Board to contest Evans lawsuit

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 2, 2004

The Rock Hill School Board plans to fight a lawsuit filed against it by Superintendent Lloyd Evans on grounds that the suit makes false claims.

Evans, attorneys David Kessler of Columbus and Richard Myers and Brenda Neville of Chesapeake filed for an injunction in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court last month in an effort to keep his job after the board voted in February not to renew his contract.

In his suit, Evans maintains that he has a valid contract through 2009 that is not open for non-renewal. The superintendent for the past 26 years also maintains that the meeting in which the board voted on his contract was illegal because sufficient notice of the meeting was not given to all board members and the reason for the meeting was not stated.

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Evans also states he did not receive his letter of non-renewal until March 3, two days after he was, by law, supposed to have received formal notification.

"I am of the opinion that I have a valid contract and that the special board meeting on Feb. 25 was not a legal meeting as a result of them not abiding by all the requirements the statute requires," Evans said. "Also, I was not given any notice of my contract (termination), so I was totally denied any due process."

Evans went on to say that he "definitely thinks it is a personal vendetta on the part of some of the board members."

Lawyers for the board counter that Evans' claims are inaccurate and that they will file a response to his suit later this month.

"Mr. Evans' complaint is inaccurate for a number of reasons," Ross Bridgman, of the Cleveland firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, said in a written statement. "One, the Feb. 25 school board meeting to address' Mr. Evans' employment status was a valid, public meeting.

"Two, despite Mr. Evans' contentions, he is subject to the Ohio laws dealing with school superintendents who retire and are subsequently rehired. … Third, we strenuously disagree with Evans' interpretation of Ohio law in regard to the validity of his 5-year contract. Ohio law and the people of Ironton were ignored when the previous school board attempted to grant Mr. Evans a new 5- year contract. Ohio law demands that the public be included in that process."

The law firm goes on to say that "the actions of the school board to discontinue Mr. Evans' employment were taken to further the best interests of the children of the school district."

Evans countered that he has always worked for the children and that the school provides tremendous services because of no student fees, free lunch and breakfast and many other programs.

"I think we have some of the best buildings in the state. They are totally paid for due to my involvement in the negotiations with Duke Energy to pay off the bond issue 21 years early," he said. "We probably have one of the best bus fleets in the state of Ohio. I have put a strong emphasis on the safety of the children over the years."

The issue began in spring 2002 when Evans handed in his resignation as superintendent and then was immediately rehired by the board as superintendent, a common practice referred to as "double-dipping." That contract was for three years.

In November 2003, board members Troy Hardy, Jackie Harris and Rich Donohue voted to extend Evans' contract by five years. This vote came less than two months before two new board members took their seats.

A special meeting was called Feb. 25 to "consider the matter of personnel and such other business which may be considered necessary."

It was contested by Hardy and Harris on the day of the meeting, since Hardy claimed he received his notice an hour and a half shy of a full two-day's notice.

State law requires board members be given two-day's notice of special meetings but does not stipulate a time limit in terms of hours. State law stipulates that the media be given a 24-hour notice.

By state law, a school board must notify a superintendent in writing by March 1 that his or her contract will not be renewed for the following school year.

Lawsuits and legal troubles for the district have popped up several times recently.

Last month, two parents filed suit against the school district, naming Evans and his son, elementary school principal Freddie Evans specifically. Brent and Amanda Unroe claim their African-American children were discriminated against and that Unroe lost Brent Unroe lost his job as a teacher because he adopted African-American children. Shara Jenkins claims in her lawsuit her diabetic child was discriminated against.

Evans has vehemently denied that there was any wrongdoing by the school district in either case.