Report shows Kingsbury High School employees worked in ‘toxic environment;’ former principal disciplined

Former Kingsbury Principal demoted after investigation

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Details of a nearly year-long investigation into a former Mid-South high school principal are being revealed.

Investigators say the former head of Kingsbury High School, Dr. Terry Ross, created a toxic work environment for teachers and was suspended for his actions.

Dorsey Hopson was superintendent when this investigation first started in August 2018. At the time Hopson said he thought the investigation into Ross would take just a few weeks, but it stretched out to over a year.

Ross was on paid leave the entire time.

High school principal re-assigned to new position after investigation

Interviews with several current and former Kingsbury employees found that Ross fostered a “toxic work environment” at the school.

The investigation also found he applied immense pressure to certain faculty members to reduce the percentage of failing students. The report said the pressure was primarily directed at teachers who taught subjects required by seniors for graduation.

Investigators also found Ross bullied the main complainant in the investigation, a first year math teacher during the 2017-2018 school year. The teacher wasn’t named in the report, but in June 2018 former Kingsbury high school teacher Alisha Harris went before the school board to make a formal complaint.

She alleged she was harassed by Ross during faculty meetings and chastised in front of students. She also alleged Ross changed 17 of her student's grades to passing without her permission.

Investigators said in the report "grade changing" and "tampering" could not be substantiated.

It took investigators 11 months to complete their findings. In the meantime Ross continued to collect his $116,000 salary.

A Shelby county School spokesperson sent us this statement:

“As with most employers, Shelby county schools does not penalize employees during an internal or external investigation unless we are able to substantiate a complaint, allegation or policy violation. The length of an investigation is based on a complete and thorough review of any evidence, documents, or statements. Too hasty action could potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars in litigation.”

Prior issues with Ross has been well-documented.

Including a 3-day suspension in 2003 for failing to follow security procedures for the T-CAP standardized testing while he was principal at Getwell Elementary.

There was also an investigation at his last principal job in Buffalo, NY where 50 teachers said in a survey Ross’ leadership methods alienated the staff. In this incident at Kingsbury, Ross was suspended without pay for five days and demoted to the position of “Highly Specialized Advisor.”

Ross will earn $100,000 dollars a year in his new role. He will work under the assistant superintendent with the continuous improvement zone.

We did request an interview with superintendent Dr. Joris Ray. We were told he was unavailable for comment.

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