Scot Trower, who had headed up the district since 2011, asked a court to give him a fair hearing, claiming the one that resulted in his recent suspension – with pay – was biased and unfair.
A McIntosh County judge granted Trower's request Tuesday. The administrator will have a hearing April 9 before the judge.
Trower was suspended after comments he made to The Oklahoman for a story that ran in February angered many of the community's residents. In the article, the superintendent described the district's students as children of poverty — some of them fourth-generation.
The lawsuit filed by Trower's attorney accuses three board members of stifling the former administrator's free speech by moving forward with efforts to terminate his contract.
Board members Robert Bennett, Jason Harjo and Michael Winap are named in the lawsuit.
Richard O'Carroll, an attorney representing Trower, wrote in the suit that Bennett and Harjo appointed Winap to a seat on the board as an angry crowd demanded action during the district's regularly scheduled March meeting.
O'Carroll wrote in the suit that Bennett and Harjo were “intimidated” by some school district patrons attending the March 4 meeting and named Winap as a board member even though Winap “had been very outspoken against Mr. Trower and had called for his resignation.”
“The same evening, these three people immediately met in an unscheduled executive session where they discussed Mr. Trower's employment,” the attorney wrote. “At that time, it was determined that Mr. Trower should be terminated from the school district.”
During a special school board meeting held the next week, it was determined that Trower's contract should be terminated, but no reasons were made public.
Andy Fugitt, an attorney representing Ryal Public Schools, said that Trower requested a hearing in front of the school board to explain why his contract should be terminated.
The request was not denied, but Fugitt said a hearing date has not been set at this point.
Comments hurt some
During a six-hour long interview with a reporter from The Oklahoman in February, Trower commented that many of the students in his district don't eat unless they are at school, and many of their families don't value education.
“Their families don't see a need for an education past the eighth grade,” Trower said in February. “How do you get past that?”
Trower also made comments about high levels of drug addiction, alcoholism and other criminal behavior while driving near an area called Ryal Bottoms, where many of the district's students live. Bennett, the school board president, said many of the district's parents were angered by Trower's comments.
“The story portrayed the Ryal community in a very negative light,” Bennett said after the March 4 school board meeting. “The vast majority of our kids live in houses with electricity. They do have shoes. Their parents do work.
“Lots of our students go on to be schoolteachers, doctors, lawyers and professionals.”