Administration suspends Alexander as EHS principal

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Edwin Alexander has been indefinitely suspended as principal of Elizabethton High School after meeting with school administrators on Monday afternoon.
   "I have the right to appeal that in writing, which I will do," Alexander told the Star on Monday afternoon in a telephone call. "I will not resign, period."
   Director of Schools Dr. Judy Blevins acknowledged that there was a meeting with Alexander Monday afternoon, but declined to elaborate on the context of the meeting. Elizabethton Education Association representative, Carol Whaley, ECS director of special projects, and attorney Scott Bennett, representing the school system, attended the meeting, Blevins said.
   Alexander has maintained his innocence of the allegations lodged by Hyder in her complaint. He said he would be removing his personal effects from his office on Monday afternoon.
   "I will not resign, period," said Alexander.
   Until an interim principal is named, assistant principals Randy Little and Amber Honeycutt will handle the school's day-to-day operations, Blevins said.
   "There will be an interim principal in place shortly," Blevins said.
   Monday's decision is the latest twist in the city school administration saga that began late last year.
   The high school's director of Vocational Education, Adeline 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, and ejected her from the building.
   Hyder's complaint stated 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.
   Attorney David E. Duggan of Maryville was appointed to investigate the complaint against Alexander and released his report on Hyder's allegations on Feb. 13, 2002.
   Duggan's report stated that Alexander had "improperly confronted" Hyder about her attendance at a workshop held in Gatlinburg, which Blevins had also attended. However, Duggan found Alexander did not eject Hyder from the high school as alleged in her complaint. Alexander also cited school board policy that granted him the autonomy to assign people to positions in the school building.
   The report 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.
   Alexander received a perfect score on his personnel evaluation that was performed by Blevins and dated May 1, 2002, according to the information provided to Duggan.
   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 relationships.
   Alexander had filed a grievance against Blevins on Nov. 7, 2002 alleging that a telephone call from the school board's contracted attorney Patrick Hull was a "strong-arm tactic" against him. Hull, the board's contracted attorney, recused himself from the complaint process and attorney Thomas J. Garland Jr. of Greeneville was appointed to investigate the complaint by school administration.
   Garland submitted his report to the system in January 2003 and had found no wrongdoing by Blevins as alleged in the complaint. In January 2003, the Elizabethton Board of Education voted 4-1 with Catherine Armstrong voting no to affirm Garland's findings after Alexander appealed those findings to the board complaint against Blevins.
   Alexander has roughly approximately 28 years as a teacher, assistant principal and principal at EHS.
   Blevins said there were no immediate plans to present further disciplinary action regarding Alexander to the Board of Education at the April meeting.