Probe Continues As Wicomico School Leaders Shuffled

SALISBURY – School Superintendent Donna Hanlin announced several staffing changes at James M. Bennett High School this week as law enforcement continues its investigation involving a guidance counselor.

In a statement released Thursday, Hanlin announced Bennett High’s assistant principal, Erin Nathan, has been named acting principal.

“Mrs. Erin Nathan, who has been serving as an assistant principal and the administrator in charge for the past number of weeks at JMB, has now been named acting principal,” Hanlin said. “We have the utmost confidence in Mrs. Nathan and with the support of her staff she will assume the role of principal with caring, compassion, and most importantly the full authority to lead JMB as its principal.”

She added, “To fill her spot as an assistant principal, we are pleased to share that Mrs. Vera Reed, an experienced assistant principal, will be transitioning from Bennett Middle School to James M. Bennett beginning on Friday, March 1.  The Bennett Middle administrative team will be supported through the reassignment of Mr. Dorsey Cook as Acting Dean of Students.”

Hanlin said Assistant Principal Keith Bailey, Dean of Students Jason Capobianco and Acting Dean of Students Brent Lewis will continue in their roles at Bennett High.

“Retired administrator Mr. Ike Humphrey is on site at James M. Bennett High to assist, and other retired counselors have returned to support the guidance office during this time,” she said. “A full-time social worker is also available for students and school psychologists are on call as needed.”

The news of administrative changes at Bennett High follows an ongoing investigation involving guidance counselor Allen Edward Mitchell, 32, of Fruitland.

Mitchell was arrested on multiple charges in January after it was alleged he engaged in several instances of sexual misconduct with minors, to include the criminal use of social media apps, according to an initial statement from the Wicomico County Child Advocacy Center.

Mitchell was placed on administrative leave during the investigation. And on Feb. 4, he was indicted on 31 charges, including sex abuse of a minor, possession of child pornography, third-degree sex offense and filming a minor in a sex act.

“Our JMB students and staff are truly resilient,” Hanlin said. “The Board of Education and I thank you for your ongoing support because it is only through the ongoing encouragement of parents and the JMB community that the Clipper Ship remains JMB strong.”

According to the statement, legal matters related to James M. Bennett High continue to be in the hands of the states attorney’s office, law enforcement, and the Department of Social Services.

The school system highlighted restrictions on communications with and from the school system and the Wicomico County Board of Education as officials continue with the ongoing investigation.

“Wicomico County Public Schools will not interfere with the work of those outside entities,” the statement reads.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.