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Ethics Division suspends Horton's certificate

By Greg Gelpi

A Clayton County principal retired the same day that the state's ethics commission suspended his teaching certificate.

The Education Ethics Division of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission suspended Bill Horton's teaching certificate after a complaint of mismanagement of funds.

Horton served as interim deputy superintendent and most recently as principal of East Clayton Elementary School when Barbara Pulliam was named superintendent.

Former Superintendent Dan Colwell filed the complaint, alleging mismanagement of funds when Horton was principal of Oliver Elementary School and Riverdale Middle School.

"It was my decision really to settle out of court," Horton said, acknowledging the one-year suspension. "I knew that I was going to retire anyway."

Although he accepted being ultimately responsible for the school's business as its principal, Horton said that his bookkeepers were in charge of the finances.

Horton retired from the school system effective Oct. 29, the same day that a letter from the Ethics Division indicates his teaching certificate entered a yearlong suspension.

"During the period of suspension, (Horton) shall not teach in a public school in the State of Georgia nor be employed as a paraprofessional, aide or substitute teacher in a public school in the State of Georgia," the Ethics Division letter states.

The decision only moved up Horton's plans for retirement, he said.

"I was going to leave next spring," he said, adding that it was "much more advantageous to leave in the fall."

The timing of his departure allowed him to qualify for a 3 percent pay raise, Horton said.

"There were many principals worse off," Horton said. "It was political."

As part of his retirement, Horton said he plans to pursue interests outside of education, including the possibility of starting a chicken farm.

"What I'll be doing certainly won't be requiring certification," he said.

Both schools have made a financial turnaround, school system spokesman Charles White said.

"Both schools are doing better," White said. "In fact, they are both operating in the black."

Through careful watching of expenditures, avoiding wasteful spending and good business practices, the schools managed to climb out of the red, he said.

Colwell said that Horton "mismanaged funds" while principal at the two schools, going more than $30,000 over budget at Riverdale Middle in 2000.

At the time, Colwell gave Horton a year to correct the situation, Colwell said. In 2002, Colwell asked Horton to resign or he would ask the Clayton County Board of Education to fire him. Horton resigned. Later, however, the school board fired Colwell and made Horton the interim deputy superintendent.

When the board took no action against Horton, Colwell took the matter to the Ethics Division.