Alexander's appeal on school board agenda

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton City Schools' Board of Education will hear the appeal of a decision rendered for a grievance filed by Elizabethton High School Principal, Edwin Alexander, against Director of Schools, Dr. Judy Blevins, at Thursday night's school board meeting.
   A petition circulating in the community in early December indicated that Alexander was "under scrutiny and possibly subject to dismissal." A meeting held Dec. 15 included Alexander, his attorney, Blevins, and the school board's attorney, Patrick Hull. The meeting ended without Alexander's dismissal, which Blevins and the system's attorney said was never under consideration.
   The discrimination complaints were obtained by the Star after filing requests with school administrators under the state's Sunshine law statutes.
   In his complaint against Blevins, Alexander stated that he had received a telephone call from the school system's attorney, Pat Hull, on Nov. 7. According to the principal's statement, Hull told Alexander that the complainant had secured the services of an attorney, but did not tell him who had authorized or initiated the contact with him.
   Alexander also stated that no one from the school's administrative office contacted him in an official capacity regarding the grievance filed against him.
   Alexander's complaint stated the "complainant against me has told me to my face on more than one occasion that the superintendent was her "very best friend." He goes on to say he felt Hull's call was a strong-arm tactic which was orchestrated to intimidate, which certainly amounts to a case of harassment.
   In a letter to Alexander from Taylor dated, Nov. 25, 2002, Taylor states that the investigation into Alexander's complaint against Blevins found no wrongdoing in regards to Blevins or Hull.
   School policy allows Alexander to appeal the decision to the Board of Education. According to the school system's policy, the superintendent appoints at least two complaint managers -- one of each gender -- when a discrimination complaint is lodged by a system employee against another employee.
   Since the complaint was filed against Blevins, Assistant Director of Schools, Rondald Taylor, was designated as the complaint manager in Alexander's complaint, according to school records.
   Hull recused himself from the complaint process and attorney Thomas J. Garland Jr. of Greeneville was appointed to investigate the complaint by school administration, according to a letter from Whaley dated Nov. 13.
   Garland conducted interviews of Hull, Whaley, Alexander, Blevins and school board member Bobby Berry on Nov. 14. According to Garland's interview report, Hull had spoken with Berry about the situation regarding Alexander and Hyder.
   According to the report, Berry recommended all parties sit down together and work out the problem. Hull had been independently arriving at the same conclusion, Garland's report reads.
   Hull discussed with an associate in Nashville whether Berry should be a participant in the proposed meeting and came to the conclusion it would not be best if a school board member participated in the meeting. According to Garland's report, both conversations occurred prior to Berry having knowledge that Hyder had filed a complaint against Alexander.
   A complaint manager assigned to review the grievance reported finding no alleged harassment on behalf of Blevins. However, Alexander has the right to appeal the case before the Board of Education at their meeting on Thursday night.
   Alexander declined to comment about the pending case. His attorney Virginia McCoy, with the Tennessee Education Association in Nashville, was not immediately available for comment.
   The high school's director of Vocational Education, Adeline Hyder, filed a discrimination complaint stating that Alexander had questioned her integrity, loyalty to him and her friendship with Director of Schools, Dr. Judy Blevins.
   Hyder's complaint states that she felt harassed by this mode of questioning, and at no time in her career with the city school system had she been informed of her inability to perform her job duties.
   "I feel discriminated against by the removal of job duties and being ejected from the building and the embarrassment of not being able to explain to my faculty members I represent as vocation director," Hyder said in her filed complaint.
   A letter to Alexander from ECS Federal Project Director Carol Whaley dated Nov. 7 informs him that a complaint alleging discrimination and/or harassment towards another employee at Elizabethton High School had been filed with the system's administration office.
   Whaley stated in her interview with Garland that she had faxed a letter to Alexander at 3:40 p.m. on Nov. 7 advising him that a written complaint had been filed against him by another employee. The letter did not identify who filed the complaint or whom it was filed against. Hyder stated the alleged harassment took place between Oct. 18 and Nov. 5.
   The complaint filed by Hyder remains under review, according to Blevins. The Board of Education will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the administration building.