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Parents rally to defense of La Crosse principal / February 27, 2013
Parents of La Crosse Elementary students appeared before the School Board on Monday night to speak out in support of La Crosse Principal Connie Puckett, who is in line to be reassigned to the classroom.

A contingent of parents and supporters attended the trustees’ monthly meeting in Boydton to express their frustration at the Central Office’s handling of Puckett, who they praised as a caring and effective school leader.

On January 29, Puckett received a letter from Superintendent of Schools James Thornton recommending that she be removed from her position as principal of La Crosse Elementary School at the end of the 2012-13 school year. She is not being fired. Instead, Thornton is asking to have Puckett returned to the classroom.

Puckett said she was not at liberty to discuss the contents of the letter, but responded in writing to the deficiencies alleged by Thornton. “I provided him with dates and times of meetings at which we were given instructions and information to carry out. I have not been told when my appeal will go before the School Board.”

The decision on whether to leave Puckett in place or move her ultimately rests with the nine School Board trustees.

During the meeting, four parents spoke on behalf of Puckett. Christine Martin, the PTO President at La Crosse Elementary, said she was expressing the opinion of the members of the PTO in calling for trustees to investigate the reasons Thornton seeks Puckett’s reassignment. Martin called Puckett “a strong leader, mentor to her staff, and someone who steps out of the box to make La Crosse an inviting environment.”

Timothy Ittner read a letter being circulated by the teaching staff at La Crosse Elementary School. The letter highlighted the various roles Puckett fills, including school nurse, janitor, mentor, teacher and principal. It also included a commendation for Puckett’s willingness to open up La Crosse Elementary for ESL [English as second language] classes. In short, Ittner said Puckett has the support and respect of both teachers and parents because of her positive and effective communication style.

Two parents of La Crosse Elementary students, Mark Powell and Rebecca Hood, made similar comments. They both praised Puckett for her hands-on approach, her kindness to the children and her dedication to the school and students. Hood said, “She is one of the few administrators who doesn’t leave foot prints on someone’s back trying to get out the door at the end of the day.”

Puckett said this is the first time she has had to go through the process of appealing a decision by the school superintendent in her 24 years as an educator.

She has been principal of La Crosse Elementary School for two years. During that time, the school received a number of honors, including the Distinguished Title 1 School award and two Governor’s awards for excellence and academic competency.

Additionally, La Crosse Elementary School met its AYP (adequate yearly progress) goals in each of the last three years, even though Mecklenburg County, as a whole, did not meet AYP last year.

Before coming to La Crosse, Puckett was assistant principal at Chase City, and before that Boydton. She has worked for Mecklenburg County Public Schools since 1991.

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