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Newly Hired Principal Let Go Due to Past - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Newly Hired Principal Let Go Due to Past

Debra Duncan Debra Duncan
Eric Duncan Eric Duncan

Reported by Dana Hackett
July 10, 2007

Last Thursday, Charlottesville City Schools announced they'd hired a new principal for Greenbrier Elementary. Tuesday, they announced Debra Duncan no longer has the job. The reason for the sudden rejection starts with a 17-year-old murder investigation.

That murder investigation involved Debra's husband, Eric Duncan. He was a person of interest at one point in a murder case involving a young girl in 1990, but there wasn't enough evidence for a trial and he was never convicted. Now, Monday's job rejection is opening some old wounds.

The Charlottesville school system made the announcement Debra Duncan was hired last week, but four days later things changed with a phone call. "My wife was told the board would not approve her contract," stated Eric Duncan.

The Duncans didn't want to go on camera, but Mr. Duncan talked to NBC29 on the phone. "My wife inquired as to why. The answer was: because of something they found on the internet," shared Duncan. They found information about him.

Eric Duncan was the prime suspect in a 1990 murder investigation involving 11-year-old Heidi Seeman in San Antonio, Texas. Investigators never found enough evidence to try him and he was let off.

So now, more than a decade later, the Duncans have moved on. They dropped their jobs and their life in Indiana to move to Charlottesville. They flew into town this weekend to look for a home. "To give up a position that you have in understanding...as in, promises you're going to get a new one... She has no job," said Duncan.

But now feeling helpless, jobless and soon to be homeless, the Duncans just want to know why the school system wouldn't let them explain the situation. "They wouldn't even talk to her and it's breaking her heart," shared Eric Duncan. "It didn't involve my wife at all. It involved me." What now? "We don't know what to do...literally...We don't know what to do," said Duncan.

Tuesday morning, the school system sent out a statement by email saying "due to unforeseen circumstances, Mrs. Duncan will not be joining the staff of Charlottesville City Schools." As far as those "unforeseen circumstances", they won't comment on personnel matters.

The big question is, is this legal? Is it ok for the school system to say one minute you are hired and days later, virtually say you are fired?

The school system remains tight lipped. They will not comment directly about personnel matters. Cass cannon of Charlottesville city schools said, “By law we're limited in what we can say.”

We took a look at the law to find out if their actions are legal. Attorney Edward Lowry says if no contract has been signed, then yes it is legal. “Virginia, like most states, is what's called an employment at-will state. Which is either the employer or the employee can terminate the relationship at any time with no reason or with a reason.”

But the Duncan say there was an oral agreement and they based their lives on it. Duncan stated, "If this becomes a legal issue, then it's explosive."

We’re told the school system did the standard background check before telling Duncan she was hired but they would not say if that included checking the background of family members. The Duncan are convinced someone called the superintendent to tip them off.

Meanwhile, school leaders are moving forward with finding an interim principal for Greenbrier.

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