Natchez-Adams School District to pay $127K to former principal

Published 12:16 am Friday, April 29, 2016

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District will pay approximately $127,500 to a former principal who successfully sued the district for wrongful termination.

The district’s insurance company will pay the remainder of the $625,000 settlement.

Last year, a federal civil jury ruled the district, former superintendent Frederick Hill and former deputy superintendent Tanisha Smith culpable for creating a hostile work environment — including racial discrimination against the white plaintiff — before forcing former Susie B. West Elementary School principal Cindy Idom into retirement.

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After the jury handed down the verdict in September 2015, the final judgment was issued in January, awarding Idom approximately $668,000 in back pay, damages and legal fees.

Of that, $75,000 was assessed against Hill and $25,000 against Smith. However, Hill and Smith’s contracts had clauses holding them harmless in lawsuits brought against them in their official capacity in the district.

The district later requested a federal judge toss out the jury verdict or grant a new trail. However, the appeal was denied.

Rather than appealing to a higher court, NASD Board of Trustees Attorney Bruce Kuehnle said the parties have reached a compromise settlement of $625,000. The district will pay $127,500 of that with its insurance company, RSUI Group of Atlanta, paying the rest..

Kuehnle said the district’s insurance policy has a provision that if the board does not settle before whatever judgment is rendered, the district is liable for 30 percent of whatever is in excess of the settlement offered.

In this instance, Kuehnle said the district rejected a $200,000 settlement, so the board of trustees was liable for 30 percent of $425,000.

The board of trustees voted 4-1 to pay the settlement.

Board president Amos James Jr., said he was happy the district could move on.

“I am just glad we are finished with it,” he said. “We can put it behind us now and move forward.”

Board member Benny Wright, who voted nay, could not be reached for comment.

Hill was terminated by the board earlier this month, and Smith resigned to take a job in the Tupelo Municipal School District.