Parents spoke up in defense of absentee Greenbrier Elementary School Principal Jon Pike at a Tuesday school board meeting.
Pike is on a leave of absence from the school, board Chairman Wayne Bridges said.
"He's been so committed to our school," one parent told the board. "We just want him back as our principal."
Because it is a personnel issue, Bridges is prevented from giving any details about Pike's absence. He said he does not know whether Pike plans to return to work next school year.
Bridges does expect the school board to conduct a hearing with Pike in the near future.
"We were dealing with a personnel matter with Mr. Pike," Columbia County Schools Superintendent Tommy Price said in a Wednesday phone interview. "During the course of that, he asked for leave, and we granted him that leave."
Price said the matter remains unresolved and, like Bridges, he can't speak to the details of the situation. Attempts to contact Pike were unsuccessful as there is no listing for his telephone number in the phone book or with the BellSouth information line.
Also at Tuesday's school board meeting, a set of parents expressed their anger to the board that a River Ridge Elementary teacher had forced their son to clean a toilet.
"He came home smelling of urine," said Michelle Vann, whose 6-year-old son, Xavier, was made to clean a toilet April 21 after his teacher accused him of splattering the area while he was using the bathroom.
Xavier's father, Arnold Vann, said his son denied making the mess and he felt he was singled out because he is the only black pupil in the class.
After her statement to the board, Mrs. Vann announced that she and her husband will form a group to prevent future incidents such as this from happening in county schools.
Mr. Vann said his son no longer attends public school. Xavier is being home-schooled until he can be placed in a private school, he said.
Price said this was the act of one teacher and is not school board policy. The teacher in question was disciplined by the school, he said.
"We've made it clear that we don't want any more incidents of children cleaning toilets," Price said.
Board member Mike Sleeper stated that he is upset by the allegations of racism levied against school officials.
"Throughout this ordeal, I have heard statements that I believe to be factually inaccurate," Sleeper wrote in an e-mail after the meeting. "Now, I find it disturbing and disappointing to hear unsubstantiated claims of bias and discrimination."
Dozens of Vann supporters attended Tuesday's meeting and gave Mrs. Vann a standing ovation after her speech.
Also at the meeting, in a closed session, the board began Price's annual evaluation but did not complete it. Bridges said the board will likely conclude its evaluation at the next board meeting May 23.
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