Administrative Judge Upholds Suspension of Chiles High School Principal

Administrative Judge Upholds Suspension of  Chiles High School Principal

After a Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) proceeding, Judge G.W. Chisenhall recommended that the Leon County School Board enter a final order suspending Joseph Burgess – Chiles High School principal – for two weeks without pay.

The ruling came after Superintendent Rocky Hanna filed an Administrative Complaint on July 28, 2021. The complaint alleged that Burgess committed
“misconduct in office” and a “willful neglect of duty” related to compensating employees for additional work.

The Administrative Complaint further alleged that “[j]ust cause exists to discipline [Principal Burgess] with a two-week suspension without pay.”

Principal Burgess disputed the allegations and a hearing was held in for October 7 and 8, 2021.

Tallahassee Reports has previously reported on this matter.

In June 2021, Hanna became aware of possible misconduct at Chiles High School related to the use o f Advanced Placement (AP) funds. After an internal investigation, Hanna recommended that the School Board suspend Burgess for two weeks without pay.

Burgess submitted an appeal and disputed the allegations by Hanna, and the Board then referred the matter to DOAH.

A teacher in Leon County can be paid by three methods: the salary associated with their instructional duties, one or more supplements (a flat rate for providing an additional service such as an academic coach), or hourly work unrelated to their instructional responsibilities.

According to the documents, there is a proper procedure for compensating hourly-as-needed pay separate from a teacher’s salary. Initially, the principal must obtain the district’s approval for the funding and the position. Further, the teachers must record their time working and submit it for review to the principal. The school’s principal is ultimately responsible for verifying the time submitted by teachers doing extra-duty, hourly work.

In this case, it was found that Principal Burgess used a mathematical calculation which automatically paid teachers a fixed monthly rate rather than paying them for actual hours worked.

Burgess and his secretary would take an amount determined by Burgess for each position, divide it by the employee’s established hourly rate, and divide the result over eight to ten pay periods.

According to Hanna’s complaint, Burgess knew that the contract between the district and the Leon Classroom Teachers Association would prevent them from approving “non-bargained supplements” or additional pay. Burgess also knew attempting to pay extra wages using AP funds would be denied as well.

During the hearing, when Burgess was asked how he knew the number of hours the teachers worked, as they were not tracking their time, Burgess responded, “I don’t.” “In my mind, they were paid for the work that they did. That was how it worked,” said Burgess, “My expectation was that they got the work done.”

Ultimately it was determined that Principal Burgess had “no ill intent” in his actions, and there is “no evidence that he used the system for an improper purpose, such as to favor certain teachers,” however, he was found to have committed “misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.”

While there is no evidence of widespread abuse, the document stated that Principal Burgess created an environment where abuses could have occurred. Teachers could have been paid for work they did not perform.

Lastly, Hanna acknowledged a lack of oversight by the district. He testified that new safeguards had been established. Now principals will need their supervisor’s permission to put employees on hourly-as-needed pay.

14 Responses to "Administrative Judge Upholds Suspension of Chiles High School Principal"

  1. In response to the comment from “Disgusted Parent” on Jan 20. I imagine the items you mention are public records in FL, why don’t you go get the copy of the hearing showing Hanna doing the same thing, present that, and the testimony of this happening for 30+ years as it does seem to be a misuse of tax dollars by the current school board and apparently for members of that board for over 30 years. Unless there is a certain amount of discretionary spending given to the principals of the schools?

  2. A lot of time and dollars (not to mention the reputation of a good man) wasted on something that has basically been a standard practice—and not just at Chiles. Why not a simple phone call or a meeting explaining that going forward this is not an option. Good leaders look out for their people, especially during trying times. This was poorly handled by the district. We have a lot of much bigger problems going on right now. Good leadership, professionalism, and a conversation could have fixed this. Why make it ugly?

  3. Mr. Burgess is a very good at his job he looks out for the best interest of his students and teachers. Looking at the previous comment that states Rocky Hannah misused school fundings when he was a principal, make me think this is personal. Rocky Hannah should not forget when he was a principal and made bad choices. Remember when we throw rocks at a glass house your house will be next in line. In other words you reap what you sow.

  4. Maybe all of this happened with Burgess because LCS was asked to investigate allegations of abuse and misuse of funds by the losing football coach at Chiles and found the misuse of AP funds during that investigation. So they looked into Chiles and Mr. Burgess instead of other schools and administrators.
    Mr. Burgess was found to have committed “misconduct in office and willful neglect of duties” This was found in the internal investigation and also in the appeal. So no matter what, he did the wrong thing.
    If someone has information about other schools and administrators, they should take it to the LCS and ask for an investigation. Not that anything will come of it.

  5. I don’t know Burgess and have never had kids in Leon County schools. I have no dog in this hunt.

    The way I read this, Burgess took funds intended for a specific purpose and instead used the money to give defacto raises to school staff. I get that he’s trying to look out for his people. But his job is to look out for the best interests of the county and doling out tax dollars with no expectation of a return is criminal. It needed to be stopped. Any argument that it happens at other schools and/or that its been going on for a very long time is an indictment of just how much corruption there is out there. It needs to be stopped everywhere, and the citizens/taxpayers of Leon County need to know who has engaged in this behavior, for how long, and how much of our tax dollars were wasted this way.

  6. This ruling is outrageous. Tallahassee Reports should get a copy of the hearing where Rocky Hannah himself was shown to have done the EXACT Same thing as Burgess when he was a principal and others testified this practice has been in place for 30 years!!! This is clearly a political witch hunt. This is so disgusting and I plan to bring my entire family to the school board hearing. It’s time for the people to rise against this ridiculous dictator who has clearly made it a habit to try to discredit all those he sees as a threat. Look at his list of targets…

  7. This should have been corrected by a phone call and a cordial conversation between two professionals charged with educating our children. But that’s not what we have here, we have a man child that can’t stand to see progress being made without his stamp of approval.

    Rocky Hannah is a threat to your child’s growth as a decent person.

  8. Outrageous Administrate Overkill

    One of the most difficult and indeed Dangerous Jobs.We train and promote people to exercise judgement and do the RIGHT THING then.punish them without
    Grace or insight.

    For two years schools their admin people teachers and support staff have had to make the Rules as they go or Give up during the COVID PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY.Everyone wants Children in school learning .Without teachers our children are stuck at home many without any parental supervision with all that brings.

    Administrate rules are written and are intended and to be used and interpreted by professional employees as guidelines.while they are legally compliant and based on Law they do not have the standing of Law.

    The standard is basically the same in Private Industry Government and USA Military all of which I have over 65 years documented Executive Service.

    What would a reasonable person do in the similar. circumstances.
    I don’t know the principal in any way but My experience in Education includes classroom time in Middle School High School Guidance Counselor and HR Director for all DOD secondary schools in the ?? and Puerto Rico.

    What was the Public Harm.

    I intend to seek permission to speak in open forum to the Tallahassee City Council and Leon County School Board regarding this matter as well as reviewing the decisions of the ALJ involved in the case.
    It’s outrageous.

  9. It really is shocking that the Leon County school district has spent so much time and money to discredit an administrator who is clearly engaged in managing a large team of students, teachers, staff, and admin. Robbing him of time, pay and reputation seem overly punitive when he appears to be the only one being admonished. It seems this is a district-wide problem and to penalize 1 person is clearly an overreach by the district administration. Singling out 1 principal is telling. Sounds like the district administration needs to fix your process, communicate the expectations to your administration, define the consequences. Don’t wreck a person who is as dedicated and committed as Joseph Burgess. It is an embarrassment to see Leon County Districts focus and does not speak well of the Rocky Hanna.

  10. This gets me: “Ultimately it was determined that Principal Burgess had “no ill intent” in his actions, and there is “no evidence that he used the system for an improper purpose, such as to favor certain teachers,”. So why ruin his reputation? Principal Burgess is an exceptional leader and he is the best there is at Chiles!

  11. Weird that the district went after only this principal and school when this is standard at all the schools and much worse things are swept under the rug depending on who you are. These policies were in place for previous principals, including Alan Cox, but now it is an issue and no other schools were looked at in this “investigation”. Mr. Burgess is a good man and this was a witch hunt, plain and simple. $35K plus of our tax dollars wasted on this “impartial investigation” that lined the pockets of a Tallahassee law firm that has connections with a county school administrator. The corruption and wasteful spending at the County level is astounding but we are going to point fingers here.

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