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State to hear case of fired school worker

A state hearing officer will decide whether David DeWald was afforded due process when he was not reappointed as the district's construction director.

After meeting for more than an hour behind closed doors Thursday afternoon, attorneys for DeWald and interim Superintendent Don Brown agreed to have DeWald's case heard by a neutral party from the state Division of Administrative Hearings. The School Board had been scheduled to hear the case Thursday.

The hearing officer will decide whether Brown had the power as school chief to change then-Superintendent Harold Winkler's recommendation about DeWald's reappointment after the list of administrative reappointments for the 1995-96 school year had been sent to board members. It could take 30 to 60 days before a hearing will be held.

The reappointments were the last task Winkler performed before he left the district in April to take a job in North Carolina.

DeWald, 51, whose last day on the job is today, did not receive notice of his dismissal until 35 minutes before the board was scheduled to vote on the positions April 18. Until then, DeWald has said, he was on the reappointment list.

DeWald filed a complaint with the district in April after Brown would not give him a reason for not renewing his one-year contract. Brown said his decision was based on the needs of the district. He also said that DeWald's termination was not to be interpreted as "a negative statement about this individual."

Brown claimed that his decision was not based on School Board member Sandra Nicholson's warning on the day of the vote that she would not vote for any of Brown's recommendations if DeWald was reappointed. Nicholson said she had been unimpressed with DeWald's performance since he was hired in 1993.

DeWald said he could not comment about Thursday's proceedings based on the advice of his attorney, Joe Mason of Brooksville.

Neither Mason nor lawyer Reynolds Allen, who represents the school district in labor disputes, could be reached for comment.