Former Bristol, TN director of schools accused of racist comments in staff complaint

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NAACP chapter called for Sisk's resignation in 2018

FILE

BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Staff at Bristol Tennessee City Schools filed complaints against the former director for alleged racist comments.

Written complaints state that Sisk met with several employees on December 18 to discuss participating in the First District Consortium for superintendents, which could affect the curriculum within the district.

Read more: Questions raised over Bristol, TN’s Director of Schools’ qualification

According to the complaint, Sisk discussed the option of joining the consortium with the employees, and told them that he was “open to not participating” in the consortium.

According to the complaint, he said, “We don’t have to do it. All we have to do is pay taxes, stay white, and die.”

Less than a month later, the complaint says Sisk was talking to other employees about construction projects within the school system.

When the discussion turned to the bidding process for the roof replacement project at Tennessee High School, the employee notes that Sisk was complaining about the bids being over the budgeted $95,000 for the project.

According to the complaint, Sisk told the employees that he had met with “them” (the contractors of the projects, the writer assumes) and said, “I’m not paying more than $95,000 for this job. I’ll go to Montgomery County (Alabama) and hire a pick-up load of Mexicans, bring them back and put them up in a hotel for two weeks before I pay more.”

He told the employees that he had “already checked on that option and it would be cheaper to do,” according to the complaint.

The second complaint is dated Jan. 16. Both complaints were filed with Human Resources on Feb. 14, four days after News Channel 11 began investigating Sisk’s credentials. The board accepted Sisk’s resignation on Tuesday.

(story continues after complaints)

Previous story: Bristol, Tenn. BOE votes to accept director of schools Tom Sisk’s resignation, appoints interim director

Before taking the director of schools position in Bristol, Sisk worked as the superintendent for Limestone County Schools in Alabama.

Our sister station WHNT in Huntsville, Alabama reported in 2018 that the Limestone County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for Sisk’s resignation after the school board voted to fire a black principal at Sisk’s recommendation.

Sisk said in a statement provided by WHNT that the principal, Louis Gordon, was at the end of his probational period as a principal and Sisk believed the decision to terminate him was “best” for students.

The NAACP released a statement when Gordon was first put on leave condemning Sisk and insisting there was “absolutely no justification for the actions of Superintendent Sisk” and decried his actions as “inappropriate and very alarming.”

We have monitored and have been concerned when the decision was made to hire Mr. Gordon because of some outrage and inappropriate behavior of some who had another person in mind for the position. In spite of the publicly dissatisfied few, Dr. Sisk and the Board had the courage and decency to vote for the best person for the job. According to our assessment, immediately after Principal Gordon’s hiring the harassment started. Frivolous and ridiculous complaints were filed with the Superintendent, and on occasion with the State. Any and ALL complaints have been baseless and unproven.

NAACP statement concerning Tom Sisk, 2018

A month after Gordon’s termination, the board issued a letter of reprimand to Sisk for violating nepotism policies after his daughter was hired as a special education teacher within the district.

Sisk left Limestone County Schools after seven years to accept the director’s position in Bristol in September 2019.

Read more: Bristol, Tenn. City Schools Director addresses doctorate title ‘I think I have the right experiences to prepare the district’

News Channel 11 reached out to board chairman Nelson Pyle for comment on whether he or anyone on the board knew about the director’s alleged comments last year or his history with the NAACP in Alabama.

Pyle refused to comment further on the former director or the board’s hiring process for a director of schools, saying, “You can figure that out for yourself.”

Board policies outline the process of selecting a director of schools, but do not outline the credentials or background checking protocol involved in the hiring process.

Sisk resigned this week after the board began an investigation into his credentials. The board accepted his resignation on the condition of a $76,327 buyout on his contract with the school system, which was set to expire in 3.5 years.

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