Bell’s contract as principal not renewed

Published 7:51 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2020

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LaFAYETTE — After a months-long suspension, Dr. Frankie Bell has been non-renewed as the principal of W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley. The action was taken following an executive session approximately one hour in length Wednesday afternoon at the Chambers County School District’s administrative office.

While Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge and the board of education were discussing the issue behind closed doors, Bell and her husband, Felix, were in front of the building making the case that this was a wrongful action. Bell said that what was going on inside the building was unjust and that she had done nothing to deserve it.

Bell was not terminated as an employee. Her three-year contract as a principal was up for renewal, and Dr. Hodge recommended that it not be renewed for a variety of reasons including:

  • failure to comply with board procedures and policies;
  • failure to comply with Alabama law and board policy on school safety;
  • willful falsification of state records, which is a violation of both board policy and state law;
  • failure to evaluate certified employees, which violates Alabama Board of Education and the local board’s policy;
  • violation of Standards 1 and 2 of the Alabama Educator Code of Ethics and
  • violation of other state laws.

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The action took place at Wednesday afternoon’s monthly meeting of the board of education. The meeting room was set up in unique fashion to comply with social distancing recommendations in place due to the coronavirus. Each person in the room was positioned at least six feet away from the next person. Approximately 25 people were present in the room.

At the same time, a similar number of people were in front of the building hearing Bell state her case that she had been wronged by the whole procedure.

In the open part of the meeting prior to the executive session, Hodge said that Bell had violated safety laws by not having fire drills at the school and had falsified records to indicate that teacher evaluations had taken place when they had not.

When the closed-door session ended and the open meeting resumed, Bell asked if she could address the board. Board President Bill Martin denied the request, saying that she had not asked to be on the agenda.

The matter was put to a vote and passed unanimously.

After the meeting, Bell told media representatives she would be okay.

“I’m in a great place,” she said. “I am tenured, and they didn’t fire me. They told me I am not good enough to be their principal, but I can’t take my focus off the teachers and students who don’t want to be at W.F. Burns anymore because I’m not there.”

Bell said the reasons stated for her non-renewal were not told to her when she was put on suspension.

“They told me it had to do with a DHR issue,” she said. “That didn’t come up today.”

Bell said that she was being punished for “not checking off the right boxes” when the bulk of her work involved saving kids from difficult environments at home.

“The people who are leading are heartless,” she said. “Broken people are leading broken people. I love people, and people love me. I am so glad people showed up today and stood behind me. So many lies have been put out there on Facebook.”

Bell was asked if she thought the board’s action had been politically motivated.

“Yes, that’s my opinion,” she said. “I don’t know if Casey (Chambley) is the answer, but I know she (Dr. Hodge) is not. I can’t vote. All I can do is influence. I still have my tenure and my benefits, so I’m not mad. What bothers me is that they are taking me away from those little kids who need guidance. There might be a kid who needs me. Frankie Bell always has, and always will, choose to do the right thing.”