Spencer Co. KY school board asks state to fire superintendent

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Spencer County Superintendent Chuck Adams has been on paid leave. The school board started action to fire him on May 2, 2022

Spencer County Schools

A Kentucky school board on Thursday voted to start the process of firing a superintendent who has been accused in a lawsuit of sexually harassing a teacher, the board attorney said.

The Spencer County School Board sent Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass a request for approval to remove Superintendent Charles “Chuck” Adams, Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman confirmed for the Herald-Leader Friday.

Adams has been on leave since last year, Spencer County Board Attorney Grant Chenoweth said. An assistant superintendent, Chuck Abell, is the acting superintendent.

Chenoweth said the lawsuit triggered the board action. After the lawsuit was filed, a separate investigation also occurred that concluded that Adams’ conduct was inappropriate but not sexual in nature.

Chenoweth, who represents several Kentucky school boards, said firing a superintendent is “not very common.”

Allegations in lawsuit; investigation findings

Online court records show that Spencer schools’ employee Hannah Jaggers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the school board in 2021. It is ongoing. The lawsuit said the school board knew about the harassment and failed to take action.

The lawsuit allegations include that in one instance, Adams told Jaggers that she could have his extra ticket to a game and be his “plus one” and ride with him, the lawsuit said.

On one occasion, Adams grabbed the teacher’s foot as he walked by her on the bleachers, the lawsuit alleged and that he stuck his hand on top of hers as she put her hand in a box of candy, the lawsuit said. Jaggers attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

The school board said in its charge document that Adams violated the professional code of conduct. The behavior, as the teacher described in her lawsuit against the school board, appears to be substantiated, the document said.

The document said that the conduct Adams directed against the teacher was not sexual in nature, but the “unwanted behavior” failed to safeguard her freedom to teach.

Adams frequently paid visits to Jaggers’ classroom. Text messages sent from Adams to Jaggers’ personal phone about matters unrelated to work “reflected a utilization of institutional privilege for his personal benefit,” according to the charges document.

He denied sending the text messages but they were later corroborated with screen shots, the charges document said.

Adams justified the excessive attention by saying he showed Spencer County natives and Spencer County high school graduates extra attention, but the document said that was not true. Additionally, the document said Adams intended to retaliate against those who brought the allegations to light.

“These behaviors distract from the educational mission of the Spencer County Public Schools,” the document said.

Adams could not immediately be reached for comment.

What happens now?

Glass has 30 days to review and approve the charges as well as look at how the school district performed academically under Adams’ leadership, Chenoweth said. If Glass approves the board’s request to move ahead with the firing, the superintendent is entitled to an administrative hearing by the board and can have an attorney represent him.

Abell, the acting superintendent, said Friday, “Spencer County School District is a great place to work and learn and we continue to focus on our students despite the distractions caused by this situation.”

Staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears covers K-12 education, social issues and other topics. She is a Lexington native with southeastern Kentucky roots.