NHS principal’s contract not renewed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 13, 2009

NATCHEZ — As the end of the school year marks the start of freedom for students, it marks the start of a job search for one local principal.

In February Natchez High School Principal James Loftin learned his contract at the school would not be renewed.

Loftin has been principal for six years and said the news came as a surprise.

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“I was caught off guard,” he said.

Loftin said shortly before he was called to meet with Natchez-Adams District Superintendent Anthony Morris, he received word from another administrator in the district that he would possibly be suspended.

“But I did not see this coming,” he said of the district’s notice to not renew his contract.

Morris said the matter is a personnel issue that he is not permitted to discuss.

However, Loftin said Morris told him his contract was not being renewed for insubordination, conduct unbecoming of a professional, failure to supervise his staff and failure to follow hiring procedures.

Loftin said while he and Morris did not discuss specific incidents that ended in his termination, Loftin believes he knows why he was fired.

Several of the incidents took place between October and December of 2008 that may have cost Loftin his job, he said.

He believes two October incidents resulted in his insubordination charges.

Loftin took one week off for a church trip after the district’s Assistant Superintendent Morris Stanton denied his request for time off.

Loftin said the district was aware of his longtime trip even before he started working.

“He said it had to do with the time of the month,” Loftin said of Stanton’s denial of his time off request. “I don’t know what that means.”

Loftin said after his initial request was denied he re-filed his petition for time off under a request for sick leave.

When that was also denied, he took the week off anyway.

Additionally, Loftin said he and Stanton again disagreed in October on what should be done with a group of students Loftin wanted to expel for fighting at school.

Loftin said he wanted the students moved from the high school to Central Alternative School, while Stanton felt they should be expelled.

Loftin, without Stanton’s permission, said he relocated the students.

Loftin said he later received a text message from Stanton saying the students were not given a due process hearing and that they would be returned to the high school.

Loftin said he then responded to Stanton’s text with his own text saying he felt students at the school were being allowed to disrupt classes with no repercussions.

Loftin was then asked by letter to meet with Morris and Stanton to defend his statement.

In the meeting Loftin defended his original statement.

“I told them it means exactly what it said,” he said. “I had no other explanation.”

Loftin said he feels Morris believes he acted unprofessionally when Loftin called the bluff of a student who was threatening to beat him up.

Loftin said the student, who had been previously suspended for having drugs on campus, was in his office being reprimanded and was using abusive language and threatening to harm Loftin.

Loftin said he got up walked around his desk and gave the student an opportunity to follow through on his threats.

“I gave him his chance,” Loftin said.

While the student did not take Loftin up on his offer, Loftin said he reported the incident to Morris.

“I told (Morris) I would not tolerate that language,” he said.

Loftin said he was also reprimanded for improperly hiring a teacher liaison and for the system he implemented for managing substitute teachers.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said of a deteriorating relationship with the district in the past year. “I’ve stood by the district and everything (Morris) has done. For whatever reason, they have not supported me this year.”

And while Loftin said while he would like his job back, but he won’t go where he’s not wanted.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” he said. “I’m not going to fight them.”

Morris, citing personnel issues, would not say if any applicants had been interviewed for Loftin’s job.

But Morris did say he hopes to have a new principal hired by July 1.