By Nate Smith
---- — OTWELL — Rick Fears, the Principal at Otwell Elementary School, has been placed on administrative leave pending a review, the Pike County School Corporation said Wednesday.
Pike County Superintendent Suzanne Blake said in a statement that Fears is on leave "while the matter is in review."
"An interim principal will be placed in the building to ensure the school year is started properly and students' needs are met," Blake said.
The statement confirms what parents and sources have learned that Fears was removed from the school last week. There was no comment from Blake as to what led to Fears' dismissal, citing personnel matters.
The reasons as to why Fears was removed at Otwell are unclear as rumor had taken over in the past week. Blake said Monday she felt uncomfortable discussing the matter because personnel was involved. Pike County School Board member Chris Satterfield referred any questions to Blake last week via email.
Otwell Elementary is considered to be one of the best elementary schools in southwest Indiana, having been named a Four-Star school three of the past four years. According to the school's website, Otwell was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2011 and in 2010, the school had 100 percent of its students pass the math portion of the ISTEP exam, the only school to do so.
Since reports surfaced about Fears at Otwell, parents and citizens called into the Times Herald about the issue. Some had positive comments and were upset, and some cited several issues surrounding their child at the school.
"I just heard (last week) he wasn't going to be principal anymore," one parent said. "I would be terribly upset if anything happened to the school."
The Pike County School Board meets Aug. 12. It is not yet known if his employment will be on the agenda. A message has been left with Fears for comment.
--- Haley Church contributed to this report.