GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WKRG) – Current and former employees from George County Schools have been notified to testify as part of the former superintendent’s lawsuit against the school district.
The lawsuit, filed by Pam Touchard, alleges the school board violated her First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Touchard was elected superintendent in 2015 and held the position through the end of 2019. She was the county’s last elected superintendent.
She alleges the district’s board of education discriminated against her by denying her any employment opportunity after her term as superintendent ended and other retaliatory measures after she reported staff-sanctioned cheating to the state in 2019.
The list of people in the first round of deposition notices filed by former Pam Touchard’s counsel are:
- Former technology director Josh Nobles
- Former police chief Al Hillman
- Former assistant superintendent and current Rocky Creek Elementary School assistant principal Kiley Hughes
- A former high school student that first reported staff-sanctioned cheating to Touchard
Touchard was deposed by the district’s attorneys, federal court records show.
A deposition is an opportunity for parties in a civil lawsuit to obtain testimony from a witness under oath prior to trial. It’s part of the discovery process by which parties gather facts and information so they can be better prepared at trial to present their claims and defenses, according to law professor Jeff Feldman.
The depositions, held privately outside of court, were scheduled to be taken March 16 and 17. After the witness is placed under oath, each party is given an opportunity to ask questions and obtain answers about the issues that are raised in the case. Depositions are usually hearsay and inadmissible at trial.
No expert witnesses were designated by either side before the March 15 deadline set by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Robert Myers, Jr.
All four of the potential witnesses being deposed so far also provided testimony to the Mississippi Department of Education in November 2020. The results of that disciplinary hearing put former credit recovery teacher and current GCHS assistant principal Kristin Davis’ teaching license on probation for one year.
The committee found she knowingly permitted a student or students to complete an Algebra II credit recovery test on behalf of a separate student to ensure a passing grade in May 2019.
Touchard’s amended complaint, filed in December 2021, claims the school board moved Hughes into the newly created assistant superintendent role to oversee the high school and prevent Touchard from discovering improper activities at the school. She also claims she was verbally threatened and car was vandalized after reporting the cheating to the state.
Former high school principal and current superintendent Wade Whitney and no school board members have been asked to submit to a deposition in the case yet. Only two current board members, president Barkley Henderson and vice president Mike Steede, were on the board in 2019.
The judge denied the district’s motion in January to ban two newly elected school board members from closed door meetings discussing the lawsuit.
The district denies all the allegations against it but has not filed any specific rebuttals. Administrators have declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The costs to the district to defend the lawsuit is unclear. In response to a public records request filed in September, board attorney Cherie Wade said the district does not have a contract with attorneys Allison Fry and Steven Lacy, who are representing GCSD in the lawsuit. Wade’s contract is for $250-per-hour.
The case is set to be argued in a jury trial in November.