New Hanover County Schools administrator accused in mishandling of allegations of wrongdoings announces retirement

Updated: Jul. 1, 2019 at 2:46 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County Schools Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday on Monday announced his retirement after 37 years with the district.

"I have enjoyed my time with New Hanover County Schools,” Holliday is quoted in a NHCS news release. “I have always done my best. As I plan to retire, I wish the citizens of New Hanover County well.”

Holliday has been an educator for 41 years. His retirement will be effective Aug. 1, according to district officials.

The longtime educator has come under fire recently for his and other district administrators’ handling of alleged wrongdoings in the school system. It is not clear, however, if the timing of his announcement is connected to the scrutiny over the cases.

In December, a group of parents and activists requested the New Hanover County Board of Education hired an independent agency to investigate six cases of alleged misconduct or mishandling by administrators, dating back to 2009.

Included among those cases: former Isaac Bear Early College teacher Michael Kelly, who recently pleaded guilty to dozens of sex crimes against his students, some dating back more to Kelly’s time at Laney High School, when Holliday served as the school’s principal.

The school board ultimately denied the group’s request. However, investigators with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office are currently investigating if school administrators previously knew about allegations Kelly had been sexually inappropriate prior to his arrest in 2018 – a fact brought to light during Kelly’s plea hearing – and failed to report those accusations to law enforcement. In North Carolina, it is a misdemeanor for public employees to fail to report suspicions or allegations of child abuse to law enforcement.

The group’s complaint was at least partly responsible for the creation of the board’s Title IX committee, which set out to create a new, transparent Title IX policy and training for all faculty members by the 2019-20 school year.

Soon after its formation, the committee secured funding for a full-time Title IX coordinator, a role previously held by Holliday (among his deputy superintendent duties) to oversee that training and handle other Title IX-related matters.

Holliday made his announcement just hours before a special meeting of the school board, which was scheduled after Kelly’s guilty plea last week. Asked the statutory reasons for the meeting, a district spokesperson cited two sections of the state’s open meetings law:

N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(3): To consult with an attorney employed or retained by the public body in order to preserve the attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the public body, which privilege is hereby acknowledged. General policy matters may not be discussed in a closed session and nothing herein shall be construed to permit a public body to close a meeting that otherwise would be open merely because an attorney employed or retained by the public body is a participant. The public body may consider and give instructions to an attorney concerning the handling or settlement of a claim, judicial action, mediation, arbitration, or administrative procedure. If the public body has approved or considered a settlement, other than a malpractice settlement by or on behalf of a hospital, in closed session, the terms of that settlement shall be reported to the public body and entered into its minutes as soon as possible within a reasonable time after the settlement is concluded.

N.C.G.S. 143-318.11(a)(6): To consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee; or to hear or investigate a complaint, charge, or grievance by or against an individual public officer or employee. General personnel policy issues may not be considered in a closed session. A public body may not consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, appointment, or removal of a member of the public body or another body and may not consider or fill a vacancy among its own membership except in an open meeting. Final action making an appointment or discharge or removal by a public body having final authority for the appointment or discharge or removal shall be taken in an open meeting.

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