After nearly 13 hours of testimony, the Newton County Board of Education voted unanimously to uphold the superintendent's recommendation to not renew the contract of Sylvia Jordan.
Jordan, who served most recently as an assistant principal at Newton High School, was placed on administrative leave (with pay) in March. The leave stemmed from a disagreement between Jordan and Principal Craig Lockhart, in which Jordan alleged he yelled at her and slammed his fist on his desk, causing her to be afraid of him. When she reported this to Superintendent Gary Mathews, she was removed from the school pending an investigation into what Mathews called "very serious allegations."
During the course of the investigation, it was found that Jordan had been spoken to on several occasions by Lockhart about a variety of things, chief among them being late (or absent) from meetings - be they staff meetings or pre-arranged meetings with parents, blaming others when things were done incorrectly or when questioned about anything and being rude to other administrators at the school.
Lockhart testified that teachers at NHS were "terrified" by Jordan and that she "hijacked" meetings. He also said that she was "distracting and disconnected" at staff meetings, spending most of the time playing with apps on her phone. Jordan denied this, saying that she was just taking notes with her Smart Phone. There was also a concern from other assistant principals that she was secretly taping their staff meetings, an accusation that Jordan vehemently denied.
"She knows how to handle the business, however for some reason the business wasn't being handled," said Lockhart.
He also told the board that during one conversation, Jordan said to him "we're both black, aren't you supposed to be looking out for me?"
"We need five assistant principals at Newton High," said Lockhart, "however, I would dare say that we got more done after Dr. Jordan left."
Other assistant principals who worked with Jordan at NHS told similar stories, of an educator who was more interested in "stirring up trouble" than in handling her duties, which included special education and 12th grade discipline (which was eventually removed from her duties so she could focus on special education).
One assistant principal said that at times "we felt like we were being sabotaged or set up" by Jordan. She also said that her "chronic" lateness became a "bit of a joke within the school."
Jordan denied being chronically late. She also seemed surprised to learn that she had become the butt of the joke within the school.
However, when board attorney Phil Hartley brought up previous letters and evaluations done by her supervisors, it showed that tardiness was not a new complaint when it came to Jordan.
As far back as the 2004-05 school year, retired Superintendent Wendell Clamp had noted issues with Jordan, as had retired Superintendent Steve Whatley, who had sent her a number of letters regarding her performance.
Prior to becoming an assistant principal at NHS, she was an assistant principal at Alcovy High School (for about two months), and was reprimanded several times by Principal LaQuanda Carpenter for the same issues.
Jordan was demoted to an assistant principal after serving as principal at Clements Middle School from 2002-2009. While at Clements, the school failed to meet AYP for five years. When the school did meet AYP and move from the Needs Improvement list (which requires meeting AYP for two consecutive years), it was under restructuring per state guidelines.
When the board voted to eliminate two assistant principal positions because of budgetary constraints, Jordan made the list. The other assistant principal was permitted to move to another school, Jordan was not given that option. According to Mathews, he didn't think moving her would fix the problem.
Mathews testified that when he was coming in as superintendent that former Superintendent Whatley warned him to "keep an eye" on Jordan because her performance was "less than stellar," and that early on Lockhart came to him with concerns about her performance at NHS.
He conceded that she "inherited a mess" with the special education department, but said that "she created an even bigger one," calling the department at NHS a "shambles" under her leadership.
He said that the stories from the other assistant principals were "so compelling and so similar that frankly I didn't trust what I heard... from Dr. Jordan."
Former NHS Assistant Principal Courtney Manning told the board that when he worked with Jordan, he didn't have any issues with her. Instead, he said that the other assistant principals were "isolating" and that when Jordan would come near them they would stop talking and leave the area. However, he did admit that he was no longer with the school system locally and that he resigned (in lieu on non-renewal) at both NHS and AHS.
Under oath, Jordan said that when she was at AHS, Carpenter wouldn't talk to her, instead choosing to send her letters of reprimand and direction. She testified that she became so stressed from the redirection letters that EMS was sent to the school to tend to her once. However, her complaint with Lockhart was just the opposite. Where she was concerned with Carpenter sending too many letters, she complained that Lockhart didn't send her enough letters and that she was never put on a redirection plan or told that showing up late for meetings and speaking out of turn at them wasn't appreciated.
When questioned about Whatley's comment to Mathews that he should "keep an eye" on her, she said Whatley had "like a split personality."
"There seems to be some contamination about me being late and that's not fair," she said. Adding that working in Newton County was like "working in a cesspool," and calling the other assistant principals "chatterboxes." However, when asked, she said she felt she could come back to Newton County schools and be effective as an administrator.
The board disagreed. Jordan had been accused of being incompetent, insubordinate and willfully neglecting her duties. The board didn't comment on any of those accusations, simply agreeing to uphold Mathews' recommendation that her contract not be renewed.
Along with the loss of her more than $103,000 salary, Jordan will also no longer be eligible for any benefits unless she chooses to continue paying for them.