KC schools end contracts of personnel facing misconduct allegations
By Deann Smith, Kansas City (MO) Star,

April 19, 2003

The Kansas City School District is ending contracts with two principals and two teachers accused of misconduct, and a third principal has quit under fire.

The Board of Education made the personnel decisions in a closed session last week. Maurice Watson, an attorney for the board, revealed the board's actions Friday in response to a Missouri Sunshine Law request from The Kansas City Star.

Watson declined comment on the specific reasons for the contract terminations. District offices were closed Friday for the holiday.

The school board voted against renewing the contracts of Pitcher Elementary School principal Rick Mills and two of his teachers. All the contracts end June 30.

Mills was suspended with pay in February after allegations surfaced that he had violated the district's ban on corporal punishment. Mills denied spanking any children, but said he expected to lose his job over the allegations that he and two of his teachers used excessive discipline.

The contracts of Pitcher teachers Swapnam Kumar and Damara Lashley also were not renewed. Lashley was accused by parents of taping kindergartners to their chairs. District officials alleged that Kumar failed to notify district officials about the excessive discipline.

None of the three could be reached for comment Friday. An attorney for Lashley previously denied that she had applied tape to any child. At least one civil lawsuit was filed against Lashley in connection with the allegations.

At Kansas City Middle School of the Arts, district officials will be searching for the second principal in a year after Stephen Aspleaf was let go. Aspleaf was suspended with pay in March for allegedly failing to call police about an attempted sexual assault.

The mother of the student who was assaulted said Aspleaf and others told her that she could not call police from the school, but had to go to the police station.

State law requires principals to immediately report assaults to police, but there is no statutory penalty for failing to do so.

Aspleaf, who previously declined comment, didn't return calls left on his home answering machine Friday.

The principal of East Elementary School, Rodney Hare, resigned April 9, before the board took up his contract. Hare had been suspended without pay after he allegedly failed to report alleged physical and sexual assaults on a 13-year-old student. The assaults were reported to police two weeks later by a teacher.

Hare previously declined comment. He did not return calls left on his home answering machine Friday.

Altogether, the board voted not to renew the contracts of 34 teachers.

"The school district may reassign some of these individuals to other positions consistent with its personnel needs," Watson said in the letter written Friday. "Unsatisfactory performance is certainly not in every case the reason for nonrenewal. In certain cases, the employee failed to satisfy all requirements for maintaining (state) certification."

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