Highland School Board February Meeting

The saga of the hiring of a principal for Highland Elementary School took more twists during and after Thursday’s school board meeting.

Before addressing this issue, the Board did take some other actions, including passing a salary scale for teachers, including a step increase as well as a 2% raise across the board, along with raises for remaining staff and a stipend list. On the matter of the superintendent vacancy, Board chair Kenny Hodges said they had received applicants from two prospective candidates, who would be interviewed shortly.

When the action agenda turned to the principal hiring, Mr. Hodges indicated he would like to have an interim superintendent, and preferably a permanent one hired, to get their feedback before moving on this. Board member Joe Neil pointed out that, given the length of the process to hire a principal, at least an interim superintendent would already be in place before this happened, and made a motion to begin the hiring process. Mr. Hodges asked what would happen if they moved forward with advertising for a full-time principal, but that wasn’t the road that was taken, leading to this exchange:

Joe Neil – “What road are we going to take then?”

Kenny Hodges – “I don’t know yet Joe. I honestly don’t know.”

When asked for her input, Board member Sherry Sullenberger deferred, instead saying it was of greater importance to address issues with the elementary school brought up by the first grade teacher, and suggested the Board move to executive session along with high school principal Tim Good. Attendees reminded the Board a motion was on the floor to hire – that motion died, for the second time in two meetings, for lack of a second. Following that, Mr. Neil made this statement, to the approval of most of the crowd:

“I’d like to say one thing before we adjourn. We’ve been dragging our feet for three months now on an elementary principal. It’s not affecting us – it’s affecting these teachers, and the kids in our school system. We need to do our job and either say we’re going to hire a principal or not.”

After this, the meeting began to break up to move to the executive session. There is question within the Board itself as to whether this was done properly or legally. Mr. Hodges has stated that the proper steps were taken, which include closing the regular meeting and moving to go into closed session, and citing the specific reason for doing so allowed under Virginia code. Mr. Neil has stated this was not done, and the AMR recording of the meeting does not include any such actions. The Board then retired to the library where closed sessions are held, along with Mr. Good and several elementary teachers, for a meeting which lasted roughly two hours.

Friday morning, school administrative staff were instructed to place a posting on the school’s Facebook page saying they were taking applications for the elementary principal position. This post does not indicate whether the position is full or part-time, nor list any experience or education requirements, nor ask for resumes – it merely states where to send an application.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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