BY JOE B. COATES
The due process hearing requested by former Hazlehurst Schools superintendent Karl Twyner lasted around four hours last Wednesday, but no one will know whether or not he will be reinstated for several days.
Twyner was relieved of his duties in September by school conservator Stanley Blackmon for insubordination and excessive absentees, according to Blackmon’s testimony. Personnel hearings are usually conducted behind closed doors, but Twyner requested that the hearing be made public.
Blackmon, Twyner and several witnesses testified during the hearing. At one point, while cross-examined by Twyner’s attorney Precious Martin, Blackmon said “If his argument is convincing, that perhaps he was on the right path, then I could change my mind.”
Twyner missed several days of work, including days when state Board of Education members, personnel from the Governor’s office and State Superintendent Hank Bounds were visiting the district. Twyner also was not present for the first day of school, choosing instead to speak at a seminar in the Nettleton, MS school district. He claimed that he had booked the appointment–and several others–before being hired as HCSD superintendent and felt no need to break them.
“The board members understood that I would need to be away, and that I would be able to supplement my income,” Twyner explained. As superintendent he was being paid $87,000 a year, including on the days when he was away from the district.
The final period Twyner was absent came during the first week of September. He was a presenter at a seminar conducted by Staff Development by Educators in Wilmington, NC. During the period of time, he did not communicate with conservator Blackmon at all; when he returned Blackmon had already made up his mind, Blackmon testified.
Twyner also attempted to dictate how his meetings with Blackmon would be held, after Blackmon attempted several times to prompt Twyner into assisting with student development at the middle school, according to Blackmon’s testimony. Blackmon said he viewed the attempt as insubordination, solidifying his case against Twyner’s employment.
“I want one voice in this district, a point I have made clear with everyone I have spoken to. We were not getting that from the superintendent,” Blackmon said.
The afternoon testimony centered on the process of Twyner’s hiring by the Hazlehurst Board of Trustees and featured witnesses from the district, from the state Board of Education and former interim conservator Dr. Joe Haynes. Twyner was the final rebuttal witness called by Blackmon’s attorney Jim Keith.
Blackmon will have a period of 30 days to make his final report after the transcript of the hearing has been tendered to him by hearing officer Terry Caves.