Poplar Bluff coach, teacher loses tenure for language

Friday, August 5, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A Poplar Bluff high school coach who faced termination for swearing during practices will keep his teaching job, but not as a tenured employee.

The school board voted 4-3 to terminate Lance Bell, who held a tenured position as health teacher after five years in the district. Bell also served as head track coach and assistant football coach.

In a second 4-3 vote, the board rehired Bell as a nontenured teacher. The contract is to run from Aug. 10 to the end of the school year and no class placement has been determined at this time, said Superintendent Chris Hon. The contract does not include coaching duties.

Bell's attorney, C. Wade Pierce, said today his client will accept the contract.

Dr. Cynthia Brown, Dr. Mike Price and Alana Robertson voted for the first motion to fire Bell and against the second motion to rehire him.

Hardy Billington provided the swing vote, approving both motions, while Dr. Matt Riffle, Steve Sells and Gary Simmons were against the motion to terminate Bell's contract and approved offering a new contract.

"Lance Bell will be a teacher in Poplar Bluff schools," Hon said today. "The board has made their decision and we'll move forward. Our responsibility now is to help Lance be the best teacher he can be."

Bell has been on paid administrative leave since April, after a student reported the coach said g** d*** during a track practice.

During a public termination hearing held in early July, Bell admitted to several instances of cursing during track and football practices. He apologized and asked for another chance.

"I was frustrated," Bell said during testimony. "When I get frustrated, I say things I shouldn't. I'm not willfully trying to be insubordinate. Sometimes in my (desire) to motivate them, I don't do it the right way."

Administrators said Bell had been warned repeatedly to watch his language and recommended terminating his contract. Bell had been placed on probation from October 2010 until May 31, with his assistant football coach duties being suspended in September of 2010.

Pertinent address:

Poplar Bluff, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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