Report issued on complaint against Alexander

By Thomas Wilson

   The attorney appointed to investigate an employment complaint against Elizabethton High School Principal (EHS) Edwin Alexander has submitted his findings concerning a discrimination grievance filed by EHS director of vocational education, Adeline Hyder.
   What, if any, action could be taken against Alexander as a result of the investigation's findings could fall to Director of Schools Dr. Judy Blevins, according to the school system's governing policy.
   In the report submitted to the Elizabethton City Schools (ECS) administration and obtained by the Star on Thursday, attorney David E. Duggan writes that he found " ...Mr. Alexander has engaged in certain improper personal actions toward Ms. Hyder, although, I do not find that he is guilty of all the allegations Ms. Hyder has made."
   Hyder filed a grievance against Alexander on Nov. 5, 2002 alleging that she had been harassed by Alexander based on his questioning of her integrity and loyalty to him. She also claimed Alexander doubted that she was a "team player" at the high school and relieved her of certain job duties, ejecting her from her high school.
   Duggan's report also stated that Alexander had "improperly confronted" Hyder about her attendance at a workshop held in Gatlinburg that Blevins had also attended.
   However, Duggan found Alexander did not eject Hyder from the high school as alleged in her complaint.
   The report also found no evidence to support Alexander engaged in any type of harassment or discrimination against Hyder with the provisions set down under the Board of Education's policy on discrimination. Duggan investigated the complaint as an employment-grievance provided for in the same policy.
   In his observations regarding the investigation, Duggan states: "The Elizabethton Board of Education and the Director of Schools may wish to give thought to how the Vocational Director's position is defined and her duties assigned, and where she performs those duties."
   He also notes that the system's policy provides only the procedure for handling such complaints, but does not specify remedies to those complaints. The policy reads that the director of schools shall take action as he or she deems appropriate.
   In a statement released shortly after the ECS Board of Education meeting Thursday night, Blevins said no decision regarding disciplinary action against Alexander in lieu of the investigation's findings had been considered or made.
   "No decisions have been made at this time as to what course of action to take," Blevins statement reads. "I need to take my time in order to make the best decision based on the best interests of the Elizabethton City Schools' students and staff."
   She also stated that Hyder had been temporarily assigned to the ECS central office.
   The attorney representing Alexander, Virginia McCoy of the Tennessee Teacher's Association, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment about Duggan's report. Attorney Stacy Street who represented Hyder was not immediately available for comment regarding the findings.
   Duggan was appointed to investigation of the complaint in November 2002. In the report, he express his regret that the complaint matter has arisen given the professional standing of both Hyder and Alexander. "It appears that each of these persons involved in this investigation is a valued member of the Elizabethton City Schools," he writes.
   In an evaluation form dated April 30, 2001, Hyder was given the highest scores possible for her personal characteristics, including competence, communication skills, human relations skills and team relationship.
   Alexander received a perfect score on his personnel evaluation that was executed by Blevins and dated May 1, 2002, according to the information provided to Duggan.
   The report lists a series of documents reviewed by Duggan including letters from Alexander to Blevins and Hyder, performance contracts, personnel evaluations of both Alexander and Hyder, and three spreadsheets pertaining to salary paid to Hyder.
   At a school board hearing on Jan. 16, Alexander said he had spoken with ECS administrators regarding what he felt were salary inequities among administrative members, particularly the assistant principals at EHS.
   According to the report, Alexander had stated to Duggan that elementary principals and Hyder were the only persons receiving extended contracts for the 11th and 12th month of the school year. Duggan found no basis for that allegation, citing documents from the school system demonstrated that several ECS employees had extended contracts.
   Duggan's report stated ECS director of finance, Cynthia Roberts, made a mistake on a spreadsheet, which made it appear that Hyder was receiving approximately $10,000 more than she should receive for her salary. That mistake was "realized very quickly by Ms. Roberts and corrected as soon as she realized her error" the report reads.
   He reported that evidence established that Hyder was never paid the incorrect salary reflected on the spreadsheet error.
   Alexander filed a discrimination complaint against Blevins in November alleging he had been subject to harassment following a telephone call from the school system's attorney, Pat Hull, on Nov. 7. His complaint had alleged Hull's call was a "strong-arm tactic" which was orchestrated to intimidate him.
   An investigation into that complaint by Greeneville attorney Thomas J. Garland, Jr. found no wrongdoing by Blevins. Alexander appealed that ruling to the ECS Board of Education, which voted 4-1 to affirm Garland's findings.