A 22-year veteran of the Paulding County School System was terminated Tuesday night after district officials said she failed to return from long-term medical leave.
The Paulding County Board of Education voted unanimously to terminate Judith Skelton, who taught English at Paulding County High School. Skelton was granted a 60-day leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act after being involved in a car crash in March 2011. When her initial leave expired, she was granted long-term leave for one year, said Jennifer Ferguson, human resources specialist.
But when her leave ran out in September, Skelton didn't return to work. Officials in the Human Resources department sent two letters and made numerous phone calls to Skelton but received no reply, said Ferguson, who visited Skelton's home on Nov. 1.
"I was not successful in having anyone come to the door," Ferguson said Tuesday night during a hearing in front of the Board of Education.
The school system's last attempt to contact Ferguson came when Superintendent Cliff Cole sent a letter informing her she was being charged with insubordination, willful neglect of her position and violating the code of ethics for educators.
It wasn't until after 11 p.m. on Monday when Skelton contacted Ferguson for the first time since July, sending an email to inform the school system that, thinking she had already been fired, she had just opened a recent letter and would not be attending Tuesday night's hearing.
"No one takes termination cases lightly," said Tom Cable, the school system's attorney. "It's a difficult thing to do, especially when someone has been here 22 years. But sometimes employees don't leave you any choice. The superintendent owes a duty to this school district. He has to look beyond the needs of one person to the needs of the district."
In other business, the board:
- Approved a capital outlay application for fiscal year 2014;
- Voted to purchase point-of-sale cafeteria computers from Heartland at a cost of $97,017;
- Approved a resolution authorizing individuals/supplement retirement plans;
- Approved a memo of understanding with the UGA Cooperative Extension for 4-H programs in county schools;
- Approved an agreement with the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center;
- Approved a budget transfer of $172,549 to offset an unexpected funding shortfall of school-based Coca-Cola sales;
- Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Hiram for use of school system buses for the city's Christmas Tree Lighting;
- Recognized Halie Bissell as the Dallas Rotary Club's Teacher of the Month;
- And recognized several students for exemplifying school pride.