School likely to retain convicted janitor

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— Soroco School District officials are leaning toward keeping Chris Neil as an employee. Neil was convicted of misdemeanor assault Wednesday.

However, if the high school janitor continues working for the district, there will be conditions set in place, said Steven Jones, the district's superintendent.

On Thursday, Soroco school officials were able to get a copy of the documents pertaining to Neil's no-contest plea to third-degree assault.

The third-degree assault conviction stems from a February incident involving four middle school students at Soroco High School.

Currently, the district's administration team is reviewing Neil's sentence, which includes one year of supervised probation and a mental health evaluation.

"We will look at all of the court documents," Jones said.

A major issue that Jones and Soroco High School Principal Richard Coleman will be examining is whether or not this was an isolated incident.

"If we think this was an isolated incident, we would probably make a decision to keep him employed," Jones said. "Right now, we are leaning toward bringing him back with certain and definite conditions.

"We are not looking at ending his employment for one incident."

In Neil's 15 years with the school district, the district had not had any prior problems with him, he said.

Neil, 49, was placed on paid leave Feb. 9, which is the day the incident occurred.

Neil was apparently upset at the middle school students after toilets in a high school bathroom were purposely clogged with pencils.

Court records show Neil shoved a 14-year-old boy into a wall, grabbed a 13-year-old boy by the neck and pushed two 13-year-old boys out of the bathroom.

The boys denied committing the vandalism.

Currently, Coleman is attempting to set up a meeting with Neil to talk about his job status, Jones said.

Possible conditions that could be placed on Neil by the school district would be ordering him to undergo an anger-management course and changing his work schedule, Jones said.

"We could put him on a shift where he would not come in contact with the students," Jones said. "We only have three weeks left of school. We could bring him back to work the evening shift."

It is possible Neil could return to his daytime shift next fall, but that will depend on how well things go during the last weeks of school and the summer, Jones said.

Because of Neil's absence, the school district has had to hire an additional employee.

A part-time employee, who assisted Neil, is now working full time and another person was hired to fill the part-time position.

However, the district is currently looking for a full-time janitor.

"We recently lost a full-time custodian," Jones said. "We are in a situation where we need a custodian. We are not going to have to lay someone off because we are bringing Mr. Neil back."

Neil pleaded to the misdemeanor charge after a plea agreement was worked out between his attorney, James Horner, and Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Wittemyer.

Included in Neil's plea agreement is a one-year deferred sentence. If Neil follows the conditions of his probation, the conviction will be cleared from his record in a year.

Because of the plea, Neil was ordered to pay $420 in probation costs and $138 in court fees.

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