The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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November 10, 2012

Board votes to fire Johnson Elementary principal

— To the dismay of an audience overflowing with supporters for Dr. Casey Lewis, the Limestone County Board of Education voted 6-1 to terminate the Johnson Elementary School principal’s contract during a contentious board meeting Thursday evening at the Clinton Street Courthouse Annex.

After hearing from several audience members, including Lewis, his wife, his attorney, teachers from Johnson and Alabama state NAACP President Bernard Simelton, board members discussed canceling the principal’s contract, which runs through July 1, 2013.

The vote

Board members James Shannon, Earl Glaze, Anthony Hilliard, Marty Adams, Bret McGill and Darin Russell all voted yes, while Charles Shoulders, whose District 1 includes Johnson Elementary, dissented and asked prior to the vote whether the board had the option to table the motion for termination of Lewis’ contract.

The board made its decision based on the purchase and financing of an electronic LED sign installed at the school in March. The sign, which cost under $20,000, was procured by Lewis, who said during the meeting that he did not realize he was required to accept written bids instead of verbal ones.

“Dr. Lewis did not have any personal gain in (the sign purchase), and I don’t think Dr. Lewis would jeopardize his career for a $19,000 sign,” Shoulders said. “I would hope that this board would entertain the same practices as we have in the past. People have made mistakes, but they were given a second chance. … Do we destroy a man’s career because he violated a board policy? Please consider that.”

Board Chairman Bret McGill reminded board members that the original motion by Glaze was to either terminate Lewis's contract or ask him to resign. Glaze was asked to re-consider the motion, which he declined, and it resulted in a vote for termination. Immediately following the decision, 50 supporters for Lewis filed out of the cramped meeting chambers and into the annex lobby as board members were told, “Shame on you,” “This is wrong” and “The board will be known for this.”

Hilliard, who represents District 6 and described Lewis as a friend, said, “I’ve been at Johnson, and I’ve seen this man in action and believe he is a good man.

“I don’t believe he is the only one at fault in this process. I think if others know something is wrong (and don’t act on it), then they are an accomplice. It doesn’t matter what has been done in the past … I do think (Lewis) knows the bid law, and if something is wrong, then it’s wrong.”

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