Friday, July 23, 2004

Principal hired despite pending charge

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A suspended superintendent awaiting trial on a felony charge has been appointed a principal for the Jefferson County Public Schools.

Crittenden County Superintendent Fredericka Hargis, 49, pleaded not guilty to wanton endangerment in February, accused of running over a woman's foot with her car in Marion.

She has been hired as the principal at Rutherford Elementary School in Louisville.

"We are aware of the issues in that county," said Lauren Roberts, a Jefferson County schools spokeswoman. "But we did a complete background check and reference check, and we're convinced that we have a good hire."

There is no evidence that Hargis poses a danger to children, Roberts said.

State law prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from working in a school district. It was unclear when Hargis' case will go to trial. If convicted, Hargis could face one to five years in prison.

Marion police said she ran over the foot of Tracy Rozwalka after a confrontation in the parking lot of a beauty shop regarding a letter critical of Hargis and other school personnel.

The Crittenden school board suspended Hargis for insubordination and conduct unbecoming of a superintendent. She has not resigned or been fired pending the outcome of the case, said Zac Greenwall, the board's attorney.

"I'm very happy to be ... where I think everything I have worked for will mean something," said Hargis, who declined comment on her former job. "I will do whatever it takes - blood, sweat and tears - to embrace the faculty and students."

Previously, Hargis was a principal in Lincoln County and superintendent in Fulton County.

Meanwhile, Bell County has hired as superintendent a former county high school principal whose certification was reinstated after an 18-month suspension.

George Thompson, 49, had been accused of practices that inflated scores on student assessment tests. The Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board restored his certification Monday, and Thompson was hired Tuesday.

The board's investigators found that Thompson encouraged inappropriate practices such as having teachers clarify questions and allowing extra testing time.

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