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UPDATED: School board votes to fire William Fleming Principal Susan Willis

November 09, 2009
  • A three-member panel recommended the school board fire Susan Willis.
A three-member panel recommended the school board fire Susan Willis.

UPDATED 10:40 p.m. Wednesday

The Roanoke City School Board is calling on Susan Willis to release the full report of the fact finding panel.

News7 has also learned how much it cost the school system in legal fees over a Standards of Learning cheating scandal at William Fleming High School.

Tuesday night the school board fired principal Susan Willis.

While all seven board members agreed with the fact finding panel recommendation that she should be let go, some members felt she should be allowed to resign.

In the end, the school board voted five to two to terminate Willis.

The reason it is so difficult to release this report is because Virginia's laws protect the privacy of the grievant, in this case Susan Willis.

She has released half the report which isn't sitting well with some school board members.

A spokesperson for Willis says her attorney is researching whether she can release the full findings.

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The report in question was put together by the three member fact finding panel that heard Willis' grievance.

The panel voted two to one to recommend to the school board Willis either be fired or asked to resign.

Willis has released the dissenting opinion written by Cheryl Twine, the volleyball coach at William Fleming who Willis picked to serve on the panel.

The school board attorney says out of fairness Willis should release the entire report.

News 7 has also learned the school system had to pay more than $160,000 in legal fees to defend itself during the grievance process.

The school board has directed its attorney to try recoup some costs from Willis.

However, because the way the law is written, that would not include those legal fees or the $42,000 she earned while on paid administrative leave.

Next Tuesday, the state board of education is expected to decide whether William Fleming High School will lose its accreditation because of the SOL cheating scandal.

A recommendation by the state superintendent is expected by the end of the week.

There have been three cases before the state board of education involving SOL problems.

In two of those, accreditation was revoked, one school got to keep it.

News7 will be in Richmond for that hearing.

UPDATED 10:53 p.m. Tuesday

Susan Willis is vowing to fight on.

Willis released a statement indicating she may file a lawsuit.

Because of that possibility, school board members were instructed not to talk to the news media after the vote.

Several educators are talking and they're calling on Willis to let it go and move on.

The Roanoke City school board voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the fact finding panel picked to hear Willis' grievance.

However, board members strongly disagreed as to Willis' punishment.

Some felt she should be able to resign, others wanted to fire her.

The school board voted five to two to terminate her with board members Courtney Penn and Mae Huff voting against the measure.

Educator and Roanoke city councilwoman Anita Price says the school board made the right decision.

"I am very proud of the actions of the school board tonight, because it demonstrates actions do have consequences," says Roanoke City Council Member Anita Price.

A Department of Education investigation found administrators at Fleming were changing student's schedules so they wouldn't have to take certain SOL tests.

The DOE said principal Susan Willis was the mastermind behind the deception.

The Roanoke Education Association president says Willis' actions hurt her students.

"I care about children and I want them to succeed and to hear about what was done to the children is just unbelievable as an educator that someone could actually do that," says Roanoke Education Association President Latasha Suggs.

Susan Willis has maintained her innocence, saying she was framed.

After the board's vote, Willis released a statement saying she may decide to contest the outcome through future litigation to clear her name and professional reputation.

Some Roanoke educators say Willis needs to think long and hard before pursuing legal action.

"I can't speak for her personally, but I would certainly hope to do the right thing and graciously bow out," says Price.

Susan Willis released the dissenting opinion from the fact finding panel.

The release of that report angered the school board attorney.

He said quote it is shameful to only release HALF the report. He says if Willis is interested in the full truth she will release the entire report.

That report indicates the vote by the fact finding panel was 2 to 1 to recommend the school board fire her.

Beyond possible lawsuits, Willis may lose her license by the state.

The school board couldn't take that issue up until the grievance was over.

Now that it is, the board may choose to do that but no decisions have been made.

It will be up to the state board of education to decide whether she will in fact lose her license.

UPDATED 10:45 p.m.

 To read the dissenting opinion from panel member Cheryl Twine, click here.

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