This week, the former duPont Manual High School principal Jerry Mayes was supposed to be in the middle of a multiday hearing to challenge a demotion removing him from the top spot at Kentucky’s top high school.
Instead, he gets to retire with a $60,000 settlement from Jefferson County Public Schools, according to documents obtained by Insider.
Nearly a year ago, Mayes was reassigned to a noninstructional role after a monthslong investigation found he routinely made unprofessional, insensitive comments to students and teachers. He vowed to challenge the decision, demanding his job back.
The much-awaited hearing was set to begin last Thursday. Instead, it was abruptly canceled the afternoon before, with both sides vaguely saying the situation had been settled. District settlement documents, obtained through the state open records law, shine more light on the final moment in the saga over a year in the making.
The settlement says JCPS will pay Mayes $60,000 to cover attorney fees and any injury he claims to have had from his demotion, the document says. Additionally, Mayes cannot sue JCPS over his employment or for age discrimination.
Neither Mayes nor JCPS claims liability in the settlement, it says. Mayes cannot be rehired by the district.
Two students walked into Mayes’ office in October 2017, focused on how a football coach told the team they wouldn’t be allowed to kneel during the national anthem. The hourlong conversation secretly recorded and later publicly spread, spiraled out of that.
Maye insinuated the students were being dramatic about having their freedom of speech squandered. He, a white man, also had dealt with oppression, he told them. The more the students pushed back, the more defensive Mayes seemed to become.
In the weeks following the tape’s release, the district began what would become a monthslong investigation. The school’s Black Student Union held a sit-in of over 100 students calling for Mayes’ resignation.
Students, parents and alumni began speaking publicly, appearing at nearly every school board meeting for months. Many accused Mayes of racist, bullying and transphobic comments; a few supported him, calling him a good coach and father.
Mayes was allowed to stay in his role throughout the investigation, drawing concern from onlookers who said it compromised the investigation. From the time of the investigation to the settlement announcement, JCPS spokespeople ignored multiple questions as to why Mayes was never removed from the school.
After over nine months, the investigation ended in July. In a six-page investigative report, an outside investigator determined Mayes exhibited a trend of unprofessional and insensitive comments. When Insider requested the supporting documents that led to the report, JCPS refused to release them, saying they belonged to a third party and were not public record.
After the investigation, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio reassigned Mayes to a noninstructional role in the district’s service center, where he’d make his principal salary for nearly an entire year before dropping to a teacher paygrade. That decrease was slated for July 1, 2019.
Adams, Mayes’ lawyer, has said he expected to challenge the demotion in a hearing before the school board in January or February after new school board members had been sworn in. Instead, the hearing was slated for late May and early June.