Principal resigns amid investigation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Principal resigns amid investigation

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May 30, 2006

Albany - A Dougherty County principal resigns amid allegations he mistreated students and teachers.  Late Friday afternoon, Norman Simms gave his resignation letter to Superintendent Dr. Sally Whatley.  

For three years, Simms has been the principal of the South Georgia Regional Achievement Center -- the county's alternative school for students with special needs and disciplinary problems. His resignation comes after an investigation by the school system into numerous allegations of wrong-doing by Simms and problems at the school.  

Friday, the Dougherty County School Board held a three and a half hour closed door meeting. They heard the findings of an independent investigation into complaints against Principal Norman Simms and about the South Georgia Regional Achievement Center. Board members took no action at the meeting but soon after, Simms resigned.    

Dougherty County school officials aren't saying much about the investigation into wrong-doing by Simms, who managed the alternative school housed at the old Highland School.

But board member David Maschke did say, "The Board decided to retain an independent investigator to look into issues and concerns we had about the operations of the school and also allegations concerning various personnel at that school."

Another source close to the investigation says there were numerous allegations of wrongdoing, including that Simms roughed up students and improperly evaluated teachers. But school system attorney Tommy Coleman says Simms never abused any students.  

"Sometimes it appears those were embellished beyond their factual basis. There doesn't seem to be any evidence, that we found out, about any abuse questions at all," said Coleman. 

Coleman say the investigator, a former Marietta City school superintendent paid $5,300 by the school system, interviewed teachers and staff at the school not only about Simms' conduct but also about the operations of the various school programs.

"It didn't center on any one particular person but in fact was about how the entire operation went about. Did we have the appropriate personnel in place to make this school work," said Coleman.

Coleman says school board members disagreed on whether the school administration was doing a good job. And he says after Simms talked privately with the superintendent, he decided to resign.    

The Director of Georgia's Professional Standards Commission, Dr. Gary Walker, told WALB the school system gave him a heads up that they plan to file an ethics complaint against Norman Simms soon. But Coleman said board members haven't decided if an ethics complaint is warranted.  

Norman Simms is the husband of State Representative Freddie Powell Simms. He was also a former school administrator in Lee County. Simms did not return our phone calls today.

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