UPDATE: Board terminates Ringstaff "immediately" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Board terminates Ringstaff "immediately"

Posted: Updated:
Dr. Martin Ringstaff (WRCB file) Dr. Martin Ringstaff (WRCB file)
Peggy Pesterfield speaks to Board members Peggy Pesterfield speaks to Board members
Board attorney Chuck Cagle listens Board attorney Chuck Cagle listens
Board member Steve Morgan comments Board member Steve Morgan comments
Overflow crowd at Board meeting Overflow crowd at Board meeting

UPDATE: Seven Cleveland City School Board members met Friday to determine the fate of Dr. Martin Ringstaff, the district's director since 2011.  Recently, they had voted to extend his contract through 2019, at a salary of $140,000 annually.  But during the past week, Ringstaff at first denied, then admitted to sending and receiving graphic, sexual text messages and images with an unidentified woman.  As a result, Ringstaff has been terminated from his position, effective immediately.

Ringstaff's stunning fall from grace was met by expressions of sadness, disgust, and disbelief.  "We are heartsick," said Board member Steve Morgan, no doubt echoing the thoughts of his colleagues.  Several Board members were sympathetic to Ringstaff's wife and three children, but only two appeared to entertain the idea of accepting Ringstaff's conditions for resignation: eighteen months severance pay (approximately $210,000) plus sick leave, vacation leave, annual leave, an auto, and health and retirement benefits.  In the end, the Board voted 5-2 to terminate Ringstaff with no payouts.  Morgan had asked the Board to vote on termination based on "conduct unbecoming an educator, and insubordination."  Morgan had stated that Ringstaff's admitted misbehavior had occurred, during the past year, and that by agreeing to terms of a contract extension, Ringstaff had misled the Board. Morgan is on the pastoral staff at First Baptist Church of Cleveland, where Ringstaff and his family attend.  Ringstaff was not in attendance at Friday's meeting.

During discussions of Ringstaff's conduct, Board chair Dawn Robinson said, "What he did was horrible.  And then he lied about it." The meeting was held before an overflow audience in the Board's small meeting room.  Audience members appeared to be predominantly against Ringstaff receiving any additional compensation.  At the end of the meeting, Board members stressed that Cleveland City Schools are "more than just one person," and would continue to achieve excellence.  

Prior to the controversy, Ringstaff was held in high regard by the Board, and was considered the face of the school district.  He was very active on social media, often promoting the positive stories involving teachers and students.  Earlier this week, Ringstaff's image was wiped from the district's website, and he also disappeared from the Tennessee Organization of  School Superintendents (TOSS), where he served in various leadership roles in recent years.

Board members named Cathy Goodman as interim director.  She is a 38-year education veteran who served as assistant director and personnel director under Ringstaff.  Later, they will search for a new full time director.  Some central office employees and principals are said to be interested, as well as former superintendents and directors from nearby school districts.

Board attorney Chuck Cagle, when questioned on what would happen if the "unidentified female" in the Ringstaff text messages is a CCS employee, responded only by saying the Board needed to take care of the Ringstaff matter immediately.  He said if that prove to be true, it would be a topic for another day. 

UPDATE: The Cleveland City Schools Board has voted 5-2 to terminate Dr. Martin Ringstaff as Director of Schools.

The Cleveland City School Board will meet Friday, February 5 in a called meeting at their Board room.  The agenda is described only as "Director of Schools." 

Sources say Board members are likely to discuss the possible suspension, resignation, or termination of Dr. Martin Ringstaff, who has led Cleveland schools since 2011.  

Ringstaff is reportedly out of town this week, after admitting to sending explicit messages to an unidentified female.  

The messages have been spread on an anonymous Twitter account. Ringstaff has come under fire for the graphic content of the messages, and for first telling authorities the messages were not his own. Several hours after making that statement to police, he admitted he had sent and exchanged messages with the female.


PREVIOUS STORY: Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff admitted to sending explicit messages on social media. 

Ringstaff spoke with Cleveland Police on Monday night about the Twitter controversy and stated, “for the sake of his wife he wishes not to pursue with the criminal investigation at this time, because the messages were from him but sent a year ago.”

Cleveland Police told Ringstaff that there could possibly be a criminal investigation if he told police who the messages were sent from as a starting point, but Ringstaff declined to disclose that information. 

Ringstaff did sign a non-prosecution form per Cleveland Police.


PREVIOUS STORY: Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Martin Ringstaff is dealing with a Twitter controversy that has ranged from identity theft to apparent allegations involving his personal life.

Late Monday morning, the school district released this statement the media:

"Cleveland City Schools is aware of two fake Twitter accounts that erroneously impersonate Dr. Martin Ringstaff, Director of Schools. The accounts have been reported to the Cleveland Police Department; they are investigating and working with Twitter to shut down the malicious accounts. If you have any information, please contact the Cleveland Police."

By Monday night, another statement was released, with a definite change of tone.  Referring to content that has since been deleted from Twitter, the statement, not credited to any individual, said:

"In response to earlier allegations today, Dr. Martin Ringstaff, released the following statement: “I admit to having made previous mistakes in my personal life. My wife, Heather, and I have worked through these issues and are committed to our family and moving past my mistakes. With the support of the Cleveland City Schools Board of Education, I am dedicated to serving the students of Cleveland.”

The Cleveland City Schools Board of Education members are in unanimous agreement that we support and respect Dr. Martin Ringstaff and his family. They are valuable to our community. Martin has done above and beyond what he said he would do for Cleveland City Schools, and now we see an opportunity as a board to be who we said we were. 

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

The statement reportedly refers to an alleged series of comments, or a conversation said to have been posted between Ringstaff and an unidentified person.

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