The Lawrence County Chapter of the NAACP is pushing three candidates for the vacant Hazlewood Elementary principal's position because inadequate leadership at the school has hurt student performance, an official with the group said.

“That area has been suffering for probably the last five years, probably longer,” Bobby Diggs, vice president of the NAACP chapter, told the Lawrence County school board Monday night. “We’ve had some unhappy parents at that school. We’ve had a dissatisfied community in that area, simply because of the staffing at the school.”

Diggs said his group has recommended “three thoroughly vetted candidates” to fill the principal position at the Town Creek school.

“I’m disappointed someone from the community wasn’t appointed a couple years ago,” he said. He did not want to name the group's nominees.

Stacie Givens, the principal there the past two years, resigned July 25 to take an out-of-county job. Gary Smith was principal at Hazlewood before Givens.

“We’re getting the wrong people off the bus and getting the right people on the bus,” Diggs said. “That bus is Hazlewood Elementary School. The main driver of that bus is the principal."

Diggs said the past two principal hires haven’t been good fits.

“We’ve tried it the superintendent’s way,” he said. “We’ve tried the board’s way and those haven’t worked. We’re not trying to turn this into a black-white thing. Let’s try something different. Let’s bring in a minority to try to turn this thing around."

Hazlewood Elementary's student body is 65% minority. Smith and Givens are white.

Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said at the board meeting it would likely be about 10 days before the personnel selection committee has a recommendation for the Hazlewood vacancy.

He said a supervisor from the central office will act as interim principal until a permanent replacement is hired.

"We're not going to rush into this hire," he said. "A court order dictates the hiring process. We want to get the very best person for Hazlewood Elementary.

"(Everyone) needs to support the person, support the school,” Smith added. “Without the support of the stakeholders, the parents, the guardians, students, faculty and staff, nobody will survive.”

Diggs told the board, "We would like to have a principal down there that will be dedicated to the school long term, dedicated to the community, dedicated to the parents and, most of all, dedicated to our children. Just like your white community, we care about our children.

Hazlewood is a K-6 school, and its students then go to R.A. Hubbard in North Courtland for grades 7-12. Diggs said since consolidation of the high schools in 2009, "parents haven't been content with consolidation and leadership at the schools."

Diggs said when principals leave, oftentimes teachers leave with them.

“If you have a strong leader in a school, you shouldn’t have retention problems. That applies countywide,” said Diggs, who served on the school board from 2004-2010.

In other board business, Smith said Lawrence County has four certified positions not filled. He expects the board will need a special called meeting to approve hirings before the next meeting set for Sept. 3. Students returned to class Wednesday.

Smith said the system has received $3.5 million worth of sales tax as of June 30. “That’s up about 5% from the same period last year,” he said.

He said the general fund has about 1.88 months in operating reserve.

The board approved a contract with the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office to provide school resource officers to cover the county’s schools. The budget is not to exceed $160,000. Smith said the money was double last year’s $80,000 because of $30,000 coming back from Moulton not employing SROs and $130,000 coming from the state supplemental appropriation.

The board approved the following full-time certified personnel transactions:

• Accepted the resignation of Rebecca McDaniel, Hazlewood Elementary teacher.

• Hired Justin Duke, East Lawrence High School social science.

On Friday, the board:

• Accepted the resignations of Josh Graham, Lawrence County High physical education teacher; Justin Helms, East Lawrence High School social science teacher; Jessica Colglazier, Hazlewood Elementary teacher; Megan Berryman, Hazlewood Elementary counselor; Jonathan Barron, Lawrence County High assistant principal; and Christina Marshall-Breland, R.A. Hubbard English teacher.

• Hired Michael Norskog, Lawrence County High science teacher; Vincent Smith, Lawrence County High science teacher; Charlotte Atwood, Hatton High science teacher; Sonya Marks, Lawrence County High math teacher; Kathleen Cater, Moulton Middle School business education teacher; Meghan Mullican Fagan, Hazlewood Elementary teacher; Brandi Logston, Lawrence County High science teacher; and Rebecca McDaniel, Hazlewood Elementary teacher.

• Transferred Leslie Gillespie, Hazlewood Elementary teacher, to R.A. Hubbard English teacher.

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