ECHS principal resigns

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, May 11, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
Escambia County High School Principal Jerry Smith has been forced to resign pending a financial inquiry from the state board.
At a called school board meeting Tuesday night it was announced that he was suspended for the rest of the school year and applications were being taken for a new principal.
"He has resigned," Escambia County School's Superintendent Melvin "Buck" Powell said. "He's on administrative leave right now. He's on administrative leave for the remainder of the school year and we are currently doing some investigation and I cannot comment until the investigation is completed."
Assistant principals have been asked to finish out the school year without Smith.
"I will appoint an interim principal for the remainder of the year," Powell said Tuesday morning. "We just need to finish this school year out. We will advertise for the (principal) position today and we will close it out by the end of the school year. We should have someone come aboard June the 1st."
Powell has appointed assistant principal Kyle Ferguson as acting principal.
With the school year nearing completion and graduation around the corner a possible scandal could not be more badly timed.
"The timing is bad of course but we've got some capable assistant principals to close the school year out and we're going to make it and start out the year with a new principal," Powell said.
State examiners and internal investigators are currently auditing the Escambia County school system.
"All I can tell you is we are currently auditing the Escambia County Board of Education which is a regular thing and as part of any audit of any board we do look at a certain number of individual schools," Director of County Audits Mike Scroggins said. "In this case we may be looking at Escambia County High School, I'm not sure."
Scroggins could neither confirm nor deny any allegations against Smith.
"They may or may not be true but I'm currently unable to comment," Scroggins said. "When the audit is released it will be public information but we cannot comment on the audit phase so I can neither confirm or deny that."
The emergency meeting of the Escambia County School Board provided some insight into the situation, with the board accepting Smith's resignation.
Powell had little to say during the meeting.
"I have suspended Mr. Smith, or he has taken administrative leave, whichever you prefer, for the remainder of the school year," Powell told the board. "He has submitted his resignation effective July 1. We will advertise through the 20th of this month, and will have a candidate to recommend to the board at the meeting on the 26th."
Broox Garrett, attorney for the Escambia County Board of Education, said that an investigation was taking place into the fiscal situation at ECHS, a big talking point amongst the rumors over the last week.
"There is a full investigation ongoing regarding the fiscal problem at Escambia County High School," Garrett said. "We have no further comment until the investigation is completed."
During the meeting, the board approved a $10,000 loan to the yearbook staff at Escambia County High School, but said that loan was unrelated to the current situation and had occurred before both at ECHS and at W.S. Neal High School.
This article was contributed to by Tim Cottrell.

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