New details emerge about ex-principal's plea deal; residents react to his new job
WINFIELD, WV (WCHS/WVAH) —
New details have emerged in Putnam County about a plea deal a former high school principal struck with prosecutors after he was charged with a felony. He also has a new job that is drawing mixed reactions in the county.
Brad Knell, the former principal at Poca High School, had been charged with felony computer fraud for the unauthorized use of a school credit card. In a deal with prosecutors, Knell pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of obtaining goods by false pretense.
As part of the plea deal, Knell was placed on two years’ probation and ordered to pay restitution.
"I don't have any regrets,” Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia said. “I don't think the public would expect me to make a man a convicted felon for $300.”
Linda Priddy of Buffalo said she has mixed emotions about Knell's new job as a behavior disorder teacher at Buffalo High School, where three of her children attend.
"I don't know if it was an accident, an honest mistake or if he purposely did it,” Priddy said. “if it was an accident, I don't have any problem with that because I don't think it will affect their learning.”
Sandra Ward of Buffalo, who has a granddaughter at Buffalo High School, said the school board's decision to hire Knell sends the wrong message to students.
"We're supposed to lift these kids up and tell them what is right and what is wrong, and this is wrong," Ward said. "Somebody can get into trouble and it would be OK for the kids. They could do whatever and go back to a regular job.”
Meanwhile, Putnam County School Superintendent John Hudson released a statement about the hiring of teachers following the school board’s decision to hire Knell.
"As the superintendent, I am required by law to recommend the most qualified applicant to the board” the statement said. “The employment of all teaching personnel is the result of applying the statutory hiring factors found in W. Va. Code 18A-4-7a and WVDE Policy 5000, which as you know includes the recommendation of the principal and faculty senate.
“Teaching personnel recommended are fully licensed and qualified for the teaching position in which they are hired. Often times, there are other "safeguards" in place to ensure success in the classroom, but personnel laws prohibit those from being discussed, if any. However, please know that I make recommendations to the board that I believe are absolutely in the best interest of our students."