New assistant principal hire risky?

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Officials with the Escambia County Board of Education have pledged their support for a newly hired assistant principal at Escambia County Middle School who was at the center of a 2012 lawsuit that alleged he sexually harassed a former principal while in Mississippi.

A federal jury found in April 2012 that the Moss Point (Miss.) School District should pay a fired principal $100,000 after she accused Kim Staley of sexual harassment, according to media reports from April 2012. Thursday, it was announced that Staley will be the assistant principal at ECMS, effective Aug. 5.

According to court records, though, the verdict was redacted and a settlement was agreed upon by both parties in June of that year.

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Superintendent Randall Little said that when the Escambia County Board of Education made its decision to hire Staley, board members were aware of the lawsuit brought against the Moss Point board in U.S. District Court by Tonya Jackson-Hill.

“We knew about a harassment charge levied,” Little said. “I believe they were actually levied against the Moss Point Board of Education, but based on my reading of the court, she didn’t bring any of this up for two or three years after the fact.”

Escambia County Assistant Superintendent John Knott said Staley was a viable candidate for the position, bringing a wide range of experience to the role.

“He was a teacher, an assistant principal and a superintendent,” Knott said.
Knott said Staley is in “good standing” and had letters of recommendation from school districts in Moss Point, Monroe, Wilcox and Mobile counties.

“(Staley) was up front with the information and all of it was considered before a recommendation was made to the board,” Knott said.

Staley could not be reached for comment early Tuesday afternoon.

Little said he found out about the situation when Staley interviewed for the principal job at Escambia County High School.

“I wanted to do more research, and we feel like we made the best decision there with Mr. (Dennis) Fuqua,” Little said.

Little added that Staley was recertified in Alabama and has done well in other jobs in the state, which made the decision to hire him at the middle school easier.

“So when he applied for the assistant principal job we felt comfortable with it,” Little said. “I do like to operate that we all deserve a second chance whether we’ve made major or minor mistakes. If you take this off his resume, his resume is excellent.”

During the 2012 trial, attorneys for the district in Mississippi argued that Jackson-Hall was terminated for being dishonest during an investigation regarding banking transactions, but the former principal argued she was let go because she denied Staley’s sexual advances, according to reports.

The Moss Point School Division let Staley’s contract as superintendent expire June 30, 2011. According to media reports, he was let go partly due to poor student performance and an unsuccessful curriculum.

Court records from 2007 indicate that Jackson-Hall had previously been entangled in a lawsuit involving Gulf Port (Miss.) City Schools.