testimony he asked what copyright policies had been put in place and he mentioned the policies to which DeSalvo referred.
Keith said these were policies that had references to copyright but that he never referred to them as copyright policies.
Butts: If there is a copyright policy of the Tupelo Public School District, we have not found it and it has not been produced.
Keith: We don’t need to have a policy that you can’t violate copyright. We don’t need to have a policy that you can’t speed in a school vehicle.
Compton overrules the objection.
Butts repeats his question, asking DeSalvo’s opinion of Tupelo’s copyright policies.
DeSavlo: My reflection from Mr. Meadow’s testimony. When you inquired what the policies were, he directed you to these, which is why I reviewed them. These are not copyright policies. If they are intended to be copyright polices (they don’t educate anyone on anything other that follow the law) In a specialized area of the law such as copyright it is something people need to be taught, it is not something you can just learn from your moral compass.. I think people generally know not to illegally download music but as far as copyright in an academic setting, it needs to be spelled out a good bit more clearly.
Butts asks DeSalvo about Ellis’ training on copyright law and his understanding of polices. Keith objects because she didn’t hear Ellis’ testimony. Butts said she can rely on conferences with Mr. Ellis. He said experts routinely rely on hearsay evidence.
Butts: If he is going to rely on her expert testimony, she has to give us what she has relied upon as her basis.
Compton sustains to the fact that she has not been tendered as an expert to this point.
Butts said he will tender her as an expert in copyright law at this moment.
Keith said his objection is that Butts has to provide the basis to which she is an expert. Said Butts is not following all of the rules of an expert witness.
Compton said she will have to give the basis of his opinion.
Compton said she can answer the question if she has talked with Mr. Ellis.
Butts: Ms. DeSalvo, did you consult with Mr. Ellis about his practices and how he handled his job at Tupelo High School.
She said yes.
She said she met with Mr. Ellis in person when she was here in December. She also met with Ellis and Butts at Butts’ office. She also heard the superintendent’s testimony, mentions several things Meadows referred to in his testimony. She said she asked Mr. Ellis several questions about the nature of the performances. She said there are six aspects to copyright and one is performance so she asked Mr. Ellis about the nature of performances. She also asked Ellis about how he had conducted the show choir prior to 2011 when an issue came up with an arranger. She spent an hour and a half this week talking to Butts and Ellis so she would have a factual basis of what transpired. She considered there to be a before Hal Leonard and an after Hal Leonard. She also wrote down the song titles that were mentioned in the hearing and found that all of them were (I think she said they were for public use. I didn’t fully get that).
Butts: What was your opinion on how Mr. Ellis
He selected the music the students were going to perform and there choreography done with it. He understood the performances were covers of different songs which are expert from public performance licensing for non-profit educational institutions.
My understanding was that he believed he was covered by an exemption as an educator. What prompted him to look at things more closely was when he got an email from Hal Leonard that an arranger needed to get a license for a musical composition. Before that no arranger had (requested him to get permission).
She said from what she saw, he exercised his best efforts to get information from people he thought were knowledgeable such as Mr. Alderman and Mr. Greenburg. She said Mr. Greenburg gave him a lot of erroneous information.
DeSalvo asked Ellis about his experience and what he had been taught about copyright law. He said he hadn’t been taught about it and that he wasn’t given any information from his principal, his school district or his superintendent that he needed to get copyright.
Butts asks DeSalvo if she has information that Mr. Ellis infringed any copyright laws when he got songs arranged before 2011.
Keith objects, overrules.
DeSalvo said her understanding was that he talked to arrangers and asked them to arrange a song.
Her opinion on that, the law is complicated so she wants to explain….unless there is a written agreement signed by both parties as work for hire, there is nothing where Mr. Ellis was in infringement. If the arranger arranges the song and didn’t secure permission, the arranger committed the infringement not Mr. Ellis. Arrangements are negotiated.
Say I am a owner of a copyright and an arranger comes to me wanting to make an arrangement.
Most publishers want to make money so they agree and they say you can make me an arrangement and you need to pay me so much money. She said the person who does the arrangement is the infringer.
She said in the case where it is done properly, where there is a written agreement, in the school setting it is a little different because there are people out there who make the school the licensee. It is called a work for hire arrangement. When an arranger makes an arrangement without an agreement, he is the author. But if you have an entity like a school who is paying for it and there is a written agreement, the school is the author. To qualify as a work for hire, there has to be a written agreement signed by both parties. In the cases where there is no written agreement with the school and the arranger has not gotten permission from the publisher, it is the arranger who has infringed. Not the school and not Mr. Ellis.
Butts: Do you have an opinion whether Calvin Ellis should have applied for copyright permission for the songs used in his shows before 2011.
Keith objects saying that whether he should have or shouldn’t have was related to his job duties, not a legal question.
Butts rewords asking whether he was required by the law to apply for copyright permissions.
DeSalvo said the arranger would have been required to do that because the arranger was the (one doing the arrangement without a written agreement).
Butts refers to spring of 2011 and a series of emails between Ellis and Hal Leonard, Mark Greenburg, Steve Anderson, etc. He refers to a series of exhibits and asks DeSalvo to describe what was going on.
DeSavlo said most music publishers are not in the business of suing people and that they would rather license the work. It might be a technical violation of the law if you make an arrangement and don’t have a copyright (but most companies won’t law and file a lawsuit, they will notify an arranger).
Butts refers to July 13 email from Daniel Peters of Hal Leonard to Ellis and Atkinson. It said that Alderman made an arrangement of two songs and permission was not obtained. Assuming there was no contract for hire, who was responsible for getting permission for those two songs?
DeSalvo: David Alderman. The arranger.
DeSalvo said it happens commonly with arrangers. They don’t contact the publisher.
Butts: What is your experience in the way these arrangers work…
Keith objects, saying what goes on in the industry is irrelevant to what went on in this district, whether arrangers were asked to secure proper permission.
Butts asks what is her experience about diligence of arrangers in securing copyright permissions prior to 2011. Keith said that is over broad and vague and doesn’t have anything to do with this particular case.
DeSalvo said there are professional music arrangers in Hollywood who that is what they do fulltime. There are two ways works can be work for hire. An employer employee relationship. The second way is a special commissioned work. The hiring party can be the author by entering into a written agreement by both parties. There must be a written agreement by both parties. When it comes to schools in particular, at all levels of education, my experience has been that arrangers and especially people in school districts don’t have information about copyright law. Arrangers arranger often without written agreements, there is a small fee….the question is when do publishers find out about it….the music is now looking at people they never looked at before…There has been a change in the philosophy (Because revenue has gone down so much lately, that music companies are looking for new sources of revenue).
Do you really want to sue a school district? School districts don’t have a lot of money and it is bad PR for a publishing company to go after a church, a school district, the girl scouts. Now that there has been a loss of revenue from (more piracy, publishing companies are going after sources of revenue they didn’t go after before).
Butts: Refers to July 13, 2011 email from Daniel Peters, which raises the subject of an infringement by Mr. Alderman in 2009. Refers to exhibit 5, an email from Ellis to Alderman.
The last two sentences of the first paragraph, Butts said, are Alderman telling Ellis he thinks they are in the clear.
DeSalvo said that sounds to her that Alderman was going to cover the expense.
Butts: when he states all I need to do now is pay them and Tupelo will be cleared, what did Tupelo need to be cleared of?
DeSalvo if he paid the licensing fee, then they would be able to use the arrangement. Hal Leonard would be the owner of the new arrangement and then they license it for use. She said it would only be for Tupelo.
Butts: Was there any liability on the part of the Tupelo Public School District?
By Mr. Alderman, no. There is statutory liability and the person who does the arrangement is the direct infringement. There is also secondary responsibility (which arises out of case law). A third party, such as the school district, can be responsible for the liability of another party. (Said there is contributory infringement….said for the school district to be liable they would have to know that Alderman was infringement and would have had to be privy by participating…A secondary means, is called vicarious liability...
The second kind of liability would be if the school district had a direct financial benefit by what Mr. Alderman did and the school district would have the right and ability to supervise Mr. Alderman. I don’t think any of those facts apply. He wasn’t their employee, he wasn’t under their control and the school district didn’t make any money off Mr. Alderman.
Butts asks about show choir admission fee.
DeSalvo said that is different. She said an arrangement is a different infringement than a performance.
Butts when you said a profit I thought you might be referring to whether they made a profit off their shows.
DeSalvo said if admission is charges it refers to a public performance. It would have to be a public performance and then there is a question whether a performance is exempt. There is a section that exempts non-profit educational institutions from public performance. It is exempt if there is no admission cost or if the admission cost is used for the production of the show and the money left over is used for educational purposes.
The performance of the song would be exempt from licensing so there is no infringement there.
Butts: Do you have an opinion whether Calvin Ellis exposed the school district to liability before 2011.
Keith objects, overruled by Compton.
DeSalvo: I don’t have the facts that he exposed the school district to any liability since he did not infringer. Since he is an employee of the district he would have had to directly infringe and the school district would have had to participate in it.
Butts: Are you aware Mr. Ellis arranged in some arranging?
Said Mr. Ellis did some arranging and was paid by booster club
DeSalvo said an arrangement is a derivative work and if someone created an arrangement, he would have had to have permission to create that derivative work.
Butts: assuming those facts to be true, what would be the liability for the Tupelo Public School District for his arrangement?
DeSalvo: I understand the arrangement was paid for by the booster club which was a separate organization from the Tupelo Public School District, those were funds raised by parents. That comes back to secondary liability….Based on facts I know, school district didn’t do any of these things.
I do want to say though, I heard some reference of significant liability to the school district and I’d like to clarify that. In my opinion, even if Mr. Ellis had created an unauthorized derivative work, he did so innocently. He thought he was doing a cover of a work….First thing a copyright owner would do is to enter in an agreement and have Mr. Ellis pay a fee. Most arrangements are done for a couple of hundred dollars. A company isn’t going to sue over $250. However if you have a militant publisher, the law allows them to go after their damages. The damages would be the amount of the arrangement $250. The law allows (for statutory damages for innocent (or unknowing)copyright between (I think she said) $750 and $30,000. It goes up if you know what you are doing). (In statutory damages, plaintiffs can elect actual damages or statutory damages…..in statutory damages, if the arranger didn’t know what they are doing, it is the discretion of the court to reduce to $200 if the court finds the arranger was not aware).
In my discussions with Mr. Ellis, he said he didn’t know until this one man (informed him. He believed he was performing cover versions of a song for which there is no infringement).
Butts asks about Greenburg’s references of a felony and going to jail.
DeSalvo They are completely wrong. I was shocked when he wrote it in an email and even more when he testified in December. It is absolutely untrue. There are no fines in civil (copyright infringement). There is criminal copyright infringement. (She said that what Ellis did would not fall until any criminal copyright law. Not a felony. Might fall on low end of civil infringement).
There are three things that constitute criminal copyright infringement. He would have to do it for personal gain. He would have to reproduce and distribute music, record the music and put it out in the market place (would have to sell multiple copies for retail value of at least $1,000). Third (refers to case with M&M where someone would steal copy of music before publicly distributed) deals with distributing a work being prepared for commercial distribution.
She said Greenburg’s statement that you can get five years is false. You can get five years (if you put it out there, but there is a dollar amount (I think she said $2,500).
Butts asks DeSalvo her impression of Greenburg’s testimony regarding copyright law.
DeSalvo said he had some knowledge of copyright but knowledge of copyright is different than knowledge of copyright law. Said people in publishing generally know about copyright but usually go to a lawyer with those questions.
She said most people who work in Nashville know that would not be criminal copyright infringement.
Now Butts is asking about 2011. Asks if she is familiar with the fact that an arranger, Steve Anderson requested copyright permissions on the songs he was going to arranger.
Butts asks, with respect to exhibit 24, is it her understanding that Mr. Anderson requested Mr. Ellis to obtain copyright permission for that song.
DeSalvo said, excuse me if I have confused Alderman and Anderson in her testimony.
Butts: I’d like for you to assume if you don’t know that Mr. Ellis had a show choir performance in October of 2011 and he had been working with other arrangers for that show.
Butts: With respect to the songs that arrangers had not requested Mr. Ellis to get copyright permissions was it Mr. Ellis’ obligation to get those permissions?
DeSalvo: That would have been the arranger’s obligation.
It wasn’t that he didn’t need to do anything. The arranger needed it initiate it and it needed to be completed to be an authorized derivative work. Because the arranger did not transfer the authorship to the school district, (it would have remained the arranger’s responsibility).
DeSalvo in the absence of any written agreement for Mr. Ellis to take on those responsibilities, that responsibility lays with the arranger and not Mr. Ellis.
Butts: Did you understand what Mr. Ellis thought he had to do in respect to these songs?
DeSalvo: Prior to the email from Mr. Anderson he thought he could perform the songs.
Butts: After the email from Mr.Anderson, do you know what Mr. Ellis thought was his responsibility for the other arrangers.
DeSalvo: Mr. Ellis got scared because he was now told he had to do something. I saw the communication he had with Mr. Greenburg, someone he thought was knowledgeable to help him email what he needed to do….I understood for the show coming up in October, he was making every effort he could to get the songs ready for the show.
Butts: Even though he didn’t have to for the songs where the arrangers hadn’t said anything about getting permissions.
DeSalvo said that would have been more cautious (to try to get them for those songs).
DeSalvo said the documents that Mr. Anderson had him sign is not how everyone does it. You don’t have to do it this way. Licenses are privately negotiated and they can be done any way. You can just do one line in writing say make an arrangement. It doesn’t have to be for money.
Hearing takes a 10 minute break at 3:27 p.m.
Hearing resumes. DeSalvo is directed to an exhibit with licenses from Cherry Lane Music Company and from Hal Leonard. Ellis signed them on Sept. 6. They don’t have the counter signature from Hal Leonard or from Cherry Lane but Butts said since payment was paid, assume all necessary documentation was completed within about a week.
Butts said say Mr. Ellis had planned for 15 songs to be performed by Wave Connection at the their upcoming October show. On the other 11 songs being arranged by other arrangers, Mr. Anderson was to arrange four songs, but he had 15 songs in his show, assume the other arrangers had not asked for permission. Do you see any legal impediment why Mr. Ellis could not have gone forward with his show on Oct. 22.
DeSalvo said no. She said they could have been publicly performed. The better route would be to know the arranger had permission but it was the arranger’s responsibility, not Mr. Ellis.
“That show could have gone on.”
Butts: At any time during 2011, do you have an opinion whether Mr. Ellis exposed the Tupelo Public School District
DeSalvo said she has an opinion that there was no exposure to the Tupelo Public School District for copyright infringement. She said there would have had to be an act of direct infringement by someone in the school district.
Butts is asking about how governing bodies of institutional education deal with compliance. Keith objects, saying that the question is overly broad and vague. Butts said he is asking about how school districts learn about copyright law, develop policies and train employees. Said it is a general question to establish her expertise. Question is related to high schools.
DeSalvo said her experience has been in high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, that group of teachers does not know much about copyright as a general rule.
She knows that from conferences she attends where she is either educating teachers or in the audience when they are being educated about it. She said her experience has been in high school, elementary and middle school that there is an assumption among a lot of teachers that because they are using copyrighted materials for educational purposes it constitutes fair use. Just because you are a non profit, it doesn’t make every use of copyrighted material fair use. That is the biggest misconception. She said there are professional organizations that focus on educating music educators.
She said that association of school boards has an awesome responsibility because it has to cover a lot of areas of law, including copyright.
She said those organizations have conferences to educate teachers because it seems like on a broad scale, the teachers are woefully uninformed, they are not trained in copyright and they have to rely on their employers to provide information to them. It is a funny phrase, but you don’t know what you don’t know.
She said something very common is teachers photocopy sheet music. They are spending their own money because districts don’t have it in their budget. That is copyright infringement. She hears from teacher after teacher that is fair use. There are exceptions, like an emergency copy. The goal of copyright in education is schools are not exempt, except in some situations like pubic performances (said there are so many complexities in the law, the average educator doesn’t know it unless they study it and they don’t know they need to study it).
Butts: Do you deal with administrators?
She said yes.
Butts asks if he deals with boards of trustees or school boards and DeSalvo said yes.
Butts asks if she is familiar with the ways and means those boards develop copyright procedures. DeSalvo said yes.
Butts asks again whose responsibility is it. Keith objects that she does not know whose responsibility it is. Compton sustains.
Butts: You have reviewed all adequate policies of Tupelo Public School District that pertain or may pertain or mention copyright?
DeSalvo: Yes, as I understood from the superintendent, those were (the policies of the district)
Butts: Does the Tupelo School District have in place an adequate copyright compliance policy?
Butts: In your opinion, is it Calvin Ellis’ obligation as a music teacher to develop an adequate copyright policy.
Keith objects, saying that she has not read Ellis’ job description. Compton sustains.
Question is who is responsible of developing the policies of a school district.
Keith objects. As an expert, she needs to have a foundation for her answer.
DeSalvo answers the school board.
Butts: I’d like for you to assume Tupelo Public School District School Board has five members who are not attorneys and are not experts in copyright law. Who would be responsible for guiding them in developing a policy.
Keith objects again. Compton asks why it matters who helps them develop a policy.
Butts said he is trying to establish how a board as lay people would develop a policy. Keith said that question is too broad and that she hasn’t worked with any board.
Butts asks if she has worked with any school boards
DeSavlo said not in Mississippi. She said that Meadows in his testimony said he had no information about copyright law and that he relied on counsel to the school board (to guide him).
She said she there is also the national association of school boards.
Butts tenders the witness.
Keith: Are you aware it is not called the national association of school boards, it is the national school board association. I want to make sure we are talking about the same entity.
DeSalvo said she is. DeSalvo asks if she is a member of the National School Board Association or if she has attended its conferences. DeSalvo said she is not a member. She has been invited to conferences but has not attended.
Keith is asking about DeSalvo’s resume. Asks where she was from 2008 until 2011. DeSalvo said she maintained a transactional practice working for herself while she taught full time.
Keith said resume is missing page 5, asks if there is something they are not seeing or if it is an omission. Butts said it was a copying error.
DeSalvo said she was first contacted about this matter on Nov. 30, 2011. Butts contacted her and asked her about her experience on copyright involving music educators and advised her he had an employee terminated for violating copyright law. DeSalvo said she has not rendered a written opinion.
Keith asks if she had rendered (any written report). DeSalvo said she hadn’t.
Keith asks whether DeSalvo had been given any previous opinions Mr. Butts or Mr. Ellis had obtained regarding this issue and the claims against Mr. Ellis?
provided any other written opinions about Mr. Ellis’ case. Butts objects.
DeSalvo said that other than the superintendent’s claim, no.
Keith asks about what DeSalvo has in front of her that has been the basis of her decision today. Asks about what documents she has in front of her. He said he also wants to know every piece of paper she has reviewed to give the statements she made today.
She said she reviewed the testimony and exhibits 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 33, 34, 50, 51, 55, 56, 59, 65, 66, 24, 25, 29, 30, She quotes sections of law she reviewed, I believe this is copyright law. She reviewed several websites (ASCAP and BMI, SESAC, most publishers are affiliated with those and all of their music is available for licensing). She looked for all titles Mr. Ellis had used in his last show and found all of those songs were registered through either BMI or ASCAP. Researched if there were specific licenses for high schools, elementary schools or middle schools. Said there aren’t any because they are exempt. She did research of licenses to see if they could be applied to show choir but she couldn’t find any. She only found one case in 100 years of a show choir being sued for copyright infringement. It was a university and it was found to be not guilty because they couldn’t establish secondary liability.
Keith: If you looked at lawsuits, you don’t know if there have been any settlements that did not result in a lawsuit.
DeSalvo: No, I’m sure you couldn’t know that either. No one knows that.
Keith: Because people solve those to stay out of court and have to pay lawyers
DeSalvo: Also because publisher just wants to license their work, they don’t want to sue people.
Keith said they will also sue to send a message. DeSalvo (yes, if repeat offender)
DeSalvo said she also reviewed MTAA.org. She also looked at National School Board ASsocation website.
DeSalvo mentions several articles she read that she got from the National School Board Association to see what was available for school boards.
She also reviewed the blog of the Daily Journal reporter. Said she found it to be fairly accurate so she read it for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Said she reviewed a contract from Hal Leonard. Keith and Stimpson said they don’t have it and Butts said he doesn’t have it either.
Date is July 12, 2011. From Hal Leonard corporation.
They are trying to figure out what document she is referring to. They said it hadn’t been entered as a document. Butts said it should be in Mr. Ellis’ email in the school and that the district has access to that and he doesn’t. Butts said he got it from David Alderman.
Ellis is not emailing the document on his iPhone to Kelly Stimpson. An interesting moment, somewhat unorthodox.
Hearing takes a three minute break at 4:43 p.m. waiting on receipt of the email.
Hearing will recess until 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning with DeSalvo still on the stand.
I will add updates to the bottom. Last update was at 5:12 p.m.
Day six of the Calvin Ellis hearing has began. The hearing is now in its third different calendar month.
The first witness is in closed session. I do not know whom it is but the person is testifying via Internet video.
The hearing is about to be back in open session. The computer has been rolled back from the witness stand so that it appears whomever had just testified has completed his or her testimony entirely in closed session. Closed session is uesd when witnesses need to use the names of students.
A new witness is being sworn in.
Jenni Hilbun. Has one child in show choir. I appologize if spelling is incorrect, I will check it as soon as I can. She said that she received a subpoena to tesity.
Hilbun said she attended the Birmingham trip as a parent and not as a chaperone. She said that the reason she was not a chaperone but that Ellis informed her that she was never to be a chaperone within his program.
Lawyers are having a discussion now.
Hilbun said Mr. Ellis has previously informed her she was to appear around his program as a parent volunteer ever.
She said she was informed of that during the summer before her child’s senior year, summer of 2010. Stimpson said they will come back to that during closed session.
Her child was a member of Wave Connection at that time.
Stimpson asks Hilbun why she went to Birmingham
Hilbun: It was my feeling that the trip was very loosely supervised. Part of the reason I went was to make sure my child was tended to and was not jeopardized for her safety, make sure she has food when she needed food and make sure she was taken care of. I also wanted to see her perform.
Hilbun:”I just had trouble trusting Mr. Ellis. “ Stimpson said they will talk about that more in closed session.
Stimpson asks Hilbun about the students' venture to the mall, and Hilbun said she can not discuss that without using student names.
Hearing goes into closed session again at 10:09 a.m.
Hearing is back in open session. Hilbun is testifying about her frustration that there was no administrator on the trip to Birmingham, a violation of district policy. She was also concerned that there was no staff member on the bus on the way back from Alabama. She said that was an unneccessary risk.
Hilbun said that she spoke with then Tupelo High principal Lee Stratton about it about a week after the trip. She also called then Superintendent Randy Shaver about it and also spoke with Billy Crews about it. Crews was then serving as the district's chief operating officer.
She said Crews is the one who returned her call. She stated her concerns that there was no administrator in the trip, that students were left at the mall and that there was no staff member on the bus trip home.
Hilbun said that she asked whose child needed to get hurt before something was done about it. She said she didn't speak with Ellis about a 40-minute conversation with him "where he clearly let me know he didn't want me around."
Hilbun is directed to exhibit 73, a show choir intent form. She said that she has seen it before. She is reading a bullet point about the total cost is $650 to be paid in full by Aug. 31. It says students that don’t meet that commitment will be dismissed from the group. The second page is a show choir policy agreement indicating that you’ve read and agree with the show choir intent form.
Hearing takes a break. When it opens back up, Butts will begin his cross examination in closed session.
Hilbun just finished her testimony. The hearing is in another break.
Hearing resumed around 11:20. District calls Calvin Ellis as a witness.
Ellis said he was director of choral acitivities and show choir director. His contract said choral director and his supplement said that he was over show choir.
He said he was over Wave Connection, Sound Wave, varsity choir (and another group) for the 2010-11 school year. He also led Madrigals that year.
He said he was not in charge of Sound Wave for the 11-12 school year.
Keith asks about Alabama trip. Ellis said he did not have an administrator accompanying him on the trip.
Keith asks Ellis about Atkinson not coming back to Tupelo with the show choir.
Ellis said he did not know that Atkinson was not coming back to Tupelo.
Ellis: "It has been the practice for all of the directors to go down to the competition together. There have been many competitions prior to me coming to Tupelo where one of directors, their spouse would come to the competition and stay the night, and the students would come back with a chaperone".
Keith: Debra Atkinson met with you on the Tuesday before to determine the responsibilities for someone coming back to ride with Sound Wave. You told her you would not be requiring her to do that.
Ellis said the conversation was not her ride home. It was about her duties while she was there.
Ellis: “I said you were going to be with Sound Wave and monitor Sound Wave. At that time I thought we would be in finals” (And she would accompany Wave Connection) Ellis said he did not know anything then about Atkinson riding with her husband.
Ellis said the conversation about the bus ride home happened in Birmginahm. He said he released her because she had made those plans (with her husband). He said she could ride home with her husband because he knew there was a chaperone, he discussed with Lee Anne that she would be riding with the students. Baseed on his past expereicne he thought that would be OK (Because chaperones had rode on the bus back with students before).
Ellis: “I do remember telling Ms. Atkinson you could keep the plans you had made and Lee Anne and I would work it out.
Keith: But Ms. Atkinson told you then that she could change her plans.
Ellis: Out of the kindness of my heart I told her she could go ahead with her plans.
Keith: You had responsibility to those girls and you turned over responsibility to a parent.
Ellis said yes, a parent he could trust.
Butts objects, noting that Webb wasn't just a parent volunteer but was an approved chapperone.
Keith: Webb is a chapperone but you have no authority to turn over supervisory responsibilities to her.
Ellis said he realizes that now but at the time he did not know he didnt have that authority.
Keith asks Ellis about him not being present when the buses were being loaded for the return from Birmingham.
Ellis said he was present. Ellis said you have to understand the scope of what is going on. He is in different places when stuff is happening, that is why there are chaperones there.
Keith asked about testimony that said Ellis was at Buffalo Wild Wings when buses were loaded.
Ellis said he traveled to Buffalo Wild Wings with the Wave Connection.
Keith refers to Webb’s testimony that Ellis was at the restaurant at the time. Ellis said Webb was mistaken on that point. Ellis said the three buses were not together. The Wave Connection bus was in a different place than the Sound Wave and Structure buses. He gave the responsibility to Lee Anne Webb to be with those buses as they loaded.
Keith asks about the permission forms and medical forms. Ellis said that before he left he asked Atkinson to pull out the Sound Wave forms and he left that responsibility to her. “If she needed to give that to Lee Anne Webb, I would expect her to do that.”
Keith: You left the responsibility to Ms. Atkinson who would not be on bus without any follow up on your point?"
Ellis: I am sorry. I am not perfect. That day was hectic. I did not follow up to make sure she received those forms.
Ellis said he did know Sound Wave bus got off fine. He called Webb to check. Structure bus was left because there are so many groups that it takes a large amount of time to get all of the kids off. The Wave Connection kids were hungry and Ms. Bullock was with Structure and sound crew so Wave Connection and Ellis went to Buffalo Wild Wings. They brought food back to the hotel (I didn't catch whom the food was for. I think Ellis meant that it was for the Structure and sound crew kids)
Ellis said Ms. Bullock was with Structure and Sound Crew
Keith is asking about the trip to the mall. Ellis said it was on the itinerary for the students to eat at the school in the cafeteria.
Ellis: When Lee Anne asked me if they could take kids to the mall, I said sure. They could eat here (at the school) that is where they are supposed to eat, but a lot of kids said they didn’t like the food there and Lee Anne was a trustworthy parent so I let her go.
Ellis said he first found out about the incident at the mall when he got his termination letter.
Keith: You never found out about any supervision issues that came up on that trip? You heard Ms. Hilbun testify that she saw Mr. Stratton and Dr. Shaver and she got a call from Billy Crews. Are you telling me that no one in administration talked to you about it?
Ellis: The only issue discussed with me was that there was no teacher on (the bus ride home). Said there was no discussion about anything at the mall. Lee Stratton talked to him about it the following week (following their return). That was when he found out that it was against policy (that no staff member was on the bus ride back).
Hearing goes into closed session at 11:40 for discussion of student issues.
Hearing breaks for lunch. It will resume at 1:15 p.m., but it will still be in closed session when it resumes.
Hearing is back in open session at 1:23 p.m. It remained in closed session for about eight minutes following lunch.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, you testified before lunch that the first time you ahd heard about the mall incident was when you got your termination letter, only thing you had known about supervision issues was about there being no staff member on the bus (Back to Tupelo).
Keith hands Ellis a two-page document, exhibit 74.
It is an email between Ellis and Lee Stratton. March 28, 2011, 5:44 p.m. Directed to Lee Stratton and signed by Calvin.
Keith: First sentence said I am wanting to email parents to mention proper protocol for supervision. It said accusations about the mall have gotten me (unsettled?)
Keith: That you
Ellis: Not exactly. That was not the only mall that was visited. When we went to Birmingham we went to, I forgot the name of the mall, it was the large one where the Cheesecake factory. That was the only mall I went to.. When Mr. Stratton came to me (and talked about accusations of not supervising at the mall, I thought he meant that one. Ellis said he did not now Stratton was referring to the incident involving the Sound Wave girls).
Keith: Did Mr. Stratton mention to you that he was talking about anything other than the mall that the Sound Wave girls visited.
Ellis: He just said they were unsupervised at the mall. Ellis said he thought they meant the other mall not the one with Sound Wave.
Keith: Someone had told you about supervision issue at the mall. Who called you and told you about the fact there was a mall supervision issue?
Ellis: I don’t remember.
Keith: Let’s go to next page. Do you recognize that document?
Ellis said it is the letter that was given to him about the knowledge of that trip.
Keith refers to last graph saying that a school member must always be present. Further incidents of that could result in more serious action being taken.
Keith asks Ellis if he knew then about the need for staff members to be present.
Ellis said as of March 31, yes. “I want it to be known that prior to that date, where he was talking about a school official being on the bus, I would like it to be stated for the record that in many of the field trips that choir participates in and many other groups participate in there has been no proper training for me to know this or anyone else to know there. There was never any training that I was sat down and given field trip policy. At no point on the form we are given to fill out does it state that we are to have an administrator go on the trip or have all staff members. Administrators never went on any trips before I became directors. There have been plenty of examples when we went to Petal where my supervisor would stay overnight with her husband and we sent the girls back on the bus. If I was given any opportunity to implement this I would have done that.
Ellis also said he did not know about the incident involving the Sound Wave girls at the mall in Alabama until his termination.
Keith: Mr. Ellis are you testifying that even though you have taken students on many out of town field trips, you have never read the board policy on out of town field trips?
Keith: You expect someone to feed it to you?
Ellis: I know I am a teacher and I have responsibility. When I came coming to a job where the program is (so large). I was hired as assistant director. The new teacher meetings are to get excited about Tupelo but they don’t explain to you what you need to know for your particular job.
Keith: Mr. Ellis you are not a new teacher, are you?
Ellis: I have been in this district many years.
Ellis said he has not read the full policy on taking field trips.
Keith: What part did you read?
Ellis: After all of this occurred with MR. Stratton I think I have seen one part. I went back to check what the policy actually stated. I saw about the administrator for over night trips. I don’t remember everything else that was talked about
Keith: (After talking to Mr. Stratton) you went and read parts of the policy.
Ellis said he doesn’t remember going to the website.
Keith, as of that date in March, you knew of the policy. Ellis said yes.
Ellis is given several documents. Keith said they pertain to a trip the group was going to make to New York in 2010. The second page is an excursion request form. Keith said it talks about who is requesting it, the dates, the number of chaperones, staff chaperones, administrators.
Keith: Were you aware when that trip was being planned there needed to be a certain number of staff persons and administrators?
Ellis: I didn’t know anything about administrators. I knew from my example there needed to be a certain number of staff members.
Keith refers to where Ellis wrote for number of administrators, “1 hopefully.”
Keith is referring to an email Ellis sent to Dr. Fred Hill on assistant superintendent. It indicates that the trip had been cancelled.
Keith refers Ellis to a January email that notifies parents that the trip had been cancelled.
Keith asked if Ellis continued to fund raise after the trip had been cancelled. Ellis said he did.
Keith is there any reason why you waited until January to inform parents the trip had been cancelled?
Ellis: When we decided we did not have the money to take the trip, I informed the trip company that we were not able to attend for money reasons. Said that trip company was going to offer to assist Ellis to find ways to make it cheaper for the students.
“So I continued with the fund raising efforts because they had already been scheduled and I wanted to see how they were going to help us and I wanted to go back to Mr. Stratton to see if we could go now that it was cheaper.”
Keith said he didn’t inform the advisory board or Dr. Hill. Ellis said the day he emailed Hill was the day after the advisory board told him that they couldn’t go. He spoke later to the trip company and found out there was still a chance to go. He spoke to board member Tracy Hudson about it.
Keith said that Hudson was just one board member and that the rest of the board and the Tupelo administration did not know about Ellis’ efforts to continue.
This trip was going to be an amazing experience for these students. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure their whole year would not be crushed. That is why I went to this person. I wanted to get all of the information so I could present it to the board so they could make this decision with me. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky. Then I went to Mr. Stratton and he said we were not going to revisit that.
Keith asks if Ellis continued to work toward the trip without alerting his board.
Ellis: I am the artistic director. I need to oversee a lot of things. I wanted to be able to come back and say we decided we didn’t have the money this may help us. I’m sorry I didn’t go back to the board but I was highly frustrated with some members of the board. It seemed like every time we had a board meeting, it seemed like the trip costs were increasing. These were unnecessary expenses they kept adding on. I felt like there were a group of parents that did not want the trip to happen and a group that wanted the trip to happen….There was some frustration with the board because I felt like some members of the board didn’t want it to happen because they were adding on these frivolous things we didn’t really need.
Keith: Mr. Ellis this was the board you had put together to watch the expenditures of the show choir because of the problems the year before, you handpicked the people on the board. Now you are saying you had problems with that board.
Ellis: I did have problems with that board.
Keith: Which members did you have ill feelings toward.
Ellis: I didn’t have ill feelings. I felt like Louis Holmes was getting a lot of pressure from parents in the community. I felt like he was siding toward pressure he was getting from other parents and not looking objectively to the actual cost of the trip. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I felt like it kept adding up. It seemed like it wasn’t necessarily right.
Keith: Any other board members who felt the same way?
Ellis said Terri Stewart. HE said there were other board members who didn’t feel like it was a good decision to go financially but even those members were like why are we continuing to add on to the cost.
Ellis said there were eight members on the board. Said he didn’t know what the vote was to cancel the trip.
Keith asked Ellis about him leaving immediately after the vote. Ellis said he did so because he was in rehearsal. “I was disappointed. I wanted the trips to go on the trip. I wanted them to experience the opportunity. I was upset but I was mad and didn’t throw anything.”
Keith asks Ellis about the Petal incident he asks Ellis if it was true that Tupelo never went back to Petal. Ellis said it is not a fair statement because he never wanted to return to Petal.
Keith asks Ellis to explain the competition
Ellis said it is a show choir competition with groups from throughout the state and region. There are preliminaries and finals.
Ellis said his first year they did not go to Petal. His second and third year they did.
Keith: The third year was where you were approached by the principal there. He told you he had gotten some complaints about the behavior of your students. Ellis said he did recall that.
Keith: You recall that he was pretty upset about it.?
Ellis : I wouldn’t say he was upset. I would say he was concerned.
Ellis said he told the principal he would get to the bottom of it. He went to the room. He said in these competitions you get there at 7 in the morning and stay until midnight. They put you in this homeroom and you are there all day. There were guys laying on the floor and Ellis asked them what was going on and said he had heard form the principal. He said all of the guys said they weren’t doing anything inappropriate or undressing in front of girls. They did say a parent from Petal was being rude to them.
Ellis said that in these hallways there were two parents. In the Tupelo hallway, all of the parents from Petal were sitting near the Tupelo door. The students said they were being rude and they were letting other schools go by with water. Those parents from Petal did not like Tupelo. Tupelo is a rival for a lot of places and in show choir it was the same thing. I witnessed those parents being biased to our kids.
Ellis: I said guys you will not disrespect adults, you will not trash this room. I didn’t think the room was trashed. WE had guys and girls there all day with all of their stuff there. IT wasn’t clean but you have parents there to pick it up. It is not a trash room.
Keith: Did you say Petal was just jealous of your performance?
Ellis: I don’t remember saying Petal was jealous but I did notice a lot of animosity toward Tupelo. A lot of people like to watch Tupelo but there are rivals. It is part of the game. It is competition.
Keith asks if Ellis ever had a conversation with an administrator about that. Ellis said no. He said at the time Mr. Stratton was not the principal, Glenda Scott was. He said there were some issues going on. He did not inform any one or an assistant principal.
He said he did tell someone at Petal that people were being rude to his kids and he asked that person to pass it on to the Petal principal.
Keith: You did not think it was appropriate to tell an administrator (about your conversation with the principal)
Ellis said no, he did not think it was a big deal.
Keith asks if the Petal competition was the only state-wide competition. Ellis said there is also one in Ellisville.
Keith said that the year of the incident Tupelo finished second in close scoring. Ellis said yes. Keith asked if that Ellis did not share the scores with his kids. Ellis said he absolutely did share the results.
Ellis said they had a great year and a great show and that the kids were not upset by the scores.
Keith: Did you show the kids the scores after the Birmingham competition. Ellis said he doesn’t remember.
Butts objects saying it is irrelevant whether he was showing the scores.
Keith: Honesty, forthrightness, credibility are very important issues in this hearing. Keith said that earlier testimony said Ellis didn’t show the scores and Ellis had testified that it was something he always did. Compton allows it.
Keith is now asking about the Smith Lake field trip, a board meeting to discuss the trip. Meeting was held in June at Peppers. Keith said Ellis did not seek approval for the trip until July.
Ellis said they were in between principals. “Despite what Ms. Whitwell said yesterday, I had talked to Mr. Stratton in May about a parent wanting to take students to Smith Lake. She said it would be safe. It was not my idea, it was an idea by the parent. At first I had the idea to have cars go down and it being a booster sponsored trip, but I thought it would be a good idea since we would be rehearsing that day for us to all go down on the Golden Wave buses.”
He said he talked to Mr. Stratton and he said it was a good idea, just fill out the form. Ellis called Dr. Hill to check on the status and was told that he didn’t have proper form. Ellis asked if he should wait to resubmit it because they didn’t have a principal. He said he waited to submit it in July after Mr. Harris was assigned.
Keith refers Ellis to two emails. One was an email on July 11 between Ellis and Jason Harris that they would discuss approval of the trip. Another was an email from parents about the trip.
Keith asked whether Ellis told the parents in June that it was an approved trip. Ellis said he did so because Mr. Stratton had said it would be a good idea.
Keith: Mr Harris told you he had a lot of problems with Smith Lake because of the dangers and he told you to seek another forum?
Ellis said yes.
Keith: You went back and said the parents want me to clarify whether it makes any difference if it is a booster club event or school event. Ellis said he remembers that. Keith said is that because you did not accept his first answer and put it in terms of the parents wanting that. Ellis said the parents had come up with the idea and they wanted it to happen and he wanted it to happen. He didn’t mean to be insubordinate.
Keith: He told you the first time that he did not like the venue and to pick something else? Ellis said correct.
Keith: Why didn’t you tell the parents to pick something else?
Ellis said it wasn’t clear that he absolutely wasn’t going to let this happen. He wanted to make sure if there was any way he would approve this trip, if they would sign waivers clearing the school district of liability, would he allow it to happen? I just wanted to make sure. He said no, and that was the end of it..
Keith directs him to an exhibit 66.
It is an email from Ellis to Harris on July 12. One paragraph said he spoke to parents about need to move the trip. ….Ellis said in email that parents wanted to know if they could hold the event at Smith Lake as a parent-sponsored event.
Harris replied to the email that he will again say he will not approve field trip to Smith Lake. It is not against the trip it is against the venue.
Keith: There was nothing unequivocal about his statement?
Ellis: There was not, but (the parents wanted him to ask, so he did).
Keith asked Ellis’ next request, for an overnight activity at the PAC.
Keith: The first page is an email from Ellis to Harris on July 18. It asked if group could remain in PAC and have its retreat over night in the PAC. It said parents would be in and out and that kids would not be able to leave the PAC after sunset. It said kids would not be allowed to sleep there and would be kept up all night.
Harris responded that they could have a day retreat but that he was not comfortable with an over night retreat.
Ellis responded that a day retreat would not be effective.
Keith asks about Ellis disagreeing with Harris.
Ellis said he asked him….every year for many years we have tried to put together events that build camaraderie. This was an idea, and I wanted the retreat idea to be different than what they normally practice every single day. I wasn’t trying to say no, I just told him I didn’t think it would be effective. I also told him we would keep looking for an alternate venue. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Ellis is referred to another exhibit.
Ellis said it was the first event he was able to get going. It involved going to Mt. Fuji. It was a letter on Sept. 18 sent to parents of kids in the program. It said it would be first Wave Connection outing of the year. They would attend a performance; have dinner prior to the event and eat afterward.
Keith: This particular event, you did expect your students to attend?
Ellis: That can be answered not yes or no. Every event I plan I hope every child would make an effort to attend because it is difficult to build camaraderie without everyone.
Ellis said he is flexible. He said if students aren’t able to afford, they could come see him and he would help them. He knew football players couldn’t make it. But he does expect everyone to make an effort.
Keith: Your students knew they were expected to come unless they had a legitimate excuse.
Ellis said that is correct.
Keith asked about him not getting permission for the district. Ellis said he didn’t think it was required. They have cast parties without getting permission. He said many athletic teams go to dinner together. Such events are common, he said.
Keith asks if he considered it a booster club event. Ellis said he considered it a social event.
Ellis said he and his wife were the only adults with 35 to 40 students. He said there were a significant number who did not attend but most of them informed him, expect one or two. He said that he and his wife purchase happies for the students so he wanted to have an idea of who was attending.
Keith asks for a closed session because his next question would involve students. Hearing is now closed at 2:29 p.m.
Hearing is back in open session.
Ellis is referred to a document.
Keith asks about the sleepover for the Wave Connection girls at the Whitwell home on Sept. 30.
Keith: You did expect the kids to show up for this over night event?
Ellis: I expected the girls to be there because it was a tradition that we had always done. They needed to know how to do their hair and what their makeup is. I would expect everyone to make an effort to attend.
Keith asked if event had not been cancelled even though show had been cancelled night before.
Ellis said that is correct. He thought there would still be a show and the kids would need to know how to do their hair and makeup.
Ellis said his wife was in charge of planning the event. It was at the Whitwell home and there were no school officials there.
Keith asked if girls left Whitwell home to go to Walmart to buy items to prank boys cars. Ellis said yes, said his wife was with them. Said it was around 9 or 9:30.
Ellis: I didn’t know they had gone to Walmart. I knew my wife had spoken to me about the girls possibly pranking them. I thought it was fun. No, I didn’t specifically know they were going to Walmart.
Keith asked when Ellis specifically had conversation about girls pranking the boys.
Ellis said he and some students went to a performance at the Link Centre earlier in the afternoon. He said he thinks she may have told him then.
Ellis said that event was not required.
Keith: When you had that conversation about girls pranking the boys did you understand that would involve them coming to your house and pranking the boys?
Ellis said yes. He said he did not get any permissions from the parents for the girls to leave the Whitwell home and come to his house.
Ellis said it was not a required event for the boys to come to his house. It was impromptu. When the guys heard the girls were having Hair and Makeup night, they wanted to do something. It was late and late to get a parent. He said the guys would just be eating pizza and drinking cokes so he thought it would be OK. He asked every one of the guys when they arrived if it was OK and they showed him text messages from parents saying it was.
Ellis said there was no intention for boys to spend the night
Ellis said after the boys had their cars pranked they were in a vindictive state.
I was trying to get them to calm down. It was highly intense.
They weren’t upset, they were taken aback that the girls go them because they were watching for them. The first time they caught the girls trying to do it. The second time we were having a good conversation (And they were surprised)
Keith asked about the conversation about how they were going to get the girls back. Ellis said there was so much noise he didn’t hear any specific plans.
On the way to Walmart, he heard them talk about specific materials Vaseline, shaving cream, condoms, bananas and car paint.
Ellis said three or four cars of boys went to Walmart. He was in one of the boys’ cars. No adults were in the other cars.
Ellis: In the discussion in the car on the way, when they were talking about numerous things. Condoms specifically was mentioned. I did specifically say, I do not think that is a good idea and I really don’t think you should do that.
Keith: Did you tell the other cars that?
Ellis: No, I did not. I did not have that opportunity.
Keith asks Ellis if he was the only adult in supervision of the boys. Ellis said yes.
Ellis said there was a brief 35 to 40 seconds when he sat in the car (when they got to Walmart)
Ellis: My state of mind in going to Walmart with them, in hindsight I wish this whole thing never hapepned. My reason in going was their parents knew they were going to be there until midnight. This was before midnight (11:15 maybe 11:30). My state of mind was I want to go because what if I send them out in the community and something did happen and the parents think they are at my house. I was toying with whether or not I should go but I did go. When I got there I was toying with whether I should go in or not but here I am with teenage kids. Then I thought what if someone walks in and sees me in a students’ car. I was feeling uncomfortable. But I wanted them to go and I wanted them to have fun. (Said they were having a fun night, sitting around and talking, talking about guy things, talking about girls)
I wanted the night to be what it was designed to be to build them up. I am highly intense with them at practice and expecting a lot from them in practice. They never get to have a good time in practice, getting to know each other and have fun. That is what the night was designed for.
I decided to get out of the car, but I decided to go in and look at the magazines, that is what I did.
Ellis said he did not have any parent permissions for the boys to leave his house and go to Walmart but he did have permission to have them at his house.
Ellis said he walked in in close proximity to the boys.
Keith: When you talked to Mr. Harris about the event, you told him you stayed in the car?
Ellis: That is not what I told Mr. Harris. That is not what I told Mr. Meadows.
Keith: Did you tell Valerie Whitwell, you told her you stayed in the car?
Ellis: I did not tell her that.
Keith said you told Mr. Meadows about this thought process you had, but you didn’t tell that to Mr. Harris did you?
Ellis said he did.
Keith: You went to the magazine rack. In light of the fact that the boys talked about buying condoms you didn’t think it was necessary to make sure they didn’t buy condoms.
MR Keith I thought the kids understood that I did not want them to buy condoms. In hindsight, yes I wish I had supervised everything they had done.
Ellis said he did not look at items they were purchasing or purchase any items. He was just trying to hurry it up so they could get back home.
Ellis said he never inquired what the boys bought.
Ellis said he rode with the boys in the same car he went to Walmart in. They parked in the Bell Aire parking lot. Then they got back in the cars. He sat in the car while they performed the prank.
Ellis said the parking lot was at a golf course near the Whitwell home. They parked there while they were waiting for everyone else. There was discussion on how they were going to hide but not about anything else.
Ellis said that in that parking lot some of the boys got out of the car and he did too. Some thought they should walk to the house from there and some thought they should drive closer to the house. One or two cars drove closer and some decided to walk from there.
Ellis said the car he was in stayed there and he jumped into another car because he did not want to walk that far. He went to the top of the hill with the car that wanted to drive closer.
The car went to the top of the hill about 150 feet from the Whitwell home.
Ellis said he did not get out of the car, at first. He sat in the car. He did see a vehicle zoom by him and he got a little concerned. He waited a little bit because he didn’t know what it was about. His wife called him and said to come down because the girls were laughing and having a good time.
Keith: By this time it is after midnight?
Ellis said he wasn’t really sure because he wasn’t watching the night. HE thinks it was around midnight….I’m sure it was after midnight.
Keith: At that time, you didn’t have any permissions from the parents to be out after midnight
Keith: How long did you stay at the Whitwell home
Ellis: Maybe five to 10 minutes and the kids were having a blast, joking and having a good time. I went and say my wife and gave her a kiss goodnight and went home.
Ellis said he rode back in the car he was sitting in. He said some of the cars went home, some went back to his house to retrieve some things and then went home. He said it was 12:30 or 12:40 when they got to his house.
Keith asked if Ellis had heard any concerns about the event immediately afterward. Ellis said no concerns just praises. He said one parent said her son had a great night and thanked him for opening it up.
Keith: When did you find out what items the boys had purchased?
Ellis: I found out when I went down the hill and saw the prank.
Keith: What discussion did you have with the kids regarding your initial discussion not to buy condoms.
Ellis: It was a large area. When I saw condoms I spoke to two of the students and said I thought y’all weren’t going to buy this stuff. There were some girls there and they were trying to diminish that. I told them it wasn’t a good idea.
Ellis said about 8 boys were there and 10-15 girls.
Keith: When did you hear there was an investigation going on regarding those events?
Ellis heard on Tuesday afternoon. A student who had been interrogated came into his office flustered. Said I didn’t know what is going on but something isn’t right they called me into the office about Friday night.
Ellis Because everyone was having a good time except one student I had to ask what happened on Friday night. Everyone was laughing and smiling and having a good time.
Keith: On Monday morning, you saw no reason to report this event to your principal.
Ellis said no.
I saw there was a problem. In the grand scope of it, Mr. Keith, I wish I could have changed a lot of things if I knew it would end up like this. In the grand scheme of things I knew the intent of those boys was to do whatever they could to get the girls back in the most funny or gross way they could. I knew their intent was not to do anything sexual to make the girls feel violated or harmed any way. I told them I wish ya’ll hadn’t done that.
I learned from it. I would never do something like that again. I would be supervisory over every single detail. I didn’t think it was a big deal to report those guys because I knew what their intent was.
Keith: Until Tuesday you saw no problem with this event or your involvement with it?...
Ellis: No because other than the fact that my conscience was toiling with me as I was participating in riding to Walmart with them. My conscience was going. I did not feel totally free like I was doing the best thing possible. I just didn’t feel at the time it was such a horrible thing. The guys were trying to have a little bit of fund and that is what the night was designed for. I was torn. I sided with the kids and their fun and their enjoyment instead of the other side saying I am a teacher in the district and I shouldn’t be doing it.
Before it was reported I didn’t see a big problem because of the simple fact that all of those kids were laughing and having a good time.
Keith: Would you agree with me that was a tremendously risky event that took place that night?
Butts argues about the use of the term risky
Keith: Some adults left your house without parental consent…..you don’t think there
Ellis: Yes, I think there were risks involved and that is what I have said repeatedly that my conscience was toiling with me. That was the first time in my 10 year teaching career that I had ever done anything like that. I wish I had not done that. The only thing I do not regret is that that night is what it was designed to be, it was fun for those kids.
Keith: If your conscience was bothering you, why did you not report it to your principal?
Ellis: Because those kids had a good time and I didn’t think there would be an issue with any of it because I didn’t witness any specific kids being upset. I later found out that one kid was upset but I struggle with her intent in being upset. If we want to talk more about that, we would need to go into closed session, and I feel like we should.
Hearing goes into closed session at 3:33 p.m.
Hearing is back in open session.
Keith: Mr. Ellis, you said you didn’t report this to Mr. Harris because you really didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Is that correct? Ellis said yes.
Keith directs Ellis to document notifying Ellis he is being placed on paid administrative leave.
Ellis said he didn’t know exactly what they were talking about. He knew of the investigation being conducted. He knew what he had spoken to Mr. Harris about. When this letter was given to me, I asked Mr. Harris and Mr. Turner, What in God’s name have I done? Those were my exact words. They told me we can not tell you at this time but you will find out eventually.
Keith asks if Ellis disagrees with Jason Harris’ statement that it was clear to him that the investigation involved the events on Sept. 30.
Ellis said he completely disagrees with that statement. He knew there was an investigation but didn’t know what the specific allegation was.
Ellis met with Harris
Ellis said he didn’t know the specific allegation. He didn’t know if someone had said he had done something inappropriate with a student. He just knew there was inappropriate behavior. He didn’t know if he had done anything with a student that warranted him being placed on leave.
Keith: You were aware because you had to talked to students about what they were being asked.
Ellis: I knew I had talked to a student about being investigated (but said he didn’t know what was asked)
I was wanting something specific on the complaint. I didn’t know what all of the facts were, I just wanted to know what the complaint was, what had been said that I had done. That is what I wanted and that was not explained to me.
Keith: You met with Mr. Meadows on Oct. 13 for four hours. The next day you sent him an email for allowing you to explain all of the issues you needed to explain. Keith said Ellis spoke from a document provided by Butts and that he covered everything in that document. Mr. Meadows told you that based on the conversation, he told you he would need to do additional investigating.
Ellis said the only thing he knew was that there were investigations going on. He didn’t know the extent of what was said. He knew there were some issues. I wanted him to know there could have been some other motive to the allegation other than what he had heard from Tupelo High School. I did not know what the allegation was. In fact at the end of the conversation (he said it was difficult for him to go around town). I felt like a prisoner in my own town and I didn’t know what I did. I felt it wasn’t fair. I spoke to him about that and I spoke to him about my concerns about the motive behind it. I told him I don’t know exactly what the allegation is behind me. I just want to know what I did. He said to me, I didn’t know you didn’t know. He said to me the allegation was pranking and bullying a student. Those were his words. Why couldn’t Mr. Harris have told me that. What was the secret? Mr. Meadows was the first person who told me a week later why I was placed on administrative leave, why I couldn’t have my voice lessons why I was treated like a criminal and they took my keys away from me. I wanted a specific explanation of what I had done and he gave it to me a week later.
Keith refers to a letter from Harris said that it involves an event at Ellis’ house that pranked students. Keith said that was the only issue you talked to Harris about.
Ellis: He said inappropriate behavior. His communication wasn’t clear to me. Inappropriate behavior can mean a lot of things.
Keith: You didn’t think your actions on Friday night were inappropriate.
Ellis: In hindsight, but I didn’t think it was so horrible because it was fun for those kids
Keith: With the benefit of Monday morning quarterbacking, you can see that now?
I can see now that things can be taken in a way that can be perceived as a real serious problem and I would never do that again because I see that now. At the time it was a lapse of judgment. I was going to be honest about that. What teacher hasn’t had a lapse of judgment. Teachers have lapses of judgment all of the time. I didn’t think the end result was so serious that anyone got hurt, that anyone was harmed by it that it was so serious an issue to make a big deal out of it.
Keith asks if Ellis understood that Meadows would do a further investigation. Ellis said yes.
Keith asks Ellis about Harris’ concern over what would happen if there had been an accident.
Ellis: I remember saying I could see his viewpoint in that. That was part of the reason why my conscience was toiling with me on that night. My state of mind also said what if I did send them out and they got in an accident and their parents thought they were with me. I was toiling with that and I told him that.
Keith: Mr. Ellis you could have told the boys they weren’t leaving the house. You could have had them call
There are a lot of things, but couldn’t there be a reprimand and some advice before being placed on leave and making me believe there is something bigger in all of this. I feel like there could have been a discussion with my administration about how to prevent this from happened. I had never been involved with anything like this before
Keith: The school district can’t read your mind and decide what you were going to do in light of a lapse of judgment as occurred on Friday night?
Ellis: Not the school district can not read my mind.
Keith is talking about Suzy Williams interview and the fact that Ellis scored another candidate higher. Ellis said he contacted that candidate and told her he had scored her higher and he wished she had gotten the job.
Keith asked him about it being inappropriate to do that.
Ellis: That applicant is a friend of mine and I wanted her to know that I wanted to work with her. I encouraged her to apply for the job.
Keith: You divulged confidential information to one of the candidates.
Ellis: I didn’t realize my score or talking to her, I didn’t talk about Suzy’s score, I just talked about her score and that she was a better candidate for the position.
Keith: You don’t think it was inappropriate for one of the interviewers to have to discussion?
Ellis said no.
Ellis said he did not talk to Williams about the conversation or the fact that he did not score her as highly
Keith asks Ellis about changing the scheduling. Ellis said the master schedule was wrong. He said it was an administrative problem. He said the rehearsed the choir expecting the change to block schedule that never happened. HE said the schedule for choir has been the same for 20 years. Students in choir tended to be higher performing students and AP classes were offered in the morning.
“All of a sudden out of nowhere, this year first period is varsity choir (which meets at the same time as a lot of AP classes). Second period is Madrigals which had always been at the end of the day. It was a totally different schedule and it messed up a lot of students.
Ellis said he emailed Lee Johnson during the summer and asked if they could alter master schedule because there were a lot of problems. It was in the beginning of July. At that time Lee Johnson took on a new position and she never responded to his request.
“By the time I finally got around to scheduling, there were kids we were planning on being in chorus that weren’t in chorus, kids we were planning on being in show choir that weren’t in show choir. When I went back and tried to schedule with Mr. Harris and Ms. Topp we were told we would do the best we could but we could not change the periods.
Keith: You knew the schedule was set before the interviews
Ellis: I knew the schedule was set, but I talked to Mr. Harris about it being wrong.
Keith: Before the interviews?
Ellis: Yes. He said it was sometime between July 1 and July 13. He said he wished he had his email so he could go back and prove that.
Keith: In fact, we have a document,
It is an email from Ellis to Harris about an incident involving Whitwell.
Ellis said Whitwell called Harris and asked if she could sit in on interviews for choral department. Earlier that day there was a booster meeting and parents were inquiring. Ellis told them he knew some applicants personally and he would sit in on the interviews and everything would get figured out. He said Whitwell said that she would sit in on it and Ellis thought she was joking. When Whitwell called Harris about it, he apologized to Harris that she had done that.
Ellis said he never told Whitwell to do that and he thought she was joking.
The email asked Harris to tell the candidates that Ellis would not be the one making the decision on who would be hired.
Ellis said he was an acquaintance of all of the applicants and was friends with two of them, although one of those ended up not applying. Ellis said he sat in on four interviews.
Keith goes back to the email. In it Ellis refers to his frustration with the choral booster board.
Keith: Did you let Dr. Williams know that you did not prefer her for the position?
Ellis: I already let her know that I did not tell her.
Keith: What position was Dr. Williams interviewing for?
Ellis: Assistant choral director?
Keith: Do you know what her contract says?
Ellis: No, but I do know that is how Mr. Harris referred to it in the interview. How am I supposed to know what her contract said.
Ellis “Let me also state I don’t know what this is a charge. That I was claiming I was director of choral activities. I am not just the show choir director. When I came in I was the assistant choral director under Vicky Wilson(?) I sat in the meeting where she said you have been in that school, you are in that position and you are ready to move up. (Said Stratton understood that was his position and that every piece of correspondence that went out indicated that).
I had been there, I had put in the time, I knew the program, I knew what it was about. As a matter of fact, I was named by Mr. Stratton the chair of the fine arts department. Why would I not be the director of the choral department but I would be director of fine arts department. Why would that be known to everyone but the people at central office. Why would you refer to my supplement that said show choir director. Would you not agree that I (Also direct chorus).
Keith: Would you agree that your position is defined by your contract and not by people in the community.
Ellis: Yes but I think the administration my not know what is going on.
Keith refers Ellis to his contract It says his supplement is for THS show choir director. Ellis: Can you show me a legal document that shows anything different than that?
Ellis: No. I just can’t understand why. I had been in that department. When Vicky Wilson left she talked to me as if (he had moved into that position. Mr. Stratton talked to him as if he was in that position. He didn’t know he had to do anything to change his contract?) How am I supposed to know my contract is supposed to say supervisor of choral activities?
Keith: When you read that contract did you have any questions of Mr. Stratton or any other administrator?
Ellis: No, because I had already spoken to Mr. Stratton about my role as director of choral activities for the upcoming year.
Keith: After the schedule was changed, Dr. Williams from five classes to two. One of the classes taken away was Madrigals?
Ellis: I didn’t tell her that was my class. I told her of the problem we faced last year with the scheduling. Tow years in a row we had problems with scheduling. the first problem was when Ms. Vicky Wilson resigned in the middle of the schedule, the master schedule was already made. (He talked to Lee Johnson about reviewing the schedule. She told her that she could not change the schedule. He said that is why he and Atkinson co-directed and he would have loved to co-direct with Williams because that is a fun role and a fun group to direct)
He said knew Atkinson’s name was on the schedule and they couldn’t change it. I wasn’t trying to take over anything. It has always been tradition for director of choral activities to direct madrigals. He said he could have taken it over but he said to co-direct it. He said it isn’t his problem, it is an administrative problem with the schedule.
HE said he informed Williams of the problem they had the prior year with the schedule. He would be happy to co-direct but she did not want to co-direct.
Ellis said he went to Evet Topp and told her the problems with the schedule and the assignments.
The day after MS. Williams got hired, I asked her to meet at the school so I could discuss anything.
Keith said if they are going to talk about Williams’ character, it will need to go into closed session.
Ellis said it is important to note.
Hearing goes into closed session at 4:38 p.m.
The hearing has recessed for today. It will resume on Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Hancock Leadership Center. When it does so, Ellis will still be on the stand under examination by the district. The hearing will be in closed session when it resumes.