THS principal's contract not renewed after private hearing

Monday, April 28, 2014

After a private hearing lasting nearly four hours Wednesday, April 16, the Trumann School Board decided not to renew Wanda Van Dyke's contract as high school principal for the 2014-2015 school year. This Fair Teacher Dismissal Proceeding was continued from Tuesday, April 8.

Van Dyke was suspended from her position in late 2013. According to court documents in a lawsuit filed by Van Dyke against the district, Superintendent Myra Graham sent Van Dyke a letter, dated Feb. 22, detailing 21 reasons Graham was recommending the school board not renew her contract. The reasons range from Van Dyke making the school a stressful work environment to showing favoritism among teachers, inconsistent and incompetent job performance, and communicating poorly with staff.

After hearing from six witnesses Wednesday, including Van Dyke herself, the board went into executive session for nearly an hour before opening the session to the public. The four board members present--Mike Dungan, Adam Jones, Louis Jones, and Anthony Patterson--voted on whether each of the 21 reasons were true or false. They declared every reason to be true except for the reason stating: "You are persistently negative with staff about the district's central office administration," which they declared to be false. Afterward, the board voted unanimously to uphold Superintendent Graham's recommendation to not renew Van Dyke's contract.

Van Dyke requested a public name clearing hearing. Her previous request for a name clearing hearing was denied at the previous meeting for lack of a motion. The school's attorney Donn Mixon said her request would be processed before the next school board meeting.

"The board has acted," Mixon said, adding he believed Van Dyke had sufficient time to present her case to the board.

After her contract was not renewed, Van Dyke made a statement thanking her family and THS students for their support. "I also want to thank the parents, staff, and community members who have stood behind me during this time," Van Dyke said. "Though I was not afforded the opportunity for a name clearing hearing, it was important to me that my students, the staff, the parents, and the community members know that the allegations made by Mrs. Graham are untrue."

One of the witnesses, THS senior Alysha Rieathbaum, spoke to the press after she testified to the board. "I told them that we love Mrs. Van Dyke and that things have changed dramatically since she's gone," Rieathbaum said. She claimed disciplinary actions have not been enforced as well since Van Dyke was suspended and said the senior class had selected Van Dyke to be their baccalaureate speaker on May 11 after a close vote.

"We hope we just have some answers and hope we get to see her face in Trumann High School," Rieathbaum said.

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