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Lawyer of principal says termination hearing has to do with retaliation

COYLE, Okla. - School board officials have fired a principal who has accused the district superintendent of retaliation.

Patrick Smith, district principal of Coyle Public Schools, was placed on administrative leave this fall. At a board hearing Thursday, Bryan Drummond, an attorney for superintendent Josh Sumrall said Smith failed to evaluate dozens of teachers.

“We’ve had Mr. Smith admit today that he has not provided leadership,” said Drummond. “If the culture isn’t correct, part of his job is to change the culture.”

The school district could stand lose between $700,000 and $1.3 million dollars in funding without proper evaluations, according to Drummond.

Nicole Tivis, an elementary special education teacher, spoke in support of Smith on Thursday. She said there had been former principals at Coyle Public Schools who also failed to evaluate her.

During opening statements, Smith's attorney Diane Vaughan said the hearing on his employment had nothing to do with teacher evaluations and "everything to do with retaliation" by a "jaded superintendent."

“Nobody wants to be here. As a matter of fact, I think everybody in this community is astonished that it’s all gotten this far,” said Vaughan.

In October, there was a fight between Smith's daughter Peyton and Sumrall's son Codie during a FFA trip. Peyton was suspended for her part in the fight. Sumrall also filed a police report alleging a text message she sent to her friends was a legitimate threat to Codie's life.

Smith and his family say Codie was not formally reprimanded for his part in the fight and claim Sumrall was being unfair and harsh with the punishment.

“When I wouldn't bow down, he simply said that if we can't get along, I guess we need to buy your contact out,” said Smith.

At Thursday's hearing, Vaughan argued her client and Sumrall had a good working relationship prior to the October incident. She said it was only after, that an investigation was launched into teacher evaluations.

Sumrall testified a teacher came forward in December, which led him to investigate. Following Thursday’s hearing, Smith did not have a comment for the press. His attorney said a civil lawsuit is possible.