Marlon Ball, the principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Ky., was placed on administrative leave Wednesday, according to a district statement mourning the death of Dunbar athletic director Jason Howel.
Howell's death Tuesday is being investigated as a suicide, Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“Our FCPS community is grieving Mr. Howell’s passing along with the staff, students, and families at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. When one of our schools is hurting, the impact is felt districtwide,” district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said in Wednesday's statement.
“We are aware of the concerns raised by members of the Dunbar staff. Reports of this nature are taken seriously and will be fully investigated. Per our normal human resources procedures, Dunbar Principal Marlon Ball has been placed on administrative leave. As with any personnel matter, we are unable to comment further.”
Sharessa Bentley-Crovo, a teacher and member of Dunbar’s school council, told the Herald-Leader that “Jason was one of ours, and his motto was always ‘We are Dunbar.’ “We’ve all struggled under Mr. Ball’s leadership, and after losing a beloved colleague, we can’t stay quiet. Harassing and bullying cannot be tolerated in the workplace. Also, we are situated to move forward with a ‘vote of no confidence’ as a full staff.”
Two parents on the school council, Melissa Rife and Brian Nurick, released a message Wednesday night saying, “As Parent Representatives of the PLD SBDM Council, we look forward to the District completing their investigation. We also look forward to sharing additional information regarding certain public comments made, when appropriate. Further, we are unaware of the full Council making any public statements at this time.”
According to the Herald-Leader, Ball was newly hired as principal this school year. In a news release announcing his and other district leadership hiring, officials said Ball was from Tampa, Fla., and had 13 years of experience in education in the United States and abroad. He started his career as a social studies teacher at an alternative school in Gainesville, Fla., and his time in the classroom includes working with students in Advanced Placement and alternative settings in Tampa and Orlando, the release said.
After four years in the classroom, Ball moved into administration as the assistant principal for student affairs at Aspira R.A.M Charter School in Miami. In 2017, he became the administrator for curriculum with Dubai International School in Dubai.
Before he was hired by Fayette County, he served for three years as the assistant principal and designated Title IX coordinator at Samuel Wolfson High School for Advanced Studies and Leadership in Jacksonville, Fla., the release said, as reported by the Herald-Leader.