GLENWOOD, Iowa — High school principal Kerry Newman vowed Tuesday to fight to keep her job after the Glenwood school board voted to tell her it would look at terminating her contract.
“I fully intend to exercise my rights ... because I feel very strongly I was wrongly accused,” she said. “I will be preparing with my lawyer to move forward.”
Newman denied all the allegations listed by the board: an inappropriate relationship with a district employee; unprofessional conduct; poor judgment; inappropriate use/misuse of district resources; and being a poor and ineffective role model.
“I greatly do not want to hurt the district or the community,” she said, “but I want to stand up for my rights.”
Newman has five days after receiving written notice of the board's decision to “contest this termination,” according to the notice, by requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge.
If she fails to make such a request, “the board may make a determination regarding the continuance or discontinuance of your contract,” the notice says.
Newman has been on paid administrative leave from Glenwood Community High School since mid-January, but neither Newman nor school officials have said why. Assistant Principal Rick Nickerson has assumed her duties.
The meeting began at 4 p.m. at the district's offices. It was Fat Tuesday, and Newman sat before the board with a purse by her side that sported a prominent fleur-de-lis. But the tone of the proceedings was somber.
The board voted to go into closed session, and onlookers, including a few members of the public and even Superintendant Devin Embray, were asked to leave the room.
Newman remained. She would later say she learned of most of the allegations in the closed session for the first time. She left before the closed session ended, and the public session started again.
Board member Henry Clark moved that the board vote to consider the process of terminating Newman for the five reasons. The motion was seconded. The vote was unanimous. Then the meeting was adjourned.
Asked why the board voted as it did, board President Theresa Romens said, “The motion speaks for itself.”
Embray said the school district won't begin looking for a new principal yet.
The Glenwood district hired Newman in 2001. She was curriculum director and middle school principal before becoming the high school principal in 2007. She is a 1983 graduate of Omaha Benson High School and was inducted into its Hall of Fame last year.
In the post-meeting interview, Newman would not address the rumors that have been flying around Glenwood since she was placed on leave.
“Not being able to be around kids every day,” she said, choking up, “has been very difficult. I get my energy from their performances and their growth, so that's been very difficult not being with them.”
Asked if the accusations might cast a cloud over her career even if she's able to keep her job, she said she hoped not. She pointed out that she was among three finalists for the School Administrators of Iowa's Secondary Principal of the Year award in 2012.
She addressed one of the allegations, saying she had not had an opportunity to discuss all of them with her family yet.
“There is no current district employee that I am having an … inappropriate relationship” with, she said. “However, there are things I need to make sure my family is aware of.”
Asked about any past employees, Newman said she would not discuss her personal life.
After the interview ended, she walked up the driveway to her home, where family members awaited.
This report includes material from the World-Herald News Service.
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