Former principal's employment with Beaufort County School District still in limbo

tbarton@islandpacket.comApril 4, 2013 

Phillip Shaw

The Beaufort County School District renewed the contract of a former middle school principal who is still getting paid despite not coming to work since November.

Former Bluffton H.E. McCracken Middle School principal Phillip Shaw also has balked at meeting with district officials to settle "unresolved personnel issues," schools officials say.

Shaw's contract was among hundreds for professional employees ratified by the school board for next year at its meeting Tuesday.

Interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm said the district was compelled by state law to renew Shaw's contract, but he still must settle problems with the district before he can come back next school year.

"We have not terminated him, so we are required to issue that contract under state law," Rosswurm said. The law requires teachers to be notified in writing by April 15 of their employment status for the next school year, she said.

Rosswurm said district officials have been unable to meet with Shaw to resolve questions about his job performance. He has not been on the job since Nov. 8, about the time district officials began a review of McCracken's policies and procedures. He was reassigned Jan. 2 to lead Right Choices, a program for students with serious disciplinary problems, but as of Thursday had not reported for his new duties.

Shaw continues to be paid his $93,774 annual salary. Attempts Thursday to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Citing Shaw's right to privacy, district officials have repeatedly refused to elaborate on the nature of Shaw's absence, for instance, refusing to say how much leave time he has accrued.

"We're between a rock and a hard place," school board Chairman Bill Evans said Thursday. "The law requires we renew his contract but gives us the ability to say it's conditional until we resolve concerns we have about his performance.

"But we cannot do that until he comes back from his leave."

Evans said Shaw's leave expires sometime before June 30 but could not be more precise.

"It was leave he requested, and by law we had to grant him," Evans said. "It's not indefinite. The issue will be resolved in time. ... Fortunately, staff at the school are doing a wonderful job. The school seems to be functioning well."

Meanwhile, Shaw's office manager, Denise Gibbo -- who also had been on paid leave since the principal's departure -- no longer works for the district.

Rosswurm would not say whether Gibbo resigned or was fired, only that her employment ended within the past week.

Gibbo declined to comment.

The lack of information about Shaw's extended leave has some in Bluffton upset by what they believe is a waste of taxpayer dollars. School board vice chairwoman Mary Cordray and secretary Laura Bush, who represent parts of Bluffton, understand their frustration, but said there's not much the board can do.

"I do wish we had a resolution at this moment, but we don't," Cordray said. "I hope we will soon, but there are legal protections afforded to any employee that we cannot violate. It is frustrating, and I would love to let people know what's going on, but that would violate (Shaw's) right to privacy."

Student services officer Terry Dingle continues to oversee Right Choices -- the job Shaw was assigned to -- in addition to his other duties. About 25 high school students are in the program, Rosswurm said.

Assistant principal Joe Warfield will continue to lead McCracken Middle. Interviews for a full-time replacement will take place in the coming weeks, Rosswurm said.

Related content

  1. Former Bluffton middle school principal Phillip Shaw still on paid leave: March 8, 2013
  2. McCracken principal reassigned to lead alternative Beaufort County school program: Jan. 14, 2013
  3. McCracken principal says leave a cover-up for ongoing problems with school counselor: Dec. 5, 2013

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