Poughkeepsie principal fired amid graduation controversy reinstated

A Poughkeepsie High School principal terminated following an investigation into improper graduations is returning to the district, following a court decision.

Phee Simpson, who was accused of knowingly allowing 22 students to graduate despite not meeting the requirements to do so, was reinstated to her position by the New York State Appellate Division, following a nearly three-year legal battle. The court also ordered that she be given back pay and benefits dating to when she was fired in August 2019.

In a statement Wednesday, the Poughkeepsie City School District said it is reviewing the ruling and is “in conversation” regarding “associated implications and next steps.” The district said it “welcomes Dr. Simpson back to the district and looks forward to her contribution to the progress of the last three years.” Kelleyann Royce-Giron is the high school’s current principal.

In re-examining a lower court hearing decision, which determined “there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that (Simpson) acted intentionally,” but also “sustained all of the charges, and imposed a penalty of termination,” the appellate court concluded “Because there was no allegation that the petitioner’s conduct was anything other than knowing and intentional, and because the hearing officer found that there was insufficient evidence that the petitioner acted intentionally, the hearing officer’s determination that the petitioner was guilty of all charges was arbitrary and capricious and without evidentiary support,” according to the court’s decision issued last week.

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