Confrontation leads to suspension, position changes in Jellico

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By Beth Braden

A dispute between the former Jellico Elementary School principal, Bob Walden, and a husband-wife duo of employees has lead to the transfer of the principal and a three-day suspension of a teacher.

Two weeks ago [check date], the central office was dealing with “two or three little issues” occurring at the school, according to Campbell County Director of Schools, Donnie Poston.

“We were conversing back and fourth about two or three little issues we were trying to get information about,” Poston said.

School secretary Debbie Douglas spoke with board of education secretary, Gail Parks, about some money allegedly missing from a teacher’s desk.

“In that conversation, she told Gail ‘We’ve got some money missing,’ but I don’t think it was a big long discussion,” said Poston.

It was at that point Walden allegedly approached Douglas to ask why she contacted central office about the money.

“If I understand correctly, that’s where it started, and they exchanged words,” Poston said.

Debbie Douglas declined to comment on the matter Wednesday morning.

“I suggest that you call the central office with any questions you have,” she said.

Walden, who also serves as a Campbell County Commissioner, did not return calls seeking comment.

That afternoon, Debbie Douglas’ husband, David Douglas, approached Walden and a verbal altercation reportedly ensued. David Douglas is a teacher at the school.

None of the children saw or heard the argument, according to Poston. A school resource officer was allegedly present with the men.

The incident ended with David Douglas making physical contact with Walden.

“The way all the gentlemen explained it to us, as he [Douglas] was passing in front of him [Walden] to leave, they were in such close proximity that the back of his [Douglas’s] wrist came across the front of his [Walden’s] chest,” Poston said.

“All three agreed there was no pushing or hitting. It was just a touch, and of course I had to do what I had to do. There shouldn’t have been any contact at all,” Poston said.

David Douglas was suspended for three days without pay.

In a meeting with Poston, elementary education supervisor Tammy Lay, secondary education supervisor Larry Nidifer and Title IX director Johnny Bruce, Walden asked to be moved to a new position.

“He said ‘I want out of there, I hate being there,” said Poston. “He brought in health issues, which of course are very sensitive.”

Poston said he made no promises to Walden, but said he would see if anything could be done.

Ultimately, the principal line-up at Jellico Elementary, Jellico High School and the East LaFollette Learning Academy was shuffled to accommodate Walden’s request.

Before the incident, Ronnie Lasley served as principal at the East LaFollette Learning Academy and Robert Angel served as vice principal at Jellico High School.

Walden is now the principal at the East LaFollette Learning Academy, Angel became the principal at Jellico Elementary School and Lasley moved to Jellico High School tp fill Angel’s previous position.

The issue, however, is not resolved.

“We made the switch and then this [Tuesday] morning, he [Walden] and one of the board members, they’ve asked if he could move back to Jellico,” Poston said.

School board members Johnny Creekmore and J.L. “Sarge” Collins are the representatives from Jellico.

“I haven’t talked with Mr. Walden,” Creekmore said. “The only thing, in talking with Mr. Poston, that Mr. Walden said he wanted to be transferred. As far as being in contact with Mr. Walden, I’ve not had any calls.”

Creekmore is the son-in-law of David and Debbie Douglas.

Collins declined to comment on the matter.

“I’m not gonna discuss that,” he said Tuesday night.

The changes will remain in effect for now, according to Poston. If any additional changes are made, it won’t be until the Christmas break.

 “This will give him time to get his feelings in balance I hope,” Poston said.

“The situation is just unfortunate. It just takes away from all the other things we’re trying to do when you have to take time out to deal with situation like that,” he said.