FIRST ON 3: Signal Mtn High principal suspended without pay - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FIRST ON 3: Principal McCullough suspended without pay

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Dr. Tom McCullough Dr. Tom McCullough

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Citing a "continued lack of regard for procedure and policy," Hamilton County School Superintendent Rick Smith has suspended Dr. Tom McCullough from his post for the final 44 days of his contract.

McCullough, the principal of Signal Mountain Middle/High School since 2009, announced his retirement last Tuesday after he learned that Sale Creek principal Robin Copp was slated to replace him at Signal Mountain.  He had intended to work through June 30, which is considered the end of the school district's fiscal year.  His annual salary is listed as $102,361.  A 44-day suspension would cost him approximately $13,000.

McCullough's suspension is related to his handling of a senior class cruise to the Bahamas in early March.  Violations of the district's alcohol policy resulted in the suspensions of eighteen students, five faculty members, and two school staff members.  The seven adults had served as chaperones.  Two guidance counselors were given lengthier suspensions for drinking on the Signal Mountain school campus.  All five educators are facing possible one-year suspensions from the State Board of Education.

In a letter dated May 18, Smith told McCullough, "Despite your awareness of numerous violations (of County Board policy) failed to initially report these violations to any Central Office personnel or to reprimand the chaperones in any way."  Smith continues, "Your mischaracterization of this behavior breached your duty as principal to understand and comply with (District) policy."

Smith also cites McCullough for using a school registrar as a chaperone for the trip, another violation of District policy.  The superintendent adds, "At a faculty meeting on April 17, (you) breached confidentiality regarding two employees of your disregarded a specific directive."

Smith concludes, "Your continued lack of regard for procedures and policy is troubling.  I am suspending you without pay from May 18, 2012 through the end of your contract, June 30, 2012."

[Read the letter from Superintendent Rick Smith]

McCullough has ten days to appeal Smith's decision and to request a hearing.  However, Smith warns, "In that event, I will consider seeking more serious discipline if the evidence warrants it."

McCullough told Eyewitness News Tuesday afternoon that he has not decided whether to request a hearing but said, "The superintendent has broad powers over personnel in Hamilton County.  He has chosen to exercise those powers and suspend me, a veteran principal, just prior to my retirement."

Before coming to Signal Mountain in August 2009, McCullough had worked as a teacher and principal in the Chattanooga City Schools, and was a superintendent for two Georgia school districts.  He later became principal of David Brainerd Christian Academy, which closed in 2009.  He has 42 years of experience in education.  He is a graduate of Red Bank High School, and was one of the first inductees into that school's Alumni Hall of Fame.

Some Signal Mountain community members have organized an petition drive requesting Smith rescind McCullough's suspension.  You may view the petition at

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