By Nancy Lindsey
A crowd of about 50 people attended the school board meeting May 14 to support Tammy Waldron, former principal of Stuart Elementary School, who was reassigned last month.
Following a closed session lasting about two and a half hours, the Patrick County School Board voted 4-0 to uphold the action of Dr. William Sroufe, division superintendent, in moving Waldron from SES.
Waldron was initially transferred to a position in the school board office, but has now been reassigned to a teaching position at Patrick County High School, Sroufe said.
The board also approved other changes in administrative personnel following the closed session. (See related story.)
Waldron said she was in the board's closed session for about 20 minutes and that she was "humbled" by the support of her former staff, friends, family and students. Her father, an attorney, accompanied her during the closed session.
At the beginning of the meeting, the group of supporters burst into applause as Waldron entered the room.
Three people spoke in support of Waldron during the public comment period.
Derina Hylton, a guidance counselor at SES, said children are sensitive to change and express it in many ways.
"After Tammy left in the middle of the day on April 24 and we learned from Dr. Sroufe that she was no longer our principal, there was a deafening silence in our hallways," Hylton said.
She said children asked if Mrs. Waldron was dead or if she "didn't love them anymore."
"Staff were in shock, being pulled out of their classrooms and told that she was no longer principal, that Mr. (Terry) Harris would be the interim principal, and then being sent back into a room to teach 20 children," Hylton said. "It's been a grieving process. We don't hear her whistling as she walks through the office, we don't hear the tapping of her shoes, we don't see and hear her greet each and every child, she isn't waving to all the kids as their buses leave, we don't hear her calming words when times are tough, and we never know when we could be next."
Hylton said all school employees would like to think their jobs are secure, but could not be sure at this point.
"Tammy gives so much of her time, talents and resources attending meetings, being our communication with the school board office, getting the facts when we are unsure, giving money so that kids can participate and attend, giving the trouble kids a new purpose in life, and leading us through the rough spots," Hylton said. "She also is not afraid to speak her mind. So many teachers now are afraid to speak, afraid that they will be dealt the same hand."
Hylton said leadership has changed often during the last few years, but this year "things have finally settled down and it has been one of the best."
The staff had confidence that "Tammy was here to stay," Hylton said. "We needed to know and feel that there was stability at last. This has been a disruption to our lives and more importantly, to the students' learning."
Hylton told the school board members and administrators that teachers want to have faith in the ones who lead.
"We need to be able to feel your support and know that you truly listen to what we say," Hylton said. "Mrs. Tammy Waldron is our principal and Stuart Elementary is her pride and joy. She's given the best of herself and more to this school system than anyone I've known.
"It's crucial that we put our children back into a good learning environment like Mrs. Waldron has built here," Hylton said. "Reinstate Tammy Waldron as principal of Stuart Elementary School. Sometimes you have to do what you believe in. I believe in Mrs. Waldron."
Teacher Robin Amos said she didn't know all the facts surrounding Waldron's reassignment, but knew one side: how negatively it had affected the children.
Amos said she hoped the school board would do the right thing and reinstate Waldron.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden, a bus driver who transports students from SES and Patrick County High School, said he was speaking "as a concerned citizen and a taxpayer."
The administration's "rash action" should have been done "in a more respectful manner," Hayden said.
Hayden said he knew Waldron and found her "honor, ethics and moral values to be above reproach."
Before the board went into closed session, Blue Ridge District school board member Ronnie Terry, board chairman, said the board's legal counsel had said that the meeting with Waldron should be "when and where" the board desired, and had advised that it be in closed session.
Waldron had requested that the meeting be in open session.
"She will be allowed to have a representative with her in closed session," Terry said.
Sroufe said Waldron had wanted to present grievances concerning her reassignment, but noted that under Virginia law only teachers can file grievances, but not principals.
Principals can file grievances if they are terminated, but not if they are reassigned, Sroufe said.
Sroufe added that as Waldron's supervisor, he had the right to change her assignment.
No school board members or administrators have commented publicly on the reason Waldron was reassigned, but have cited the protection of personnel matters under Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
After closed session, the school board voted unanimously to approve a list of personnel recommendations.
A second list, "with addendum as revised," was approved by four of the five members. Smith River District member J.D. Morse, who had a death in his family, abstained from the vote.
Principals to be transferred
The Patrick County School Board voted May 14 to transfer Shannon Brown, principal at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School, to the position of principal at Stuart Elementary School, according to a news release from Dr. William Sroufe, division superintendent.
Kirk Renegar, assistant principal and athletic director at Patrick County High School, is being promoted to the position of principal of HRMS.
The new assignments will go into effect at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, Sroufe said.
Sroufe said other personnel changes will be announced later.
Brown earned a bachelor's degree in early and middle education from Radford University, a master's degree in instructional technology from Fort Hays State University, and an educational leadership endorsement from James Madison University.
She has taught for 19 years in Patrick County public schools, 12 of them at SES.
Brown served as testing coordinator and director of guidance at PCHS and is finishing her second year at HRMS.
She is married to Garry Brown and has two sons, Tucker and Parker, who are students at PCHS.
Renegar graduated from PCHS in 2001 as class valedictorian.
He accepted a baseball scholarship to Brevard College and earned a bachelor's degree in modern American history while graduating summa cum laude . He was also named the Most Outstanding Senior in the history program.
From 2008-2013, Renegar worked at Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville, Tenn., as a history teacher and head baseball coach.
In 2012, he received a degree in educational administration and supervision from Lincoln Memorial University.
He has been accepted into the doctoral program at Liberty University and will begin his coursework this fall.