Legacy principal disputes termination

In May, Rosemary Kelly gave an impassioned plea to Taylor school trustees in an effort to stave off the termination of her contract. On Monday, after she withdrew from an independent hearing, trustees voted to do just that.

“The nefarious claim that only one person cares about student safety and was punished for bringing this issue forward maligns the care and hard work of everyone involved in this issue and does not make sense.”

- Taylor ISD Superintendent Keith Brown

Taylor school trustees voted unanimously Monday to terminate former Legacy Principal Rosemary Kelly’s contract. District officials also pushed back hard against claims that administrators and trustees don’t care about student safety.

“The nefarious claim that only one person cares about student safety and was punished for bringing this issue forward maligns the care and hard work of everyone involved in this issue and does not make sense,” said Superintendent Keith Brown after the meeting. “It is time to set the record straight on one point - student safety is priority number one for Taylor ISD, its trustees and employees.”

Kelly was relieved of her position as principal of Legacy Early College High School in April.

In May, Kelly launched a fiery defense of her tenure at the school, a defense that began at a school board meeting in front of a packed house then took to Austin-area broadcast media. That defense eventually included a public relations campaign and an online petition urging trustees to re-instate her.

The majority of her argument focused on her treatment by the district after one of her students called in a terroristic threat from the campus.

Until Monday, legal and confidentiality concerns prevented school administrators and trustees from replying in defense of the district.

“There has been a perceived intentionality on her part as to when information is released,” said Trustee Daniel Philhower. “[She] has dominated the conversation for a long time.”

“In contrast to what’s been put out there publicly, the board has followed its obligation to protect confidentiality,” said Oscar Treviño, the district’s attorney. “Those [obligations] were all strictly honored, to the detriment of the board and the administration.”

“Much information has been publicized by [Kelly] and her supporters maligning the efforts of Taylor ISD,” said Brown. “Throughout this time, Taylor ISD has done the right thing and allowed the legal process to go forward rather than wage a public fight over confidential school district concerns.”

Prior to the vote Monday, trustees learned that Kelly voluntarily withdrew from the termination process and did not submit a formal letter of resignation.

Treviño explained termination began June 5, shortly after the board voted to begin the process. That process involved a hearing by an independent examiner from the Texas Education Agency.

Treviño said that, under law, Kelly had the right to request a TEA hearing.

“Since then, we’ve been engaged in a full-blown litigation process,” he said.

That process allowed both sides to examine all of the evidence and witness lists, and have full access to everything that might be brought up in the independent hearing.

He said his team was well prepared for the hearing.

Treviño said a hearing had been set for Aug. 20 but, on Aug. 9, Kelly’s attorney submitted a request that the hearing be cancelled.

He said that it was only after the completion of the pre-hearing process that Kelly requested to withdraw from the case.

“Under law, when she submitted that request, there was no longer any contest to the termination,” Treviño said.

“We believe we had a very strong case to support termination,” he said. “Prior to the last pre-hearing conference … the process was an exhaustive factual investigation. The only thing that remained was organizational.”

Trustee Marilyn Tennill noted Treviño referred to “each and every issue” when discussing his potential defense.

“Grammatically, that indicates there was much more than a singular piece of information that caused this whole process,” she said, emphasizing that Kelly’s termination was the result of a variety of incidents, rather than the way the terroristic threat to the Legacy campus was handled.

“There were multiple reasons the board voted to terminate her contract,” said Treviño. “We were prepared to submit arguments to support each point in the termination.”

Trustee Cheryl Carter asked if there is still the possibility of a civil lawsuit. Treviño said he couldn’t speculate but would rather discuss the potential during an executive meeting.

“There is the opportunity for a future conversation,” he said.

Later, Brown noted that the district is engaged in an aggressive refinement of a security plan involving local law enforcement (see related story).

“Taylor ISD, like other school districts in the nation, is not immune from threats to student safety,” he said. “As fellow parents, Taylor ISD trustees and employees understand the trust placed in the school district to provide a safe environment for its students.”

Trustee Shorty Mitchell made the motion to terminate the contract. Thomas Rohlack seconded.

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