Pittsburg High School Principal Mike Philpot was removed Monday night from his job that he was set to serve until July 1.

Pittsburg High School Principal Mike Philpot was removed Monday night from his job that he was set to serve until July 1.
“It’s been a — just been a terrible thing that this all has happened,” said Gary Price, USD 250 superintendent.
Price declined to comment any more on the decision, which came on a 4-1 vote at Monday’s Pittsburg USD 250 Board of Education meeting, after executive session. The one ‘no’ vote came from Rich Ellis, USD 250 BOE president. Mark Cole, board member, abstained from the vote. Al Mendez, who is in Taiwan, was absent from the vote.
“I don’t know what their reasoning is, if there are any reasons,” Philpot said. “So I guess I would have to say that I don’t have a comment right now.”
Board members Mike Joy and Dawn McNay said they were simply voting in tune with an administrative recommendation. Joy said he perceived that recommendation as coming from both Price and Robin Dexter, USD 250 assistant superintendent.
“I support the recommendation of the administration in this personnel matter,” McNay said. “I think that the administration demonstrated due diligence through the process.”
Ellis declined comment for the story, while Cole and Ann Elliott did not return phone calls Tuesday. Mendez could not be reached by e-mail.
Philpot was placed on paid administrative leave. He is not required to show up for work, but will continue to be paid until his contract expires at the end of June.
Donna Zerr, assistant principal and incoming PHS principal, was approved, through the same motion, as interim principal until her contract as PHS principal begins July 1.
“This actually goes back a long way,” Price said. “When we made the original recommendation for non-renewal, it was discussed at that time, when it would be a good time to transition to a new principal. It just finally came to that time.”
Price said he couldn’t talk about specific recommendations that were made in executive session.
Dexter also asked not to comment, but said that some of Philpot’s actions “were not in line with policy.”
“The board sets policy and expects district administrators to make sure everyone follows policy,” Dexter said. “I hope we can move forward and have a positive end to the year.”
Dave Sorrick said he didn’t want to comment on specifics, but said that the original decision to “let things play out,” with Philpot continuing on until July didn’t work.
“We feel that it’s the board’s responsibility to set policy and procedure parameters, and we don’t want to release that authority to other folks,” Sorrick said. “There are pretty clear guidelines on what needs to come to the board and what doesn’t. (Philpot) had some things that went right up to that line. We’re going to retain our authority to make decisions and we’re going to employ people who follow those guidelines.
“There wasn’t one critical incident, not one straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak,” Sorrick said. “Did things happen? Sure, some things bubbled up. The relationship had soured. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be in Philpot’s situation.”
Sorrick added, “on a personal level, it’s just a tragic situation.”
The board elected not to renew Philpot’s contract in January by a 4-3 vote, with Cole, Ellis and Mendez voting against the resolution. Philpot appealed the decision, and the board again voted 4-3 not to renew his contract for the 2008-09 school year. Board members declined to comment at the time, and Price said the recommendation came from a multi-year evaluation.
After a search process, Zerr, then the PHS associate principal, was approved last month as the new PHS principal, to start July 1, when Philpot’s contract ran out. She found out Monday night that she’ll take over earlier than originally expected. Zerr said Philpot had been an excellent mentor for her.
“It’s been a very difficult semester,” Zerr said. “He taught me a lot of good things. I learned a lot from him.
“We have 750 students and the faculty and staff to carry on and have school as always,” Zerr said. “I have a great staff who will dig in and help me and end this year on a really strong note.”
Philpot was the PHS principal for six years.

Kevin Flaherty can be reached at kevin.flaherty@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 Ext. 134