When Joseph Carruth was hired back by the Camden School District last year after a five-year legal battle, the former Brimm Medical Arts High School principal, now 44, was looking forward to being able to retire from the district.
After all, he expected to get tenure by this summer.
That hope is now in jeopardy, as Carruth's current position was approved for elimination at Tuesday's school board meeting.
"I couldn't believe it. . . . I don't think it's legal," Carruth said Thursday of receiving the notification letter Wednesday, though the administration reportedly put the notice on hold quickly until it resolves complications surrounding his status.
Carruth was rehired in August 2012 following an arbitration ruling. He alleged that the district fired him for publicly revealing in 2005 that he was asked to tamper with students' state test scores. He was also awarded an $860,000 settlement.
In March 2012, the arbitrator ruled that the district should reinstate Carruth as a principal by July 1, 2013. The school board voted to reinstate him for the school year beginning September 2012.
Because there weren't any principal positions open, Carruth was hired as a principal on special assignment within the office of safety and security.
It wasn't ideal, but "I did what I was asked to do," Carruth said Thursday. He described his duties as going to each school and reviewing its safety procedures. His February performance review was satisfactory.
Carruth said he was under the impression that as soon as a principal position opened up, he would be moved to it.
Now, with his position as principal on special assignment being eliminated, along with various other director and vice principal positions, Carruth doesn't know if he will even be employed by the district come July 1.
Because of the arbitration ruling and potential legal challenges and issues, the principals union president, Calvin Gunning, requested that interim superintendent Reuben Mills rescind Carruth's notification.
The district needs to "find out what was his agreement in coming back to the district," Gunning said, adding that Mills agreed to rescind the letter until questions of tenure, residency, and bumping are determined.
Mills did not return calls for comment Thursday.
The school board approved for one principal on special assignment position to be eliminated for 2013-14 school year, along with more than 110 other positions throughout the district.
The eliminations were driven by such factors as declining student enrollment, increasing fixed costs, and limited revenue, according to the state monitor's report Tuesday.
Despite the cuts, the district's operating budget for 2013-14 is $10 million higher than this year's, bumping up to $326.5 million. About $60 million is expected to go to the city's charter schools next year, which continue to grow and take children from the district schools.
Because Carruth was the last to be hired as a principal on special assignment - positions created by the district last year to accommodate displaced principals - he has the least seniority of the five in such positions, and under seniority rules would be the one to go, Gunning said.
But the arbitration ruling complicates the matter, Gunning said.
Carruth's fate is to be reviewed by board attorneys, he said.
The school board is to hold a special meeting Tuesday to announce which employees will not be rehired for 2013-14.