Miss. Supreme Court declines to hear Hazlehurst school superintendent firing

Published 5:10 pm Friday, November 30, 2007

The Mississippi Supreme Court declined Thursday to review the Hazlehurst school board’s decision to fire Superintendent Shelton Wilder after a little more than a year on the job.

The state Court of Appeals in April upheld the school board’s action.

Wilder became superintendent of the Hazlehurst City School District on July 1, 2003. His contract was renewed in August 2004 by the local school board although Wilder was not pleased with it, citing a disagreement over the hiring of a curriculum and instruction director.

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The school board fired Wilder on Sept. 20, 2004. The board cited a long list of reasons for Wilder’s dismissal, including insubordination, a breakdown in communication and failure to follow board policy. After a public hearing requested by Wilder, the board voted 4-1 in January 2005 to uphold Wilder’s dismissal.

Wilder sued and a chancery judge upheld the dismissal in December 2005.

Wilder had argued the evidence presented by the school board didn’t support his dismissal.

The Appeals Court said the court record showed that when the school board met to vote on Wilder’s termination, they were tired of the conflict with the contract.

“The evidence does not show that Wilder was terminated because he signed the contract under protest; rather, the evidence shows that the board made a decision based on continuous problems with Wilder, one being the contract,” the Appeals Court said.

The court said none of the grounds cited by the board alone may have provided cause for dismissal “but taking all the evidence and testimony together, problems existed at all levels between Wilder, the teachers, the board, and the school personnel.”