Administrative Law Judge Rules on Bolinger Case

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Bay High School students, parents and teachers began the fall semester with a bit uncertainty. They knew Larry Bolinger was their principal, but they weren't sure how long he'd have the job.

When Superintendent James McCalister tried to remove him from the job a few months earlier it set off a backlash of protests from Bolinger supporters.

Those supporters became more frustrated when McCalister refused to give a reason for transferring Bolinger.

In December all of the parties pleaded their cases before an administrative law judge. On Monday, Judge Susan Hood released her decision and ruled in favor of the Bay County School Board and Larry Bolinger.

In her recommended order, Hood said transferring Bolinger would damage the morale of the students, faculty, and others who had rallied to improve Bay High academically.

She went on to say since McCalister did not have a reason for removing Bolinger, the school board was justified in not risking Bay High's future and denying McCalister's proposed transfer of Bolinger.

"I feel very good about this. Hopefully this is over with. I think the judge’s decision was a great decision for Bay High, the students, the staff and the community."

Former board member Thelma Rohan was one of the board members who overruled McCalister in favor of Bolinger.

"It feels like a victory today. What happens down the line we don't know, but today it feels pretty good."

The current board still has to approve Judge Hood's recommendation, which they're expected to do.

"Superintendent James McCalister got word of the ruling today. He has no comment at this time, nor has he stated his intentions."

But McCalister has options. He can still challenge Hood's ruling by appealing to the District Court of Appeals.

Insiders say if McCalister does not appeal, Judge Hood's ruling sets a bad precedent for school superintendents all over the state.

"I think it's setting a precedent whether he appeals or not. It's a big statement that if the school board has just cause to do the right thing. That's what the school board was doing; we were finding truth, making sure this wasn't a personality issue at all. This was an issue of principal."

As for Bolinger, he says it will be business as usual.

"I'm gonna continue to do what I'm doing and that be here everyday for as long as I can, cooperating with the superintendent and the school board to keep the progress moving."

Today's decision only guarantees Bolinger's job through the end of this school year. When McCalister makes his administrative recommendations in May he has the option to keep Bolinger at Bay, transfer him to another school, or choose not renew his contract.