Former Natchez-Adams School District superintendent appeals school board termination decision

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017


NATCHEZ — Former Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill has filed a chancery court appeal of the school board’s decision to uphold his termination.

Hill filed the appeal in the Adams County Chancery Court through Jackson attorney Lisa Ross, who also represented him during the school district’s appeal process. The appeal was filed on March 15.

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School Board Attorney Bruce Kuehnle said a chancery court judge will review the transcripts from the school district’s post-termination hearing Hill had previously requested and make a judgment.

Ross could not be reached for comment this week.

In January, the school district voted 3-0 to uphold the termination, with board Secretary Thelma Newsome absent. Board member Brenda Robinson, who was not on the board during the appeals process or during the termination, abstained.

School board member Phillip West, in his first meeting in March 2016, moved for the termination of Hill, but his motion did not receive a second. In his second regularly scheduled meeting, with Newsome and then board member Benny Wright absent, the same board members — Amos James, Cynthia Smith and West — voted 3-0 to terminate Hill’s contract.

Hill was fired after a federal jury sided with former West Elementary School Principal Cindy Idom. She sued the district, Hill and a former assistant superintendent for creating a racially hostile work environment.

The court granted a $668,000 judgment in September 2015. Idom’s attorneys and the district ultimately settled for $625,000 in April.

During the hearings, Hill’s attorney, Ross presented arguments that Hill was only found liable for causing emotional distress, that only the district was found liable of racial discrimination. She said under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, she believed Hill could not be found liable for racial discrimination.

Ross also argued West came onto the board with an agenda against Hill and that Smith, whose daughter had been non-renewed as an assistant principal in the district while Hill was superintendent, had a grudge against Hill.

Ross argued a board member with a personal grudge against Hill should not have been allowed to vote.

Laurel-based attorney Terry Caves, representing the school district, argued in the hearing by presenting the opinion of U.S. District Court Judge David Bramlette, who presided in Idom’s federal lawsuit.

Bramlette wrote that testimony and evidence showed Idom was a victim of harassment, belittlement, discrimination, intimidation and being in a racially hostile work environment.