Personnel changes top county school board meeting agenda

CCBOE Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette with Good Hope Middle School Librarian Stephanie Hood (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – During its June meeting, the Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) approved and recognized several changes in personnel for the 2019-20 school year. Most notable were four transfers of assistant principal to principal: Eric Dickerson will be the new principal at Cold Springs High School (replacing Tim Burleson), Beverly Jenkins will be the new principal at Good Hope Elementary School (replacing Susan Melton), Lesley Hembree will be the new principal at Good Hope Middle School (replacing Alan Dunkling) and Steve Miller will be the new principal at  Holly Pond High School (replacing Kim Butler). (A full list of all personnel changes will be released this week by the CCBOE.)

The board recognized Rhonda Hogan from Fairview Elementary for receiving the CCBOE e5 Exceptional Service Award. Stephanie Hood, librarian for Good Hope Middle School, was also recognized as the Tony Serra Nissan and Cullman Tribune Teacher of the Month.

Some of the agenda items approved included:
– list of 2019 summer workers
– request from Good Hope High School to offer credit advancement classes in summer school for $150
– request from the Holly Pond High School Key Club to attend the International Key Club Convention in Baltimore in July
– request from the Cullman County Extension Office to transport 4-H students to a Summer 4-H Camp in Columbiana using a county school bus
– request from Cullman County Soil & Water Conservation District to use a county school bus to transport teachers to their annual teachers’ workshop in Falkville
– permission for all county schools and the central office to dispose of and/or sell (by sealed bid) any obsolete or non-operational technology equipment, classroom/library/office equipment, furniture, televisions and electronics 

Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette reported that the Jerimiah Castille Character Camp for grades 1-12 will take place June 22 at Good Hope High School. Grades 1-6 will have Speed & Agility Camp from 9-11 a.m., and grades 7-12 will have Speed & Agility Camp from noon-2:30 p.m. and football camp from 8:15 a.m.-2 p.m.

During the board’s work session prior to the meeting, members heard from Ramona Calhoun, a special education instructor at Parkside School who is being transferred to Fairview involuntarily. Working largely with students on the autism spectrum at Parkside, Calhoun said her job included helping prepare her students for success in their academic careers while also adjusting to their needs (such as implementing sensory-friendly changes to her classroom). She said her job served other students as well through a mentoring program, and said that in the four years that she has been at Parkside she has become very fond of her students. However, she told the school board that after Parkside’s graduation, she returned a missed call to be notified that “effective immediately, you will be transferred to Fairview High School.”

She described to the board how she had no prior notice of this transfer, how she had no say in the issue (she described being told on the phone, “I am your boss and you will do as you’re told.”), and even having a meeting with a representative from the Alabama Education Association she said left her feeling like she had been steamrolled over. In the end, she did not ask the board to do anything to change the transfer – rather, she said she would do anything the members told her – but only asked the board to consider the action and its impact on her students.

“I’ve worked in the (Cullman County) system for 14 years. First it was the Child Development Center, then Holly Pond, then Parkside for the past four years. I had no idea anything was changing because I thought my principal would have talked to me about it,” she said. “I was never given an opportunity to speak on my behalf or on my students’ behalf. I went to autism training conferences, I set up a sensory station in my classroom at my own expense, I work with them on a daily basis. My job hasn’t changed, so I don’t understand if they’re gonna have to hire someone to take over the student’s that I’ve worked with.”

She continued tearfully, “Mr. Barnette, I just want to understand why it is that my years in the education field don’t matter at all when we hire someone through a temp agency to replace someone who’s poured their heart into these babies.”

Barnette stated that a replacement would not be hired; Parkside will continue with two special education aides instead of three.

The next regular school board meeting will be Thursday, July 18, with a work session at 5:30 p.m. and meeting immediately afterward.

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Heather Mann