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UPDATE: Griggs County School principal placed on administrative leave

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. -- Griggs County Central School Principal Timothy Stathis has been placed on paid administrative leave after officials said he was unwilling to do his job.

Timothy Stathis

COOPERSTOWN, N.D. -- Griggs County Central School Principal Timothy Stathis has been placed on paid administrative leave after officials said he was unwilling to do his job.

The School Board made the unanimous decision Friday in a special meeting just eight days after voting unanimously in favor of not renewing Stathis’ contract, which expires June 30.

“He turned in his keys,” Superintendent Meghan Brown said.

During a Feb. 11 special meeting, Brown made the recommendation to not renew Stathis’s contract because of his “unwillingness to fulfill the duties of the job he was hired and paid to fulfill and (his) unwillingness to take directives from his superior," according to a statement issued Tuesday. The School Board and Brown did not give further details on why Stathis would not be returning to the school as its principal.

But Stathis has denied that he has been unwilling to do his job, adding, “It is wrong to have called my willingness to perform my duties into question."


The district will not fill the position for the remainder of this term, and the School Board will initiate a search for a principal for the next school year, she said.

Stathis, who was in the first year of his contract and has an annual salary of $80,000, made arrangements Friday to return to the school with a School Board member to clean out his office, she said.

The board considered its three options, including continuing to have him work through the end of his contract, offering a buyout of his contract or being placed on paid leave until June 30, the last day of his contract.

Friday’s meeting lasted about 30 minutes, the superintendent said.

News of the nonrenewal decision prompted a community outcry, spearheaded by a Facebook page, “Support for Principal Stathis,” which drew more than 240 members over the past week.

Reaction to the news was swift.

Melissa Myers, who is co-administrator of the Facebook page with Mara Campbell, said she intends to seek election to the School Board.

“Melissa and I were saddened but not surprised by the turn of events at the meeting this afternoon,” Campbell wrote on page.


She encouraged supporters to write letters to the editor to the Griggs County Courier, Cooperstown’s weekly newspaper, as well as the Herald, to voice their opinions.

“We made our voices heard, and I know Tim and his family were grateful for our support,” Campbell wrote. “The only way to bring about change and prevent this from happening in the future is to elect those who care first and foremost about our student's education. Melissa has proven herself a strong and eloquent voice of our community.”

The School Board also has been advised by the North Dakota School Board Association to write a letter to the editor to the Griggs County Courier, the local newspaper, to address the situation, Brown said. The newspaper published a front-page story this week about the contract nonrenewal.

‘It’s more complicated than that’ Stathis has spent most of his 30-year career working in Alaska school systems, he said. He also has worked in the Los Angeles area.

Immediately before coming to Cooperstown, Stathis was superintendent of Fremont County School District 38 in Arapahoe, Wyo.

However, he was fired from that position last April, after nine months on the job, according to  articles in the Casper (Wyo.) Star Tribune and other Wyoming newspapers.

He had been that school district’s sixth superintendent in eight years, according to the reports.

Brown said Stathis listed the Wyoming job on his resume.


“Nobody we contacted led us to believe he had been fired from that job,” she said.

Cooperstown district officials contacted people listed as references on Stathis’ application, she said. However, none of them were affiliated with the school district.

Stathis told the Herald Friday he was working in Wyoming on a provisional contract.

When asked whether he had been dismissed, he said, “it’s more complicated than that.”

“I have worked this job 14 hours a day,” Stathis told the Herald earlier this week. “And everyone knows with how much care and attention I have given to each student, parent, and staff member, in a job where there are 200 things happening in any given day. People have appreciated my professionalism.”

Griggs County Central’s enrollment this year is about 240, according to the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

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