After four months, former Norton coach still in paid limbo

Mike Still • Oct 18, 2019 at 1:30 PM

NORTON — Thursday’s Norton School board meeting was business as usual — including no action on the status of suspended former football coach James Adams.

After an almost two-hour closed session for personnel issues, the board — minus absent member Mark Leonard — emerged to take action on other personnel issues but not on Adams, who has been suspended since June after accusations by former students of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.

“No comment,” Board Chairman Cody McElroy said after the meeting when asked if the board was going to take action on Adams. He had Superintendent Gina Wohlford pass out a statement stating that “Mr. Adams’ employment status remains unchanged. The investigative matters and concerns are currently under administrative review and consideration. Because that review involves an ongoing personnel matter, I have no further comment at this time.”

Since June, Adams has been on paid suspension, including his teacher pay and stipend as head high school football coach. That suspension followed public comments at the board’s June 10 meeting by two female students, who detailed incidents in which Adams allegedly made inappropriate comments and struck one of the students with a rolled-up-piece of paper.

The school board in June hired the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police as an independent contractor for investigative functions. VACP personnel have interviewed school system employees and at least one student who made the June 10 accusations against Adams.

The Norton Police Department in late June also referred another complaint against Adams to the Virginia State Police for investigation.

In August, Adams lost a bid in federal court in Abingdon to have his suspension lifted and be restored to his coaching post.

Board members Wes Campbell, Sherry Adams and Carol Caruso commented after the meeting on the length of the board’s handling of Adams’ case.

“I understand it’s been a long process and we’re all wanting to see resolution,” Campbell said. “I think we all want to see things are done the right way.”

“Ultimately, we are responsible but we have hired someone to do this,” Caruso said.

“Truly, the answer is, you know as much as we do,” Adams said.