Charter school narrows down school director choices

After receiving 20 applications from candidates hoping to succeed founding School Director Ben Butler at Shining Rock Classical Academy, the Waynesville public charter school’s board has narrowed its options down to four people.

SRCA held a meet and greet event Jan. 3 that allowed parents to meet the top four candidates to ask them questions and provide feedback to the board about which candidate they liked best.

Anna Eason, school board chairperson at SRCA, said the board’s Governance Committee would then take the votes and feedback from teachers, parents, and students, as well as “review the project they were assigned to narrow down the candidates that will be interviewed by the full board at the January meeting.”

• SRCA hiring process not kept private
• Academic performance of schools in Haywood County, 2016-17

While Shining Rock and its Leaders Building Leaders consultants would not provide the candidates’ names or biography information to the newspaper, an anonymously delivered flyer was left in SMN’s mailbox Jan. 4, revealing the names and biographies of the candidates.

Although the flyer’s provenance can’t be confirmed with certainty due to the anonymous nature of its delivery, biographical details contained therein were checked against publicly available records (Facebook, Linkedin, websites of current and former employers) and found to be accurate.

Some parents, however, have expressed concerns about Bonnie Brown’s background before becoming SCRA’s assistant principal.

SMN was made aware of several news articles from the Winston-Salem Journal and High Point-based WGHP-TV written Sept. 24, 2014, detailing how the parent of a child at Piney Grove Elementary School in Kernersville — of which Brown was assistant principal —was allowed to enter a classroom and spank their child in front of the child’s entire class.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Beverly Emory said at the time she was deeply troubled by the incident, which after investigation by WS/FCS was found to be true.

As reported by the Winston-Salem Journal, district spokesperson Theo Helm said that the district has “a policy that prohibits staff from using corporal punishment” and that there is no policy “that allows parents or family members to use corporal punishment at a school.”

Brown was suspended in connection with the incident; Brown was in charge of the school at the time while its principal was on leave, much as she is now, at Shining Rock.

Shining Rock’s Oct. 23 statement announcing the departure of Butler — whose contract had just been renewed by the board July 17 — designated Brown, Shining Rock’s assistant principal since July 31, 2017, as the “main point of contact for all teachers and staff” moving forward, and subsequent meeting minutes refer to Brown as “assistant director.”

Brown is also one of the four candidates for Butler’s old job.

WS/FCS Chief Communications Officer Brent Campbell confirmed Jan. 8 that Brown was employed in the position stated, and said that if any discipline was rendered he’d have to disclose it by law; further, he said he couldn’t comment on if a subsequent investigation of the matter took place, but he did say that Brown resigned her position with WS/FCS two months after her suspension, on Dec. 1, 2014.

An email to Brown regarding her suspension was returned by Eason, who refused to comment on the Piney Grove incident other than to say that Brown had disclosed the events during the hiring process on July 31, 2015. The SRCA board deemed her “qualified for the position she was hired for which was a kindergarten teacher.”


Meet the candidates

• Timothy Bobay — With a master’s in education from Indiana Wesleyan University’s Principal Licensure Program, Bobay has served as a [sic] elementary school principal for 10 years [in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, area], as an assistant principal for one year, and as a teacher and technical assistant for seven years. He is licensed in Public School Administration and in Middle School Social Studies and Language Arts.

• Gardner Bridges — Currently working on a doctorate in leadership from Western Carolina University, Bridges has served as a principal for 10 years, as an assistant principal for 11 years, and as a teacher in Buncombe County Schools for nine years. He currently serves as the Special Services Administrator for Weaverville Primary School. He is licensed in Public School Administration and Elementary Education and has two master’s degrees.

• Bonnie Brown — With a master’s in administration from Grand Canyon University, Brown has served as a Kindergarten teacher, the Director of Operations and Compliance, and the Interim School Director at SRCA. She has also served as an Assistant Principal for seven years, K-5 ESL teacher, an adjunct instructor at Salem College, and a group home manager and program coordinator in Winston-Salem. She is licensed in Public School Administration, English as a Second Language, Early Childhood Education, and Elementary Education.

• Nathaniel Duncan — With a master’s in educational leadership from Queens University and a master’s in International Relations from Boston University, Duncan has served as the founder, academic director and head of school for the Academy at Trails Carolina in Hendersonville for five years, as a principal intern for two years, as American and World History teacher for three years, a member of the Peace Corps Togo for one and one-half years, and a member of the Peace Corps Guinea for two years. He served as a wilderness therapy guide for two summers and attended the Aspiring Principals Institute held by WRESA [Western Region Education Service Alliance] in Enka, the AP summer Institute in Asheville, and Expeditionary Learning Institutes in Boston and Richmond.

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