By Ashley Rader
Elizabethton’s West Side story looks like it’s turning into a rumble between Director of Schools Ed Alexander and Doug Mitchell as both men engaged in a call-and-response dance that showed little sign in ending an ongoing conflict.
In response to Alexander’s five-page letter issued Friday that accused Mitchell of harassment, bad judgment and a “defiant” attitude, the West Side Elementary School principal issued his own two-page response, flatly refuting the director’s claims and saying they are “unsubstantiated.”
“I submit these statements to you in order for the public to have full knowledge of the actions and events that have been stated by Mr. Alexander,” Mitchell wrote in his response that he provided to the Elizabethton STAR Saturday afternoon, after, he said, he consulted with an attorney.
Mitchell takes issue with Alexander’s claim that a West Side teacher was harassed by him for more than two years, forcing the teacher, who was not named, to seek a transfer to Elizabethton High School and initiating a warning from administration.
“I can honestly say there was no form of harassment toward this individual and all communication between us was mutual and not unprofessional in nature,” Mitchell wrote. “During her tenure at West Side, she served as a teacher, as well as the principal designee. She was also a member of a Lincoln Memorial University Educational Administration Program cohort in which I and several other Elizabethton City School employees were a part of from August 2009 – August 2010. She was also a member of a study team including a district administrator and myself throughout this course of study. Our study team met and communicated on a regular basis during this time.
“There were also occasions in which we carpooled to LMU classes locally and to monthly meetings at the LMU campus. This individual sought employment as an administrator in the spring of 2011 as a result of obtaining her degree and certification in educational administration. At that time she asked me, as the building administrator, to provide a letter of recommendation as a part of her application process. She was then hired to serve as an administrator in another school.”
Mitchell said no formal complaint was filed with the school system “concerning any misconduct or inappropriate behavior on my part as it is unsubstantiated.”
“If this were a concern,” Mitchell asked in his letter, “why has it not mentioned before now and addressed by the administration in the proper way?”
Another new issue detailed by Alexander in his Friday letter involved what he called an inappropriate joke that Mitchell was said to have made during a meeting with parents. According to Alexander, Mitchell entered the meeting in visible discomfort and said to have back pain and that it was a “four-Lortab day.”
Alexander said the joke was not appropriate for a principal and made light of drug abuse problems.
In his response, Mitchell explained he has suffered with back pain for the past 10 years and has been seeing a doctor to find a solution. He said he had surgery seven years ago but has had continued pain. He said he has been prescribed medication and has underwent additional medical procedures to control the problem.
“In no way did I then or have ever made light of drug abuse and realize the impact that it has had on our society,” Mitchell wrote. He did not specifically address if he said, as Alexander contends, that it felt like a “four Lortab day.”
In case you missed it, read Alexander’s complaints here: Alexander’s 5-page letter details objections to Mitchell