By Ashley Rader
A contentious public meeting just over a week ago left more questions than answers, but Director of Schools Ed Alexander has now provided additional details – including allegations of an attempted affair and harassment, as well as that of an ill-timed joke about prescription drug use – as reasons why West Side Elementary School’s principal should not be rehired.
In a five-page letter dated April 12 and addressed to “Board Members of the Elizabethton City Schools,” Alexander described Doug Mitchell as an employee who “came to believe that system procedures and policies applicable to others did not apply to him” and said the principal’s behavior has been “uncooperative and even defiant.”
While Alexander had already made allegations of non-conformity on Mitchell’s part, the letter, provided by the director of schools to the STAR Friday afternoon, described alleged incidents far beyond office procedures and scheduling conflicts.
Alexander’s letter discussed in length alleged incidents in which Mitchell harassed a married teacher at West Side so much over a two-year period that the teacher eventually sought and received a transfer to Elizabethton High School, where the harassment, the director contended, continued.
“There may be some debate as to whether Mr. Mitchell’s behavior in question rose to the level of harassment as that term is defined in discrimination law,” Alexander wrote in the letter. “My view is that it did, especially given that his unwelcome conduct continued over a period of time, that he persisted in it after the teacher made her discomfort known to him and that it played a role in the teacher transferring to another school in order to separate herself from him.
“However, regardless of whether the conduct rose to unlawful harassment, there is no question (no debate) that it was inappropriate, unprofessional and a reflection of poor judgment.”
In an April 4 public meeting at the school, attended by many angry parents, Alexander declined to give details to “protect any innocent individuals who were in any way involved,” but in his April 12 letter, the director wrote, “I now feel I must give more detail/evidence to support my recommendation. It is my hope (and my belief) that you will understand … and then come to the same conclusion I have reached, namely that is Mr. Mitchell himself who, through his own actions, has brought circumstances to a point that sensitivity of certain matters should shield him no more.”
When dropping off a copy of the letter to the STAR’s offices, Alexander said, “We are focusing on what the people asked me to do. They asked for the information, and here it is.”
The letter said the incident with the West Side teacher, who is not named, started in the 2009-2010 school year when Mitchell was said to have initiated conversations with the teacher concerning personal problems and marital issues he was having.
According to the letter, the conversations occurred in person and on the phone.
Alexander stated in the letter the calls became more frequent and prolonged, with some lasting 60 to 90 minutes. He said voice mails were left indicating the teacher needed to call Mitchell back and requests made that the two meet for a meal outside of work and an invitation to meet Mitchell at his apartment. The teacher, Alexander wrote, informed Mitchell she had no interest in establishing a relationship with him.
The letter said Mitchell continued initiating unwelcome conversations with the teacher from the 2009-2010 school year through the 2010-2011 school year — when the teacher asked for a transfer to EHS, which she was granted for the 2011-2012 school year. Alexander wrote that Mitchell then pursued the teacher at the high school until she went to the principal there for help. After that, Assistant Superintendent Richard VanHuss spoke with Mitchell about the complaint.
Read Mitchell’s response here: Mitchell responds, saying Alexander’s claims not true