Mount Markham elementary school Principal James LaFountain wants to get back to work, now that his criminal case of mishandling a student has been resolved without any conviction.
When LaFountain, 58, addresses the district’s Board of Education at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, it will be the first time he has been allowed to publicly state his case since he was placed on a paid administrative leave after the January incident.
In August, LaFountain’s misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child was “adjourned in contemplation of dismissal,” which means it will be dropped in six months. In the meantime, LaFountain remains on leave pending a disciplinary hearing.
The school board, however, could vote to reinstate LaFountain at any time if it wants, he said.
“I want to reiterate that I would love to get back to work and I’m willing to work with them on that,” LaFountain said. “I love the kids, and I believe we were really making improvements in education programs and moving in a positive direction. I’m interested in everybody licking their wounds and moving on.”
The school board’s attorney, Robert Applegate, said he is sure the board will take whatever LaFountain has to say into consideration. But at this time, he said, it still is the board’s plan to go ahead with the hearing to determine LaFountain’s future.
“It has been the board’s steadfast position not to comment on personnel issues,” Applegate said, “but there has been some discussion and consideration by the board to vary from that practice in this case as a result of questions and the amount of criticisms directed at the board and Superintendent Casey Barduhn on Jim’s behalf.”
Still, Applegate noted, this issue could be resolved if LaFountain accepted a settlement or resigned — options LaFountain has said he will not consider.
LaFountain said he has turned down an offer of several weeks of unpaid penalty, which was offered before his criminal case was even resolved. And LaFountain also is refusing a buyout of his contract, since he said he still believes he didn’t do anything wrong based on the limited training he had at the time he grabbed a disruptive third-grade student by the collar.
But what LaFountain finds most “ridiculous,” he said, is he had tried to get training for how to properly restrain a child prior to this incident, but Barduhn “pulled the plug” on the program.
Barduhn did not return calls seeking comment.
LaFountain said he initially sought the training after he was written up in June 2011 after a separate incident with a disruptive student. From that point, LaFountain tried to arrange for training programs several times but was rebuffed, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Even after LaFountain’s case made it through court, he said he had to take child restraint training through Upstate Cerebral Palsy instead of through the school.
In the meantime, LaFountain said the district continues to pay his salary while also paying an interim principal $300 a day as long as he is on leave, as well as thousands of dollars in attorney fees to handle negotiations and proceedings.