With a vote Tuesday, Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson and the Board of Education have effectively let Dr. Marty Waters go from his job as principal of Statesboro High School. The board's decision was not unanimous.
Technically, Waters was not fired, and he has a contract through June 30. But the fact that his name was not listed among the 13 other returning principals in Wilson's recommendations means that Waters has no contract for the 2014-15 school year. His arrest Friday by Statesboro police on a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse fell very close to a May 15 state deadline for school employees to me informed of contract renewals.
The board met in a specially called, closed-door session at noon to consider Wilson's personnel recommendations, then let reporters in so that all votes were conducted in public. Wilson then spoke briefly to reporters, acknowledging that he had not recommended Waters for renewal.
"He's still on administrative leave," Wilson said. "He'll be paid through the remainder of his 2013-14 contract, but he's not being recommended for an administrative contract for 2014-15."
Board members Vernon Littles and Mike Sparks voted against the motion that rehired the other principals but left Waters out. So the vote was 5-2 with the eighth member, Mike Herndon, absent. Board member Anshul Jain also was not physically present for the meeting but participated by phone.
In a later phone interview, Littles confirmed that his opposition vote pertained to Waters and not to any of the other principals. Littles said he had listened to the available information, looked at what Waters was charged with, and felt the matter should be allowed to play its way out in the judicial process before a final decision was made.
"You're innocent until proven guilty, and maybe some more investigation should have been done prior to it," Littles said. "I understand from both sides of it, and I want to make sure we get it right."
Meanwhile, Waters' remaining on administrative leave until the end of the school year was appropriate, Littles added.
Waters is not entitled to a hearing because his contract was not terminated but is not being renewed, Wilson said when asked about this.
After Friday's arrest, Statesboro police said Waters had known since March about suspected child abuse between assistant girls soccer coach Jeffrey Tyler Crowder, 25, and a 16-year-old female student. Crowder was arrested April 30 and charged with felony sexual assault, two days after police were given information about an inappropriate relationship.
Assistant football coach Luke Edward Parks, 26, was arrested May 1 and charged with felony sexual exploitation of children and sexual assault, also involving a reported inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old female student.
Under Georgia law, 16 can be an age of consent under certain circumstances, but sex between a teacher and a student cannot be consensual and is grounds for felony charges against the teacher, even when the students are older. School administrators, teachers and many other professionals and even volunteers who work with children are legally required to report suspected abuse.
When he placed Waters on administrative leave Friday, Wilson appointed one of Statesboro High School's assistant principals, Dr. Ken LeCain, as acting principal. Additionally, Priscilla Clifton, who retired in 2008 as principal of Brooklet Elementary School, has now been placed at Statesboro High as an assistant principal for the last two weeks of school.
"At the school they're focusing on what's important, and that's the students, and they're all about their business the last 10 days of school," Wilson said. "Yesterday and today, everybody was about their tasks."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.