Norton School Board calls special meeting for employee grievance

Mike Still • Jan 14, 2020 at 8:30 PM

NORTON — The announcement came with no agenda, but the Norton School Board will hold a special called meeting Feb. 7 to discuss a personnel grievance.

In an after-business-hours email to the media Monday, school administrators announced the meeting, set for 9 a.m. at the Econo Lodge Inn meeting room on Highway 58E in Norton. No agenda or reason for the meeting was included in the email.

School Board Chairman Cody McElroy confirmed Tuesday that the board had called the meeting to discuss a personnel grievance, but he declined to say if the board would be meeting with any other persons other than board members or the board’s attorney.

McElroy referred questions to School Superintendent Gina Wohlford on how many pending personnel grievances are before the board or school system administration. Wohlford could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The school board is facing at least one grievance, filed on Dec. 16 by suspended John I. Burton High School football coach James Adams.

Adams, who was suspended in June after allegations of improper conduct toward female students, has remained on full pay and coaching stipend, according to school system officials. In November, the school board voted to find Adams had violated school policy after completion of what board members and officials called an administrative review by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

The school board, at the November meeting, also hired Roanoke attorney Jennifer Royer to represent the board in an unspecified grievance.

Royer in August had a court injunction request by Adams to return to his coaching job moved from Wise County Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in Abingdon. A federal judge denied Adams’ request. Royer at that time represented the Virginia Association of Counties, which handles the school division’s insurance.

Wohlford was authorized after the November vote to proceed with her intended disciplinary action against Adams, although that action has not been publicly specified. Adams filed his grievance after receiving notice from Wohlford about the disciplinary action, she confirmed Dec. 16.

Adams has also been the subject of a Virginia State Police investigation of a harassment complaint filed with the Norton Police Department in July.

Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said Tuesday that the investigation is continuing. Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III said Tuesday that he has not yet received a VSP recommendation report on the Adams investigation, which typically is filed after completion of the investigation.