MILTON, Ga. — While parents at Hopewell Middle School vent their anger over the “resignation” of a popular assistant principal, it appears housecleaning is underway in Fulton County Schools among the cadre of assistant principals.
Since the start of this school year, 14 assistant principals have stepped down from their job for various reasons —compared with only two during the same time frame last school year. And with the majority of retirements and resignations traditionally announced toward the end of the school year, the number of assistant principals leaving their post is certain to grow before the end of the year.
Despite the skewed numbers, a spokesperson for Fulton County Schools says the number of assistant principals leaving the system is not unusual.
“Human Resources does not think [these numbers] are out of the norm for a district this size. There are a total of about 260 assistant principals [in Fulton Schools],” said Samantha Evans, spokesperson for Fulton Schools.
Of the 14 AP’s who left during the four-month span from August to December, three were promoted, seven resigned or were terminated, and four retired after the start of the school year.
In a process that began last year, all principals and assistant principals now go through extensive evaluation under new state and local guidelines. Evans could not say if any of the assistant principals who left their positions this year had been evaluated, but noted the bar for assistant principals has been raised.
“The system is holding the assistant principals more accountable for the success of the school. That message is loud and clear,” said Evans.
Resignation creates furor at Hopewell MS
The exodus of assistant principals is spread equally throughout the school system and drew little attention until the resignation of Arthur “Joey” Robinson at Hopewell Middle School. His resignation, coming upon a rocky year for Principal Lenora Patterson, drew the ire of many members of the school community.
“Joey Robinson was forced to resign from Hopewell due to [Patterson],” said parent Eileen Wilson in a widely distributed letter of support for Robinson. “[He] is a man of fine character… who loves our children, teachers and provided our community with 13 and a half years of service in Fulton County. He…has been blindsided by Dr. Patterson who dismissed him to keep his mouth shut regarding several issues that were going on at Hopewell.”
Since the start of the school year, factions of the Hopewell community have butted heads with Patterson over the dress code, attendance at school events, implementation of block scheduling and other operational changes made at the school. This is Patterson’s second full year at Hopewell.
But the issue with Robinson sparked a raw nerve with parents, many of whom showed up at a community meeting this month held by Fulton School Board member Katie Reeves.
Reeves confirms she has heard concerns from Hopewell parents this year, but said her role as a board member limits her actions. She does, however, hold principals accountable for their relationships with their school communities.
“Our expectation is that our principals are able to gather support for their vision from the community,” said Reeves. “[Staff] is both supporting and applying pressure to ensure that the success of Hopewell Middle School continues.”
Reeves noted board members are not in charge of school oversight, which is the role of the superintendent and his staff, but they do receive updates from staff. Personally, she believes the role of the principal should be to build partnerships.
“Stakeholder support, communication and trust is the foundation for everything, and if [a principal] has good communication and has built trust, then everything tends to get resolved,” said Reeves.
While the reasons behind the resignation of Robinson were not made public, Evans said it centered on performance-based issues.
“He was an underperforming employee who opted to resign during his inquiry,” said Evans. “Nothing illegal was done [by Robinson]; it was strictly a work performance situation.”
Wilson defended Robinson, saying he was being blamed for situations created by the principal.
“He is being assigned the blame for all of the nightmares…which is due to the lack of leadership and poor decision making skills on Dr. Patterson’s part,” said Wilson.