Nitro teacher to receive $149,000 settlement from school board

By Samuel Speciale, Education reporter

Kanawha County Board of Education will pay a high school history teacher $149,000 in lost wages to settle a lawsuit stemming from a 2005 sexual harassment issue involving a student.

Robert Fulmer, a Nitro High School history teacher, was fired in 2005 when a former student accused him of sexual assault and was later rehired when it was ruled he was wrongfully terminated.

The board agreed Monday during its monthly meeting to settle the lawsuit, which has been pending for years. The board will use money from the general fund.

Fulmer took action against the board in 2009 after the State Employee Grievance Board determined he was wrongfully terminated by the school board in July 2005 after an investigation into allegations he molested a female student.

Board attorney Jim Withrow said that student later recanted her account after Fulmer was fired.

After Fulmer’s attorneys made the case in court that he was falsely accused, the matter was taken to the grievance board, which eventually ruled that Fulmer be reinstated and paid for the years he was unemployed.

Fulmer was reinstated in 2008.

The payment to Fulmer includes interest and is not insured, Withrow said.

In other business, the board held a public hearing on two proposed school calendars.

No one attending the 4 p.m. meeting spoke, but the calendars have been hotly debated by teachers, parents and board members. One calendar, which has been favored by most of those involved, has an earlier start date and is nearly identical to the one the county currently uses.

That proposed calendar would have students in school from Aug. 10 to May 24. It would allot one week off for Thanksgiving and spring breaks and two full weeks for winter break. Teachers would report to their school on Aug. 5 and work until May 31.

The second calendar starts later on Aug. 17 and would have students in school until May 27. Due to the calendar’s shorter span of instructional days, winter break would be shortened from 10 days to seven. Thanksgiving and spring breaks would both remain one week in length, and teachers would work from Aug. 10 to June 2.

Both calendars would have the end of each semester coincide with the start of winter and summer breaks. They both also have the second semester ending in May, but recently enacted state school policy permits the board to extend the semester into June if makeup days are needed to meet the required 180 instructional days.

While the calendar with an earlier start days has received the most support, coming back to school sooner has been an issue of contention among teachers and board members.

At the calendar’s second reading in January, teachers said starting earlier has worn them out. Board member Pete Thaw also has criticized fellow members for not pushing the start date to the end of August.

The board is expected to vote on which calendar to adopt when members meet again on Feb. 19 at the Kanawha County Board of Education office on Elizabeth Street. That meeting originally was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., but board members agreed Monday to reschedule the meeting to start at 5 p.m.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wvschools.