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Friday, July 25, 2014, 1:44 a.m.
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Mayflower to negotiate ‘payout’ with fired principal

By Tammy Keith

This article was published June 26, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

MAYFLOWER — The Mayflower School District’s attorney will negotiate a settlement for Jeff Cagle, the former high school principal who was fired a year ago in May.

Superintendent John Gray said the school board voted unanimously Monday night to allow the school’s attorney, Bill Brazil of Conway, to work with the school’s insurance company to negotiate “for a payout.”

“Everybody’s just trying to get it behind us and move on,” Gray said.

Gray fired Cagle in May 2013 for allegedly making inappropriate comments about students, and the board upheld the firing in September 2013. Cagle filed a lawsuit in Faulkner County Circuit Court through his attorney, Randy Coleman of Little Rock.

Cagle, who requested a jury trial, didn’t ask for his job back; he asked to be paid for the remainder of his contract and benefits due him, according to the lawsuit.

Gray said that in the last correspondence from Cagle, the former principal asked for $40,000 and $5,000 in attorney’s fees.

His salary was $77,576.

The superintendent said the district has insurance and will “just be out for the deductible.” Gray said Tuesday that Brazil is doing research to determine the settlement amount.

“Bill’s point was, if we went to court, we could win or lose it, and if we lost it, theoretically, he could get his job back,” Gray said.

Cagle was employed for the 2012-2013 school year, and his contract had been renewed for another year.

Gray said he wasn’t aware of any problems that Cagle had until May — after he gave Cagle a good evaluation in February 2013, marking almost every category with “meets expectations.”

However, Gray said, concerns came to light that caused him to suspend Cagle and recommend his termination.

Gray said a former Mayflower High School counselor told Gray that he and Cagle were having a conversation in the hall when two “pretty girls” walked by, and Cagle turned his head and watched them walk by, losing his train of thought.

Gray said the counselor was “unnerved” by the way Cagle looked at the students, telling Gray it was in a “perverted and highly improper manner.”

From the counselor’s perspective, Gray said, Cagle was “ogling at the students, and [the counselor] said it made him very nervous for the safety of the students.”

Most of Gray’s information came from a survey of high school employees, he said.

Gray said he created a survey for employees that stated it was “on the competence and effectiveness of your high school principal, Mr. Jeff Cagle.”

The responses were anonymous, but staff members were asked to sign a sheet if they responded.

The superintendent said 31 responses were received. Of those, five were positive, and 26 “show lack of ability to lead staff and students,” he said.

Gray said 10 responses mentioned that Cagle made inappropriate comments regarding females.

One person wrote that Cagle told a teacher she was “single and sexy, and if she needed a boyfriend, he could find her one.”

During the hearing, Gray read the negative responses, which included that students called Cagle “creepy,” that he “ogled” girls, “looked over the bathroom stalls at the guys” and that he “has been known several times to make racist comments about black students.”

Gray said, based on the “overwhelming majority” of comments from employees and for the safety of the students and teachers, “I felt like I had no choice” except to suspend Cagle.

Cagle denied the allegations and asked for an open hearing in September 2013 before the school board, saying, “I don’t have anything to hide. I know my character — I know what I believe in.”

A native of Palestine, Cagle was fired in 2002 from the Palestine-Wheatley School District after allegedly performing a strip search on six students to find missing money, according to an Associated Press article.

Cagle was principal of the district’s high school in Palestine but was filling in for the principal in Wheatley, the article states. Cagle filed a lawsuit in St. Francis County Circuit Court against the school district for breach of contract. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2005, according to a spokesman for the circuit clerk’s office in Forrest City.

Cagle’s last administrative position before being hired in Mayflower was as Carlisle High School principal.

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

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