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Zebulon school's headmaster on paid leave amid allegations

Posted March 14, 2012

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— The top administrator of a Zebulon charter school has been placed on a paid leave of absence amid allegations of misconduct and a police investigation into sexual battery of a school employee.

The board of directors for East Wake Academy met for more than six hours in a closed session Wednesday discussing a personnel matter involving headmaster Brandon Smith.

Board members won't comment on the issue, but parents claim it has to do with accusations that Smith sexually harassed two teachers.

"This is, in no way, a statement on his guilt or innocence," the board's vice chairman, Bill Ausley, said Wednesday evening.

Zebulon Police Chief Tim Hayworth said that his department is also investigating a criminal complaint filed Wednesday afternoon by a female school employee who accused Smith of unwanted touching.

Smith, 57, who has been the headmaster at East Wake Academy for the past 10 years, told WRAL News Wednesday afternoon that the board was dealing with a "personnel grievance matter" and that he was not at liberty, under state law, to talk about it.

"I'm bound, again, by personnel law in terms of what I can say," he said. "I can tell you this: I continue to follow policy. I have always put children first, and I have not done anything wrong or harmed anyone."

He added that some of the people making accusations against him are disgruntled former employees.

Brandon Smith Headmaster on paid leave amid police probe

Wednesday's emergency meeting was the second this week. A meeting Monday lasted more than seven hours, ending around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to parents who were at the meeting.

While specific personnel matters are exempt from North Carolina's public meeting law, parents taking issue with the board say that they are upset because they were never notified that Smith was under investigation, that their concerns weren't being heard and that Smith was allowed to continue working prior to the board's decision Wednesday.

"I'm concerned that the details aren't being disclosed," parent Susan Boykin said. "I feel like we're not being kept informed about what's going on."

Parent Angie O'Neal says that she believes Smith has been an effective headmaster over the past decade, supporting students with special needs and converting the East Wake Academy campus into a state-of-the art facility.

"He's gone so far above and beyond, where my son is concerned," she said.

But, she says, the teachers making the accusations are also well-respected.

"They're fantastic teachers. Mr. Smith has been a fantastic headmaster," she said. "At the same time, if the allegations are true, he shouldn't be there."

Joel Medley, director of the state's Office of Charter Schools, said that charter school boards have absolute discretion and autonomy when it comes to personnel issues and that the state becomes involved only if a crime is committed or the allegations involve students.

Court records show that a teacher at a Githens Middle School in Durham, where Smith used to work, claimed that he sexually harassed her in the late 1990s and that she filed a lawsuit against the county school board. It was later dismissed.

Jeffrey Nash, a spokesman for Durham Public Schools, said Smith worked for the district from 1993 until 2000. He said he was still researching Wednesday the circumstances of why Smith left.

A Wake County Public School System spokesman said Wednesday that Smith was also an assistant principal at Enloe High School in Raleigh from 1990 to 1993.

54 Comments

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  • ashwednesday36 Mar 16, 2012

    2penny.....if it is found to be true(proven) that the board chair was complicit in going to Smith before the board then that very thing may have to happen in order for the school to kepp it's doors opened.

  • 2penny Mar 16, 2012

    The school board has been notified about this type of behavior for years. They knew of concerns from the first day he showed up on campus. The board does what the board wants to do... And it has always been to side with Smith and refuse to take these complaints seriously. I was involved with several other teachers who approached the board many times back in 2006 and 2007 about these matters. The board is self elected and only people invited can join. There is no balance to the school board and parents do not get to elect the members. That is what will make this problem go away... a diverse board with open elections. The charter for the school is not written to allow this and it needs to change.

  • freeadvice Mar 16, 2012

    These girls thought they could make some money with their flimsy claims. Unfortunely EWA as a whole has to pay for their mistake. A special thanks to the parents who called the WRAL - NO ONE APPRECIATES IT!

  • Likestobearrogant Mar 16, 2012

    thirtyoneu- EXACTLY!! My young child at EWA has seent he news, the police,and said school was weird we watch 2 movies.. tell me these children are not feeling this.. THANK GOODNESS FOR TRACK-OUT!!!

  • thirtyoneu Mar 15, 2012

    Nourie32 you did in fact state: "your headmaster allegedly raped someone and you are backing them up" as well as you said " your saying allegations of rape is mothers trying to stir things up"...please please please be careful what you are posting, your words could come back to affect you more than you know while at the same time severely affecting the one you are falsely accusing of something. EWA families, students, teachers, and the Board of Directors are all suffering greatly because of this situation and your carelessly typed words make things worse.

  • gccmp Mar 15, 2012

    As many have said, this has nothing to do with whether Brandon Smith is a good administrator or not. This has to do with sexually women. He has a history of doing this. He left Githens Middle School in Durham for the same reason. Go to this link...http://csl.sog.unc.edu/node/342 and see if this doesn't sound very familiar. Then do further research and find out why he left his job at Broughton High School in Raleigh. No official suits filed but again women accused him of being inappropriate. Doesn't matter how good a job he does, he cannot be allowed to continually get away with this!

  • wuffin Mar 15, 2012

    all i have to say is i am a former student of his. and being around him 8 hours a day for 5 years.....i know from word of mouth. and by first hand expirience. truth.will.set.you.free ~~~~~~~

    Word of mouth is hearsay and should not be considered at all in anybody's official decisions. However, your first hand experience would be relative to any investigation.

    At this time I support Mr. Smith; however, if you are saying that you have first hand, harrassement issues with Mr. Smith AS A STUDENT, I encourage you to step forward.

    That my dear, is a whole different ballgame.

  • truth.will.set.you.free Mar 15, 2012

    all i have to say is i am a former student of his. and being around him 8 hours a day for 5 years. i honestly believe it was only a matter of time before this blew up. and i honestly whole heartedly believe that he is guilty of what he has been accused of. i know from word of mouth. and by first hand expirience.

  • ashwednesday36 Mar 15, 2012

    Ambygirl.....seen the Facebook pages lately? There is just as much NON support. OMG did I spell all of that correctly?

  • ashwednesday36 Mar 15, 2012

    Kann......all of this and you are worried about my spelling? Have you seen the second allegation?

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