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Monday, April 21, 2014, 9:48 a.m.
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Mayflower board delays action on superintendent’s contract

By Tammy Keith

This article was published January 19, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

MAYFLOWER — The Mayflower School District’s Board of Education evaluated Superintendent John Gray at the board meeting Monday night, but members didn’t vote on extending his contract as they normally do in January.

Gray said he had “a reasonable evaluation,” and the board voted to file his evaluation.

“Normally, they extend [the contract] a year,” Gray said. “There’s been some talk in the past about not having such a long contract with the superintendent.”

Gray, who has two more years on his contract, said he is happy in his position.

“I like it here at Mayflower; it’s a good school district,” Gray said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”

Gray was hired by the district in 2007.

He said the board’s lack of action on his contract might have to do with the September firing of high school principal Jeff Cagle.

Gray said Cagle was fired for allegedly making inappropriate comments regarding females, among other reasons.

The superintendent suspended Cagle in May and sent him a letter recommending that his contract be terminated. The board upheld Gray’s recommendation in September and fired Cagle.

Brent Dycus, president of the Mayflower School Board, said Wednesday that he didn’t want to discuss the reason Gray’s contract wasn’t acted upon.

“I really don’t feel comfortable talking about personnel issues,” Dycus said. “I’d rather not make a statement at this time.”

The board has a special meeting scheduled Monday, but Dycus said the superintendent’s contract is not on the meeting’s agenda “as of right now.”

“We evaluated him, and we voted to put his evaluation into his personnel file, and we left it at that,” Dycus said.

Cagle, who lives in Conway, worked in the district for the 2012-2013 year, and his contract had been renewed for one more year.

He received a positive performance evaluation in February prior to his suspension in May and subsequent firing.

Cagle, through his attorney, Randy Coleman of Little Rock, filed a lawsuit against the district on Nov. 4 in Faulkner County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit contends that Cagle was fired illegally because, as a principal, the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act protects him.

He is not asking for his job back. The lawsuit asks “for the balance of contract compensation and benefits due to him” and a trial by jury. Cagle’s salary was $77,576.

Gray said he had received good references for Cagle.

Cagle, a native of Palestine, was fired in 2002 from the Palestine-Wheatley School District for allegedly performing a strip search on six students to find missing money, according to an Associated Press article. In response to that incident, he filed a lawsuit that was dismissed in 2005.

Gray said he knew about the incident when Cagle was hired in Mayflower, but because it was a long time ago and he was given “good references on that,” Gray didn’t tell the school board.

Cagle’s previous job before coming to Mayflower was as Carlisle High School principal.

An open hearing on Cagle’s firing was held in September before the school board, which voted unanimously to uphold the superintendent’s recommendation to fire Cagle. During that meeting, an anonymous survey was read that Gray had given to Mayflower High School employees about “the competence and effectiveness of your high school principal, Mr. Jeff Cagle.”

Gray said of 31 responses, 26 indicated “lack of ability to lead staff and students.”

The Mayflower School District is represented by Conway attorney Bill Brazil.

In its response, the district has denied allegations in Cagle’s lawsuit, including that he is entitled to a jury trial, and asked that the case be dismissed.

In other business, the board took the following actions:

• Board members asked Gray to look into land for sale that would provide another access to the middle and high schools.

“There’s only one access road to our middle school and high school,” Gray said. “We were looking for other routes to get into our campus. There’s land behind our high school that could be used for an access road, and the board asked me to look into this further to see if this is viable.”

Gray said the owner of the land died and the property, part of a trust, is for sale.

“We’ve been sort of watching it for a long time, … and now that it’s available, they’re looking at it,” Gray said.

• The board hired Beth Binkley of Conway to teach family and consumer science this semester. Binkley’s previous position was at Mills High School in Little Rock, Gray said.

• A drainage problem around the elementary-school playground was discussed, and action was tabled until this week, Gray said.

The district received two bids to address the problem: one from Faulkner Plumbing and Mechanical in Mayflower for $12,000, and one from Paladino & Nash Construction in Conway for $29,000.

“They wanted more information on the drainage,” he said. “Mayflower’s just so flat.”

• Board members also decided to hold off on accepting a bid for renovation of a middle-school bathroom.

“It’s old. It just needs refurbishing,” Gray said.

Western Millwright Services of Russellville submitted a bid of $38,950.

Gray said the board wants school officials to “look into it and see if we can subcontract it cheaper. Last year, we did some bathroom renovations ourselves for $24,000.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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