Board members approved the dismissal of fourth-grade instructor Susan Calfree Elliott on the recommendation of Johnny McDaniel, Bradley County Schools director, who alleged job-performance issues in his report.
Elliott’s original suspension without pay came in July after her arrest for alleged aggravated domestic assault. The charge was later dropped when reported victim Gregory Grammer recanted his story. Grammer was later arrested by Cleveland police investigators for filing a false report.
Although the original charges against Elliott have been dropped, McDaniel alleged other issues remain in her classroom performance. He cited complaints by co-workers which surfaced during a school investigation after the original assault charge was filed by police.
The school system director presented information on both categories of charges for a board decision on whether the alleged charges are grounds for dismissal if they are determined to be true.
“I recommend dismissal based on Ms. Elliott’s incompetence, neglect of duty and unprofessional conduct,” McDaniel told board members in his recommendation for dismissal. “Ms. Elliott’s actions clearly fall under definitions found at Tennessee Code Annoted 49-5-501.”
Some of the alleged complaints from co-workers included “failed to follow agreed upon lesson plans and assignments; rarely developed or relied on lesson plans at all; refused to teach certain subject areas such as social studies …”
Other alleged complaints listed disrespectful behavior to peers. Validity of the statements will be determined at a later time if Elliott pursues a hearing.
Board member Nicholas Lillios was the only dissenting vote. Lillios said he wanted more information about the fellow teachers’ complaints before making a decision. Board member Rodney Dillard was absent due to work-related travel.
Bradley County school board attorney Chris McCarty said the board’s purpose Thursday was not to determine if the allegations are true, but to determine if they are grounds for dismissal if the complaints are found to be true.
Notification of the board’s decision will be mailed to Elliott, and she has 30 days to ask for a hearing. At this hearing, an independent hearing officer will hear the case and make a decision. Ellliott would then have the option to appeal this officer’s decision to the school board, McCarty said. This would be the point at which the school board would further review the charges against Elliott. Due to the pending hearing and possible further review, school board members were admonished not to talk about the details of the case outside the meeting.
McCarty said the main responsibility of the board is not to decide guilt in the criminal case, but to determine if the teacher in question is someone who should be in charge of educating children.