VISD cuts ties with embattled principal

The Vernon Independent School District board of trustees held a lengthy closed session to discuss personnel on Monday night. In the end they opted to cut ties with one embattled principal and asked another administrator to meet their higher expectations.

The trustees first considered Superintendent Jeff Byrd’s recommendation to terminate Central Elementary school principal Cindy Underwood’s probationary contract at the end of the 2020-21 school year. She has been on administrative leave since September while the district investigated allegations that have not been publicly disclosed.

Underwood and attorney Cory Curtis were in attendance. Curtis addressed the board in open session. He said that Underwood had been “undergoing a nasty custody battle” during the school year and it had taken more out of her than she realized and “she had a short-term breakdown.”

He said that “nasty allegations” against her during the custody battle proved unfounded and there were never any signs of drug and alcohol abuse – and she had effectively been monitored 24-7 and shown no signs of abuse. Curtis said that Underwood had done everything appropriately and had complied with every directive that the board had asked of her.

“She has shown she is perfectly capable of raising her son. She has shown she is perfectly capable of performing her job,” Curtis said. “She is well qualified. … has a passion for the students of this district. I believe she deserves a second chance.”

After a near 90-minute closed session, the trustees resumed in open session. Trustee Chris Lehman said: “After careful consideration, I think it is in the best interest of the district” to terminate Underwood’s contract and for Byrd to send notice to Underwood. The trustees also asked for clarification for when the contract would end and Byrd said June of this year.

Trustee J.J. Oznick seconded Lehman’s motion and it was unanimously approved by the board.

Superintendent Byrd also presented 13 contract extension recommendations of administrators for the board of trustees to consider and they approved 12 of them.

See the print edition for additional details.

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