More than a dozen Clarke Middle School parents and teachers came to the school board’s Jan. 20 meeting to support former CMS principal Christopher Pendley and ask why he was reassigned.
Pendley was abruptly removed as CMS principal and reassigned to the central office shortly before winter break. No one in the school community has been given an explanation.
In a public Facebook post earlier this month, Pendley asked supporters to help him get to the bottom of the move. “Up to this point, I have been trying to resolve this situation amicably with my district office superiors,” he wrote. “At this point, it has been made clear that they are not interested in an amicable resolution, and they are unwilling to be transparent about the reasons for my removal.”
Sandy Cedarbaum, president of the school Parent-Teacher Organization, told the school board that 120 people recently met with Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins, who is serving as acting superintendent while Xernona Thomas is on medical leave.
“A common theme was the distrust the district caused in the way Mr. Pendley was removed,” Cedarbaum said. “Mr. Gaskins said he understands the broken relationship this caused, and the need for it to be mended. Repeatedly, the question was asked, ‘Why did Mr. Pendley have to be removed this way?’ And repeatedly, the answer was, we cannot be told the reason.”
Theories have emerged on social media that Pendley’s reassignment was the result of an incident in which a student took video of a sex act in a school bathroom, and/or a student beating a classmate with a water bottle full of rocks. Such speculation has “marred the reputation of a respected leader,” Cedarbaum said.
Teachers are now fearful they could be dismissed with no reason given as well, Cedarbaum added. “We really feel thrown into sort of chaos at CMS,” said teacher Graham Jarboe. “How are we supposed to trust the decisions that officials in our district make?”
Others spoke about Pendley’s character, work ethic and commitment to students. Another former CMS principal, Tad MacMillan, called him “the kindest, most competent school leader I’ve ever met.”
Neither Gaskins nor board members addressed the issue during the meeting.
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