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Speakers rip Herndon, School Board for Randolph transfer
SoVaNow.com / June 09, 2014If any doubt remained that the transfer of Halifax County High School Principal Albert Randolph to a lesser position had ignited a firestorm of protest in the community, a standing-room only crowd put the question to rest at the School Board meeting on Monday night.
Some 300 people packed the upper floor Bethune Complex meeting room to implore the School Board to reinstate Randolph, HCHS principal for the past 14 years, to his old position rather than transfer him to the middle school where he has been assigned as an assistant principal.
Others urged the School Board to “give honor to whom honor is due,” in the words of one speaker, former school trustee Arthur Reynolds, who said Randolph deserves a better send-off than a demotion to a lesser position before his anticipated retirement next year.
But the dominant thread of the night was harsh criticism of the person who made the decision — Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon, who sat stone-faced throughout a 40-minute public comment period as speaker after speaker called for her to reverse the decision, resign or face an ouster attempt.
Some speakers wondered if Herndon acted out of a personal vendetta, racial motives, or underlying contempt for school employees. Mattie Cowan accused Herndon of “malevolent, seemingly vindictive” behavior, and blamed members of the School Board for letting her get away with it.
“I cannot believe you continue to allow Dr. Herndon to so poorly lead our school system to the best of your abilities,” Cowan said.
Cowan called Randolph “an outstanding principal” who has been fair and firm in his dealings with members of the high school community. “I cannot say the same about our superintendent,” she said.
Corliss Ballou, a HCHS teacher who retired in 2009, praised Randolph’s devotion to his job, his church and the community, and continued, “It was appalling, to same the least, to see this man demoted after seeing first-hand the hard, dedicated work he has poured into this system as high school principal.
“Principal Randolph was always fair and professional in his dealings with the parents, students and faculty” at HCHS, said Ballou, who accused Herndon of a “vendetta” towards minority staff. She further demanded that the School Board “stop politicking with the lives of people who have given their best” to the local schools.
“Much havoc has been wreaked under Dr. Herndon,” she said.
Becky Donner, an English teacher at HCHS who retired two years ago after many years under Randolph’s supervision, called him a “presence we could always trust” who “backed us up, praised our successes [and] shared the news.” While the School Board or Herndon may have the authority to transfer Randolph to a different position, she reminded trustees of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The time is always right to do what is right.
“Do what is decent and right for our schools and to a man who has given so much,” she said.
Debbie Griles, a retired associate HCHS principal who served a dozen years at Randolph’s side, called him a role model for staff and students and “the right man for Halifax County High School.” She continued: “He did this by seeing every situation as a challenge and rising to meet that challenge. His work ethic cannot be challenged.”
Joe Bailey, a former school board member, brandished petition signatures calling for Herndon’s firing and said if the School Board wouldn’t purge “corruption” in the Central Office, voters soon would.
Detra Carr, taking a gentler tack, chided School Board members for holding an hour-plus closed session in the spacious Bethune meeting room prior to the public comment session, even as the crowd of attendees welled up in the warm and humid hallway outside. “Y’all could have gone down to your little boardroom [to continue the executive session] and citizens could have come in here and sat down,” said Carr.
“I’d really like to see you have more consideration,” he said, before turning to the Randolph decision: “It really should never have gotten to this point.
“But you still have the opportunity to right this wrong.”
One of the final speakers to address the trustees was county supervisor William Bryant Claiborne, who said he came out for the School Board meeting not in his capacity as an elected official or local lawyer, but as a friend of Randolph’s going back to the days when both men were college students. Claiborne said he empathized with the trustees’ position but said that as a supervisor, he had a rule for handling difficult personnel decisions: “I look in an imaginary mirror and ask, ‘Do I want to be treated the same way I’m about to treat someone?”
After bringing to the public comment period to a close, School Board members turned to other agenda matters without offering any comment on Randolph’s status or the reasons for his transfer to the middle school. But in a likely indication the issue was not settled, the trustees quickly wrapped up public business and went back into closed executive session, which members had cut short in time for the scheduled 7:30 p.m. open session. The initial, unfinished part of the closed session ran for an hour-and-a-half.
This story will be updated.
CommentsWhat was the apology for? More to the story than we have heard?
- By What now? on 06 / 10 / 14
Commentswhat was the apology for ? He didnt needto apologize , Ms Herdon neededto for her behavior .but im glad that the decision was reversed.This woman is an evil entity to our county school board ,and needs to be reasigned or justlet go , cause she has cause so much pain ,and dishonor since she has come to halifax co school board.That God for good people and the prayers of the rightous that has prevailed
- By Debbie Tucker on 06 / 10 / 14
CommentsThe HC Shool board and Herndon are a bunch or racists.
- By Bad Board on 06 / 11 / 14
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