Paducah School’s superintendent: case becomes distraction

Elizabeth Johnson

 Stemming from his re-indictment involving the fatal 1998 Hester College Fire, Jerry Walker has been transferred from his position as assistant principal at Paducah Middle School to the school system’s central office.

Randy Greene, superintendent of Paducah Public Schools, said the decision was made Tuesday.

“It became a distraction,” Greene said. “The people at the building were very supportive and the parents were very supportive but I started getting calls from the middle school – people just wanting to talk about it.”

Greene said lack of community support has not been an issue.

Dennis Null, Walker’s attorney, said neither he nor his client had a hand in that decision.

“That was completely the decision of the Paducah superintendent,” Null said. “We had no control over that.”

Walker, 35, faces charges of first-degree arson, second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault and 14 counts of wanton endangerment. Walker entered a not guilty plea in Calloway County Circuit Court Sept. 22 after a special grand jury indicted him. Walker faced similar charges in 1999 for the fire that killed Michael Minger and critically injured Michael Priddy, but the trial resulted in a hung jury and was declared a mistrial in 2001.

Cases in which faculty members face criminal charges are taken care of on an individual basis as the Paducah Public School district does not have a standard policy, Greene said.

Greene said Walker will spend the majority of his time at central office writing grants.

“We have plenty to do there for him,” Greene said. “He’s going to be working on grants and we need to generate as much money as we possibly can.”

Rick Roberts, physical education teacher and former assistant principal at Paducah Middle School, will serve as interim in Walker’s absence.

Greene said Walker will continue working at central office pending future court hearings.

“Everything’s up in the air right now,” Greene said. “This is such a different situation because this is something that happened 13 years ago. We’re going to try to watch this closely and evaluate as we go.”

Walker is set to appear at a status hearing on Nov. 21 in Marshall County.

Null said he plans to file several motions at that hearing as well as discuss Walker’s productivity in society since the initial mistrial in 2001.

“As I said at the arraignment we expected to have extensive motions and we would do that by that day,” Null said. “But I can’t comment on the nature of those motions.”

Null said he has been sorting through files from his client’s previous hearings.

“The fact that we still had that file was very helpful,” Null said. “It could’ve very easily been thrown away four or five years ago. We never really had any idea we’d ever need it again and I actually had several bids on destruction of old files going back even years before that. If all of that had been done and if those boxes had been destroyed, I don’t know where we’d be.”

Null said he was given the discovery of the Commonwealth last week.

“We have now received the discovery of the Commonwealth,” Null said. “Of course most of it is a repeat of what we got 12 years ago.”

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