The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Port Arthur teacher Ruby Gunner, acquitted on charges of injury to a child, will have one final opportunity to fight for her job.
Beaumont attorney Larry J. Simmons, Jr., was unanimously named as the hearing examiner for Gunner and another unnamed Port Arthur Independent School District employee who decided to appeal the board’s decision not to renew their contracts.
PAISD attorney Melody Chappell recommended Simmons at a special meeting on Monday. A member of Germer Attorneys at Law, Simmons has previously represented local cities such as Beaumont and Jasper — although, Chappell said, he has never been engaged with PAISD.
Vice president Thomas Kinlaw and trustee Robert Reid voiced their concerns about Chappell’s objectivity. Kinlaw suggested that Chappell should have brought a pool of candidates before the board, rather than only one recommendation.
“I want to make sure all parties are given the equal treatment they deserve,” Kinlaw said.
Chappell said that she was only able to produce one candidate due to time constraints. The board must assign a hearing examiner no later than 10 business days after the education commissioner receives the request for a hearing.
Chappell added that Simmons’ background in employment law and lack of prior history with the district made him a suitable candidate.
“He has enough knowledge to handle the process, but he has no incentive to be on one side or the other,” she said.