By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Board of Education will again be seeing the former Gray Elementary School teacher Jennifer Collins who was dismissed for insubordination and unprofessional conduct back in November during their upcoming April meeting.
Collins appealed the decision to the school board after juvenile court judge Randy Kennedy acted as the impartial hearing officer selected by the board and issued a recommendation to dismiss the tenured teacher following a two-day hearing of 24 exhibits including student and parent complaints of kissing and rubbing male students’ foreheads.
Now Collins and her attorney will have the chance to make an argument as to why the termination decision should be revised or reversed. Tennessee Code Annotated 49-5-512 states the board may sustain the decision, send the record back if additional evidence is necessary, revise the penalty or reverse the decision.
School board member Mike Masters asked if the board would have to vote on this again if the decision is appealed. The Tennessee code also says that after the board has made it’s decision, either party can appeal it to the chancery court in the school system’s county within 30 days of the decision.
“This is how the statutory appeals process is set up for the dismissal of a tenured teacher,” Seeley said, “and we’re following that to a tee.”
In discussing what is to come during the April meeting, Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton also spoke on her decision regarding the tenured teacher.
“I will say that the director’s recommendation is termination in the best interest of student safety,” Halliburton said. “And we do have a sitting juvenile court judge as an impartial hearing officer so I will be asking this board to sustain this decision and that is termination.”
The board previously voted to dismiss Collins in a 5-4 vote in November after both verbal and written warnings from the school’s principal stating that Collins was to restrain from physical contact with students. An October 28 letter to Collins also said male students came forward and expressed anxiety and discomfort in the unwanted physical contact.
The next school board meeting will be held April 6 at 6:30 at the central office at 405 W College Street in Jonesborough.