1. He was suspended, and later resigned
Former Lincolnton High School principal Tony Worley was suspended June 22 pending an investigation into alleged misconduct with students. Worley opted to resign June 25, and as a condition of his resignation required by Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Lory Morrow, he surrendered any and all professional licenses to be a teacher or school administrator to the State Board of Education. Worley, 56, took over as LHS principal in 2017 after serving as director of secondary education for the system. He was hired by Lincoln County Schools as an assistant principal in 2002.
2. LPD was called in to investigate
The alleged misconduct – inappropriate activity between Worley and a former LHS student – was reported to the Lincolnton Police Department June 21. The student’s statement indicated the inappropriate activity had begun while he was still enrolled at the school, according to an LPD press release. Officers served a search warrant on Worley’s residence at approximately 4:30 a.m. June 22, and the investigation has continued since with help from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, State Bureau of Investigation and the Gastonia Police Department. Preservation letters were issued to a number of social media and online dating websites to obtain additional search warrants, many of which have already been served, with a number of them still to come. At least one additional potential victim was identified through numerous interviews with witnesses, and investigators continue to work to identify possible additional victims.
3. Worley was arrested July 5
Worley was taken into custody on the morning of July 5 and charged with two counts of felony indecent liberties with a student, five counts of felony sexual activity with a student, two counts of felony solicitation of sex with a student and two counts of misdemeanor solicitation for indecent liberties with a minor. The magistrate set his bond at $47,000, and he was released on a $4,700 surety appearance bond issued by Seneca Insurance Company. After Worley’s arrest, Lincoln County Schools issued a statement that reads, in part, “Student safety is a priority and Lincoln County Schools has and will continue to cooperate with local law enforcement during this process. Although LCS is unable to provide any specific comment about this matter, it is important to highlight that any time LCS is presented with an allegation of employee criminal conduct, LCS immediately notifies local law enforcement.”
4. He appeared in court July 8
Worley made his first appearance in Lincoln County District Court July 8. While Worley did not speak during his hearing, his attorney of record, David Teddy, arranged for a waiver of probable cause, meaning Worley’s case will now be moved to superior court. In the meantime, he remains free on bond.
5. His replacement has been hired
The Lincoln County Board of Education approved the hiring of Preston Clarke as the new principal at LHS. Clarke, a graduate of Appalachian State University, started as a teacher at Maiden High School before moving to Watauga County, where he served as assistant principal at Watauga High School for three years prior to accepting the principal position at Valle Crucis Elementary School in 2014. Clarke was named Watauga County Principal of the Year in 2017, and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree from East Tennessee State University.