Despite community objection, the Columbia County school board this past week transferred Martinez Elementary School Principal Michele Sherman to replace the recently demoted Jon Pike as the head administrator of Greenbrier Elementary.
About 10 residents with children at Martinez Elementary voiced their opposition to the transfer at Thursday's meeting.
"We were certainly devastated at the news that Ms. Sherman was not returning," Shelia Pedroza, a parent of two pupils at Martinez Elementary, told board members. "We're just really disappointed and wanted you to know that."
After the meeting, some parents chided board member Mildred Blackburn, whose district includes the Martinez Elementary zone. Blackburn voted for the transfer, and parents said she did not represent them.
Blackburn refused to comment on her vote except to say that she "did what was best for the county."
Board member Mike Sleeper was the lone dissenter voting against Sherman's transfer, but not because he felt she was wrong for the position. Sleeper said he was disturbed that the board failed to follow its routine hiring procedures by not allowing Greenbrier's school council to have input into the decision.
Typically, school officials have advertised a principal job's opening; interviewed applicants; sent a selected few to interview with school councils, a group of parents and educators who meet regularly to advise officials on school policy; taken the council's recommendation and then presented a final candidate to the board for approval.
In this instance, county school Superintendent Tommy Price said he felt it was necessary to bypass the usual hiring process and move Sherman into the position to "begin the healing process."
"I've watched her run a good ship," he told the board. "She's got the right mix of skills."
Pike was demoted to teacher, although he gets to keep his principal's salary for the next year, as part of the outcome of a termination hearing initiated against him by school officials in June.
Officials accused Pike of acting in a nonprofessional manner, trying to coerce teachers and creating a division in his staff in his attempts to discover who wrote a letter to Associate Superintendent Lauren Williams blaming him for poor teacher morale.
Pike's defense was that Williams was siding with only a few disgruntled teachers to oust him for personal reasons.
Sherman worked as an assistant principal under Williams at Martinez Elementary, where Williams served as principal before she was promoted to the central office about four years ago.
Sherman assured parents of both Martinez and Greenbrier elementary schools that all would be fine.
"Your happiness is my No. 1 priority," she said.
Price said a search for Sherman's replacement at Martinez Elementary would begin immediately.
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