Sweet fired as WEMS principal

The employment of Williston-Elko Middle School’s principal has been terminated due to misconduct, although the district is tight-lipped about details.

Greg Sweet, who had been Williston-Elko Middle School’s principal since 2013, was fired on Dec. 11 by the school board, according to documents recently released by the district following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Before his termination, Sweet had been on paid administrative leave since Monday, October 30.

The latest action follows two meetings where the board voted to terminate an employee, but Sweet was not identified as the impacted employee until the district responded to The People-Sentinel’s FOIA requests. It is now revealed that the board voted on Nov. 21 to suspend and “conditionally sustain” the interim superintendent’s recommendation to immediately terminate Sweet’s employment. The board met again on Dec. 11 and voted to terminate Sweet’s employment immediately.

A Nov. 14 letter from the district to Sweet identifies the reasons for his termination, but Interim Superintendent Dr. Everette Dean will not release that document because he said it’s exempt from disclosure. The section of the law he cited exempts information that is of a “personal nature” and would be an invasion of privacy.

“Rest assured, however, that my rationale for the recommendation that Mr. Sweet’s employment be terminated does not involve an event which negatively impacted students,” said Dean in his written response to The People-Sentinel dated Dec. 19, which was received in the mail on Friday, Dec. 22.

However, a Nov. 21 letter from Dean to Sweet uses the word “misconduct”, but the exact reason is blacked out in the copy provided to the newspaper. “It is the administration’s position that this misconduct justifies the termination of your employment contract pursuant to S.C. Code 59-25-430,” according to the letter.

The cited code states: “Any teacher may be dismissed at any time who shall fail, or who may be incompetent, to give instruction in accordance with the directions of the superintendent, or who shall otherwise manifest an evident unfitness for teaching; provided, however, that notice and an opportunity shall be afforded for a hearing prior to any dismissal. Evident unfitness for teaching is manifested by conduct such as, but not limited to, the following: persistent neglect of duty, willful violation of rules and regulations of district board of trustees, drunkenness, conviction of a violation of the law of this State or the United States, gross immorality, dishonesty, illegal use, sale or possession of drugs or narcotics.”

Employees who are suspended or terminated have 15 days from the time they are notified to request a hearing with the school board. However, Sweet did not request a hearing, according to documents released by the district.

Stephanie Alford, the district’s human resources coordinator, has been handling Sweet’s responsibilities since he was placed on leave. Alford holds South Carolina certification as a principal and is an experienced building administrator.

On Dec. 19, the board held a special meeting where they once again met in closed session to discuss an employment matter. Upon returning to open session, they voted to employ “Employee A” for the remainder of the school year. It is unclear at this time if this is related to the principal’s position because no name has been provided.