A longtime Hopewell Elementary School teacher who had been dismissed from the Bradley County school system two years ago, and then reinstated by court order, has been assigned to Ocoee Middle School.
Bradley County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel confirmed Susan Elliott has returned to the classroom at the local middle school.
Elliott, who had taught at Hopewell for 16 years prior to losing her job, is teaching science at the sixth-grade level.
The Bradley County Board of Education voted in June not to appeal a ruling by a Chattanooga judge that said she should be reinstated as a tenured teacher.
The school system had dismissed Elliott after she was arrested on charges that were later proven to be false. Even though another person was charged with filing a false report and law enforcement investigations ended, the school system continued its own investigation.
During the Oct. 4, 2012, school board meeting, McDaniel recommended her dismissal, citing “unprofessional conduct,” among other complaints. Elliott appealed the decision in January 2013.
This summer, Hamilton County Chancellor W. Frank Brown III ruled that Elliott must be reinstated after questioning the results of the hearings that eventually denied her reinstatement. The county school board voted not to appeal Brown’s ruling in a special called meeting on June 18, effectively voting to follow the ruling’s instructions.
During that meeting, the five out of seven board members who were present voted unanimously, all expressing a desire to give Elliott a new start.
Board Vice Chairman Nicholas Lillios said the matter should “be put to rest fully.”
Fellow board member Chris Turner said the board should “put energy into healing the situation.”
Once the board made its decision, it was McDaniel’s responsibility to assign Elliott to a school. Though Brown’s ruling included a recommendation that she not return to Hopewell, it did not specify where she should teach.
“The board voted not to appeal,” McDaniel said. “We have reinstated her per that decision.”
McDaniel said the assignment to Ocoee Middle School was made in early July, and she was given the same professional development opportunities that other teachers at her school were being given at the time.
He also noted that Elliott, like every other teacher in the school system, will have the resources she needs to do her job well this year.
“We’ll provide her with support,” McDaniel said. “We will make sure she has people to help her make that transition.”
After the school board’s vote earlier this summer, it was announced that Elliott, McDaniel and their respective attorneys were set to create a document called an “accord of satisfaction” that would outline the steps both Elliott and the school system would need to take as part of the transition.
Bradley County schools have since started back with an abbreviated day on Friday, and Elliott and her fellow teachers are in the midst of the first full week of school for the new year.
Elliott declined to offer comment about her new assignment through a family member who had been contacted by the Cleveland Daily Banner in an attempt to reach the veteran instructor.
Ron Spangler, OMS principal, also declined to comment, citing uncertainty about what personnel-related information he was allowed to share and referring all questions to the Bradley County School System’s central office.
Spangler did confirm Elliott has been assigned as a sixth-grade teacher.
McDaniel said he has the same desire for her success he has for all the school system’s teachers, because they are all equally responsible for ensuring students get the best possible educations.
“We expect her to be the best she can be,” McDaniel said. “We expect that of all our teachers.”