Blount Schools pays $27,000 to former teacher
By Matthew Stewart | The Daily Times
The cost to settle with a former Blount County teacher: $27,000 and a clean personnel file.
Blount County Schools, responding to a public records request by The Daily Times, made public Tuesday the terms of its settlement with Sally Jo Witty. The Blount County Board of Education and Witty entered into the agreement on Jan. 31.
By entering into the settlement agreement, Witty resigned from the school district. The teacher was allowed to use her remaining personal and sick days until Feb. 1.
The school board agreed to expunge Witty’s personnel file of all negative material from March 2011 until Jan. 31. Per the agreement, Witty’s personnel file also won’t reflect that the expungement has occurred.
The school board further agreed to pay $12,000, which Witty can use to purchase temporary medical health insurance for herself and her daughter. The agreement states that this payment was in lieu of the board’s obligation to continue the teacher’s medical insurance as an employee.
The school board also agreed to pay $15,000, as full and final settlement of any claims that Witty might have brought against itself or its employees. The board wasn’t required to deduct or pay any federal withholding taxes or retirement benefits on this payment.
By entering into the settlement agreement, Witty also released the school board and its employees from “any and all liability and causes of action, known or unknown, relating to or arising out of her employment.” The teacher’s pending lawsuit against the Trustees of the Sick Leave Banks is excepted from this release.
Witty was suspended without pay for 90 days as a result of charges stemming from an Aug. 1 incident. The teacher’s assignment was at Heritage Middle School with the “option of reassignment on or before Jan. 4,” according to an Oct. 22 reprimand.
On Jan. 4, Britt reassigned Witty to a teaching position at the Everett Learning Opportunity Center. However, the teacher never worked at the school. Witty’s doctor advised his patient against returning to the workplace.
Blount County Schools’ investigation into the Aug. 1 allegations against Witty lasted nearly three months. School officials initially brought allegations of neglect of duty, incompetence and insubordination against Witty, and they later added an unprofessional conduct charge.
Witty reported Aug. 1 for a professional development seminar in skorts, or a pair of women’s shorts with a fabric panel resembling a skirt that covers the front, according to the district’s Aug. 3 reprimand. Administrators said the skorts weren’t long enough and were inappropriate.
School officials allege that she disobeyed directives to change clothes, spoke with other employees about the incident and played segments of tape-recorded conversations for them. They also documented concerns with her competence, personal appearance and hygiene.
System-level administrators didn’t collect sufficient evidence to bring charges of incompetence or neglect of duty against Witty, according to the Oct. 22 reprimand. However, they collected sufficient evidence to bring charges of insubordination and unprofessional conduct.
The insubordination charges “specifically include delaying, debating and demonstrating defiance with a directive” given by Principal Steve Moser, according to the Oct. 22 reprimand.
The unprofessional conduct charges “specifically include remarks (Witty) made about (her) administrators in the presence of other employees on the Heritage Middle School campus.”
Witty allegedly used profane language when talking about administrators on Aug. 1.
She was required to participate in an improvement plan, which was specifically related to areas of deficiency documented throughout the school district’s investigation, according to the district’s Oct. 22 reprimand. The document stated that building- and system-level administrators intended to closely monitor the plan.