‘Town Hall Committee’ discusses issues with GHS Principal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Whittle explained the process concerning how Black would be handled.

&uot;Once Mr. Black completes the counseling program, he will be re-evaluated, several times — if no improvement is seen, he will be terminated,&uot; Whittle said. &uot;My hope is that all of our seven school principals would treat you all with respect and courtesy — if they do not, and you complain to us in writing, we can, and will solve it.

&uot;Mr. Black has been a probationary employee for two years — state law says we must honor his three-year contract unless he does not pass the evaluations after his counseling,&uot; Whittle said. &uot;The courts still oversee everything we do, so we have to do them right.&uot;

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&uot;Doesn’t the board have to check a person’s background before they are hired?&uot; asked another parent.

&uot;Applicants are required to submit in writing in their background that would reflect a problem they had in prior employment,&uot; Whittle replied. &uot;We did not get anything in writing that indicated he (Black) showed problems with aggression. We were in a unique situation — we had a principal resign in the month of July — at the last minute, you might say — ordinarily the process of replacing a principal could take up to a year, with advertising for the position, screening applicants, posting the vacancy on the internet and in teacher publications — we had to have a principal, or we could not have opened the school in August.&uot;

Carolyn Crenshaw, a concerned parent, and one of those who presented complaints against Black, addressed the panel.

&uot;Why is it that students are severely punished, sometimes after the first infraction, and yet adults get to attend counseling?&uot; Crenshaw asked.

&uot;The treatment of students is outlined in the manual each receives, entitled ‘Student Code of Conduct’ — it mandates the way they are handled,&uot; Whittle said.

&uot;Well don’t you think our students deserve that same second chance, rather than being sent to Alternative School, sometimes for the whole year?&uot; Crenshaw replied.

Timothy Maye, a member of the &uot;Town Hall Committee&uot; organizers, addressed the issue with Black.

&uot;This is called ‘School place rage’ and the board is legally responsible to handle it,&uot; Maye said. &uot;Now, you can either handle it legally (with lawsuits) or you can replace the board.&uot;

&uot;Part of my duties as Assistant School Board Superintendent is to be the messenger,&uot; said Whittle. &uot;It’s my job to take the message back to the board.&uot;

Maye offered another solution to the problem.

&uot;The next time either the Superintendent of Schools or a principal get aggressive, you sign a warrant on them — that will cause the State Board of Education to get involved, and also someone like the sheriff will have to arrest them,&uot; Maye said.

Franklin said there were other areas to cast blame, starting with the parents.

&uot;Your responsibility (as parents of school children) is to be involved all the time, not just when you have a problem with (someone like) Mr. Black,&uot; Franklin said. &uot;The real question is, where were you all year, and why weren’t you involved with school via a Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) before the problem with Mr. Black?

&uot;When Ella Belle was running in this area for the State Board of Education, she was saying, ‘ring my bell’ — so now that she is in office, ring her bell!&uot;

A retired Montgomery schoolteacher, K.T. Brown, also with the Town Hall Committee organizers, spoke about the children.

&uot;Stop looking at the child — they didn’t come out of the womb bad, they learned somewhere along the way to rebel because they weren’t being taught by good teachers and administrators,&uot; Brown said. &uot;Be there — listen to your children — if they say they don’t want to go to school, find out why! Maybe the board can’t get rid of a principal, but they can make him a teacher — they can even make him a janitor — make them do something.&uot;

At this point, Franklin said she was advised that citizens wanted also to address the issue of police brutality and harassment in the community.

&uot;I wasn’t aware that you all wanted to discuss police brutality,&uot; Franklin said. &uot;That would take a whole extra two hours, and I didn’t bring with me anyone versed in that area — but we can come back for it.&uot;

Diane Harris, Sheriff of Butler County then stood and addressed the group.

&uot;As for violence, I had a meeting with my deputies just the other day, and I told them that if they had a problem with getting physical or spraying someone with pepper spray when it was necessary, I didn’t need them working for me,&uot; Harris said.

&uot;Now there has been talk on the streets that I am not going to seek re-election as sheriff,&uot; Harris said. &uot;Well, let me tell you, that isn’t so — I will be running for re-election.&uot;

She also discussed the gossip she heard during her last race for office.

A letter was then read from Mayor Dexter McLendon, regarding an invitation he received to attend the meeting.

&uot;He sent his regrets, but invited us to feel free to call his office, make an appointment, and discuss the issue with him anytime,&uot; Crenshaw said.

&uot;Your mayor is a public official also, voted to office by you all, the public,&uot; said Franklin. &uot;If he won’t come to your public meetings, don’t you go to his office to meet him — you can replace him with someone who will come,&uot; she said.

After 2-1/2 hours of discussions, Franklin concluded the meeting, with instructions to those in attendance on how to get organized.

&uot;And please, call us back — we can help you with police problems too,&uot; she said.

Mr. Black, who was not at the meeting, was called on Tuesday morning.

&uot;I did not attend the meeting, and don’t know what was discussed, so I would not be able to comment about it,&uot; Black said, adding, &uot;I am looking forward to the new school year opening and meeting all our students.&uot;