Kingsbury principal on leave as SCS investigates teachers’ complaints

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  Harassment, bullying and grade changes — the list of accusations keeps growing against Kingsbury High School Principal Terry Ross.

Teachers said Ross was working at the school last week. But after WREG started asking the district questions, teachers say he wasn't on campus the first day of school.

Ross has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an external investigation, SCS confirmed Tuesday. The school's vice principal will fill the role in the interim, and a retired principal will come on board  for further support.

Staff was notified late Tuesday, a day later, via voicemail.

A message sent to staff references a recent news report about Ross.

"We regret that this is causing a distraction during the first few days, but please know our primary focus is to support you, as well as our students and families," the message stated. The school will hold staff meeting and student assembly on the matter Wednesday.

WREG pulled Ross' personnel and labor files.

They were around 200 pages long. He first started as interim principal in the fall of 2014.

"It a very tense environment," said Alesia Harris. "People are trying to leave that building quickly."

Harris said soon after she started teaching math at Kingsbury in January, she went to Ross about students consistently not turning in their work.

"You could feel the animosity coming from him. You could feel the tension from him," said Harris. "He said to me, 'The students aren't the problem. You are the problem.'"

Then, Harris said she noticed some of her students' grades changed in the computer system from zeros to 100's.

"It was a class of 17 kids for the first semester and the second semester," she said.

She notified the district and went to the school board. She says she was told it was an accident.

"To this day there are 100's in for the first semester. There were kids that passed my class who shouldn't have," said Harris.

Harris said the environment at Kingsbury only became more toxic.

She emailed the district about the way Ross treated her. She claimed he "antagonized" and "harassed her." She wrote in one email, "it's a hostile work environment. Please when does this stop?"

Harris' complaints were all documented in Ross' personnel and labor file WREG uncovered as well as dozens more from teachers, staff and law enforcement.

Several other teachers accuse Ross of changing their grades and refusing to track attendance. Many more criticize Ross' "hostile" leadership. One teacher said, "he berates teachers on the intercom in the morning" and "taunts and chastises them in faculty meetings."

"Out of control, erratic, disgusting, offensive conduct," another teacher said.

Many allege harassment and bullying.

One staff member reported, "the teachers were forced to collect cash for the principal and his deputies for some Boss day."

We even found records from school resource officers stating they witnessed Ross verbally attack a staff member.

"It is almost reprehensible. It's unbelievable that we would have anybody in a position of power in this school system with a record of this magnitude," said Keith Williams, the executive director of the Shelby County Education Association.

He said Kingsbury teachers have resigned in the last week.

"Our job is to transmit a proper culture. Not one of sleaze and not one that is demeaning," said Williams. "It cannot continue down this way. I am holding the district responsible."

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Ross is under investigation.

"When you have a multitude of allegations, they have to be taken seriously. On the flip side, you have to make sure you give people their due process rights," he told WREG.

We asked Hopson about an email from the Shelby County Sheriff's homeland security and criminal intent department alerting the district about Ross' last job as a high school principal in Buffalo, New York.

The email reads, "... Apparently there is a pattern of feeling unsafe."

It goes on to state, "I think our deputies are in a very precarious posture with this principal."

The email then listed several links to an extensive investigation by the CBS station WIVB in Buffalo. The stories sound very familiar to those at Kingsbury.

Hopson said he wasn't aware of SCSO's email but was aware of his past.

"When you look at some of the things that happened when he was in Buffalo, there were no real things that would have disqualified him from being hired," said Hopson.

We found an email from the district that listed steps Ross should follow like, "be mindful and reflective of his actions and tone."

Harris believes that's all for show. She said she ended up quitting last week, because the way Ross continues to treat her and teachers.

"I don't know what it's going to take for the district to say you know what teachers we are going to stand behind you, you know what students we got your back, parents we hear you," she said.

Hopson assured WREG they're taking these complaints seriously. He said if any other teacher, parent or student has a complaint, his office is always open.

WREG reached out to Ross for a comment, but have yet to hear back.

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