Principal fired for neglect of duty, insubordination

Herald Staff Writer

OTWELL — The five-member Pike County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to terminate Otwell Elementary School Principal Rick Fears’ contract immediately.

The reasons given were neglect of duty, insubordination and “other good and just cause.”

Fears was placed on administrative leave last month pending a review by the board. He was allowed to plead his case in an executive session last week.

A “findings of fact” document released by the school board this morning said that Fears did not adhere to the guidelines established by Indiana Code for teacher evaluations nor did he adhere to the guidelines of the Rise model of evaluation approved by the corporation; he failed to comply with a request from the superintendent for written documentation regarding a specific situation and displayed “an argumentative and challenging manner when disagreeing with corporation decisions”; and he “demonstrated unprofessional and/or unethical behavior by violating testing guidelines, (Family Educational Rights Privacy Act) guidelines and attempted to alter data for a state report.”

The document further states that Fears was found to be in need of improvement in the areas of teacher effectiveness and leadership actions.

Fears declined to comment after Tuesday’s meeting, but his attorney, Mark Phillips, said he was surprised at the decision that was announced during the five-minute public meeting.

“I’m shocked. I quite frankly thought we would come in and we would learn that he was going to be reinstated and begin work tomorrow and take off as if things hadn’t occurred,” said Phillips, whose practice is in Boonville. “I did not hear anything in the presentation by the corporation suggesting that he should be terminated.”

Phillips said he and his client will begin preparing to file a lawsuit against the corporation, which he expects to be done within 10 days.

“I think it (the lawsuit) will be an opportunity for people to see that apparently, there is a double standard in this corporation and certain administrators are treated differently than others,” Phillips said.

The attorney said the suit will be filed in Pike County first and then he will determine whether there is sufficient reason to file in federal court in Evansville as well.

The board meeting was attended by a group of staff members from Otwell Elementary, many of whom wore blue T-shirts to represent the school.

The group declined to comment after the meeting, but several women wiped tears from their eyes as they quietly talked together in the gymnasium in the central office.

Interim Principal Jim Isaacs, who was installed by the board after Fears’ suspension last month, will continue in the position until a permanent replacement is found.

Contact Claire Moorman at

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