‘Serious issues’ at Lincoln Memorial to be dealt with aggressively
Lincoln Memorial Academy leader Eddie Hundley said he is stepping down as principal of the Palmetto-based charter school, though his struggle with the school district is far from over.
“After careful consideration and appreciation for the events of the past several years and with specific interest in obtaining the peaceful resolution of the issue of my leadership at LMA, I am stepping down from my position as principal, effective immediately,” Hundley’s resignation letter states.
Hundley also alluded to upcoming legal action, an effort to clear his name of complaints — levied by school districts in Manatee and Sarasota counties — that led to a five-year revocation of his educator certificate in May.
“I am thereby expressing my express willingness to step down as principal and address the concerns about my alleged conduct through appropriate legal channels not affiliated with the school in the immediate days to come,” the letter continues.
Hundley’s tenure at the charter school came under scrutiny last year when education officials began investigating whether he knowingly endorsed someone who was under criminal investigation, helping them secure a teaching job in Sarasota before they were arrested on a child pornography charge months later.
Authorities reportedly found the images of Quentin Peterson and a teenage girl during their investigation of separate allegations. Peterson, a former music teacher at Lincoln, is scheduled to stand trial in September.
The Education Practices Commission, an independent body within the Florida Department of Education, issued its final order in May, subjecting Hundley to a five-year revocation of his certificate, five years of probation and a mandatory class in ethics. The revocation barred Hundley from any job that required “direct contact with students.”
In a letter dated May 30, the state DOE reached out to Christine Dawson, chair of Lincoln’s governing board, and asked whether Hundley would continue his leadership role at the school.
“At our last board meeting it was determined that Mr. Hundley will no longer serve as principal, but will continue to serve as CEO/Founder of Lincoln Memorial Academy,” Dawson responded on June 25.
“I understand that Mr. Hundley will be serving as CEO/Founder of Lincoln Memorial Academy,” Randy Kosec, chief for the Office of Professional Practices Services, said in a July 2 letter.
“However, your response did not include an explanation of how Mr. Hundley can carry out his duties without direct contact with students, which would mean that he would not be on campus at times when students are present, especially the function of ‘senior level leadership and oversight,’ ” he continued.
It seems the governing board already stripped Hundley of his “principal title,” but his resignation served as personal confirmation that he would leave the role. However, he also promised to maintain some degree of influence at Lincoln, which could be a point of contention with the district and state.
“Rest assured, I will continue to provide the needed guidance and direction to the school leadership to ensure the progress of our mission of providing the best possible teaching and learning experience for all students,” the letter states.
His resignation came nearly one week after Richard Corcoran, the state’s education commissioner, sent several letters and emails to school and district leadership, supporting “every effort to have Mr. Hundley relieved of all responsibilities with Lincoln Memorial Academy.”
“Lincoln Memorial Academy’s continued employment of Mr. Hundley flies in the face of all our efforts to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our students,” Corcoran wrote to Superintendent Cynthia Saunders and school board Chairman Dave Miner.
“Mr. Hundley cannot legally perform the duties of a school administrator,” he said in a separate letter to school leaders. “For the governing board to continue to allocate funds for his services is, on its face, contrary to the best interest of the students.”
With the backing of school leaders, Hundley has continued to blame recent obstacles on misinformation and spite, accusing the school district of launching a calculated attack on his new charter school. In response, the school district said it was Lincoln that failed to meet its responsibilities, outlined in its charter contract and state statute.
“The revocation of my licensee was an action taken by an overreaching law judge that is being exploited by a biased school district and misinformed commissioner of education,” Hundley said in his resignation letter.
According to his letter, Hundley wanted to eliminate the distractions caused by his leadership, and to focus on the students who will soon return to school. He named “Mrs. Ramsey” as the school’s interim principal “until further notification.”
The interim principal, Kimara Ramsey, has nearly two decades of experience in education, including previous jobs as a teacher and a principal, according to a news release from the school.
The school board will also discuss Lincoln’s troubled finances at a workshop on Tuesday afternoon. Lincoln reported a deficit of more than $250,000 at the end of May, and school leaders have again pointed their fingers at Manatee.
Lincoln and the school district will have to form a corrective action plan or face intervention from the state’s education commissioner.
“I have no desire to dictate a plan to the district and the governing board but at the same time, I will not hesitate to take action should circumstances dictate,” Corcoran said in his recent letter.
On Monday afternoon, district spokesman Mike Barber said the issue would be a “topic of discussion” for the board members at their workshop meeting on Tuesday, scheduled for 2 p.m. at the School Support Center, 215 Manatee Ave. W.
“There’s nothing we can say until then because we haven’t received anything in an official capacity,” Barber said. “Right now, it’s strictly a correspondence between Mr. Hundley and the school.”
Barber said nothing had changed, and that Manatee was still pursuing the direction established by Corcoran.
“The commissioner of education said we had to work with the school to come up with a recovery plan for them,” Barber said. “We reached out to them last Wednesday to get together with them and, as of today, they have not come in to discuss that. We haven’t received anything from them.”