CONWAY — Embattled Kennett High School teacher Andy Shaw appeared in Conway's Circuit Court on Tuesday for a trial management conference.
If a deal isn't reached between prosecutors and Shaw and his attorney, a trial will be scheduled.
Shaw is a popular metals and machine tool teacher at Kennett, who was charged last November with hosting a party at which teens were served alcohol.
Shaw pleaded not guilty.
According to the Conway police complaint, Shaw was charged with holding an underage drinking party at his home. The alleged offense occurred Nov. 3 at Shaw’s home at 33 Southview Loop, off East Conway Road in Center Conway, at about 10:33 p.m.
The complaint, written by Conway Police Detective Dominic Torch, said Shaw had knowledge “that people under the age of 21 possessed or intended to consume alcoholic beverages” during a party that he organized at his residence, and, while he was present at the residence, at least five individuals unrelated to him were present and under the age of 21, while at least one individual under the age of 21 consumed or possessed alcohol.”
Shaw pleaded not guilty and waived his arraignment, court papers show. The next step in his case was Tuesday's trial management conference. The point of the conference is to tell a judge whether there’s a deal or if the case is going to trial.
Shaw has faced termination. His standing-room-only school district disciplinary hearing at the end of January was attended by about 80 townspeople, students and school employees.
After going into a lengthy non-public session, the school board reconvened and announced that instead of firing Shaw, they decided to suspend him without pay until May 15.
In addition, Shaw was placed on a three-year, last-chance improvement plan with conditions to be established by the superintendent.
On Tuesday, Shaw sat in court before Judge Gerard Boyle for a brief trial management conference, which lasted about a minute.
He was represented by Don Ekberg of Ekberg and Associates. The Conway police prosecutor was William Strong.
"The prosecution and I have been engaged in negotiations,'" Ekberg informed the judge. "We have not finalized anything. For the purposes of this hearing, just mark it up for trial, but if I'm confident something can be worked out."
Boyle asked how long a trial might take, and Strong said probably an afternoon.
"Trial four hours, likely plea," said Boyle, summarizing what he heard from both sides. "We'll send you a notice (of trial)."
The Sun spoke to Ekberg after the hearing. He reiterated that they were "close to working something out." He said there are "several entities that are involved, so it takes a coordinating."
Asked if by "something," Ekberg meant a plea, the attorney replied, "Possibly."
Ekberg said that he and Shaw have to play the case close to the vest because "there's a lot going on."
In addition to plea and trial, another possible resolution would be that the case would be filed without finding pending a specified period of good behavior.
Meanwhile, a related case, that of Heather Stevens, 42, of Conway, is scheduled to be resolved by plea on March 19.
Her appearance has been waived, meaning she doesn't have to go to court. She is represented by Dennis Morgan of Cooper Cargill Chant in North Conway.
Stevens was charged with three counts of prohibited sales of alcohol to minors at the alleged drinking party hosted by Shaw. The criminal complaints were accepted as filed Jan. 2. The complaints say that Stevens "negligently gave away or allowed a person under the age of 21 to procure alcohol."
Two of the people she allegedly gave alcohol to were minors age 16 and 17, police say.
A third, identified as her son, Ryan Stevens, was age 20 at the time, and it appears that he was turning 21 about an hour and a half from the time stamp on Shaw's criminal complaint.