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Shining Rock hires new head of school

Joshua Morgan. Joshua Morgan.

Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of stories on Haywood County’s public charter school, Shining Rock Classical Academy, which has been beset by a host of academic and organizational problems since opening in 2015.

More than seven weeks after a series of grievances were filed against Shining Rock Classical Academy’s interim head of school, board members voted to offer him the permanent position.

Three parents had complained to Shining Rock’s board May 8 over what they said were Interim Head of School Joshua Morgan’s improper disciplinary practices. The hiring process was then paused by Shining Rock’s board so as to determine the validity of the complaints.

After an investigation conducted by Shining Rock’s own board-appointed attorney, David Hostetler, Shining Rock’s Governance Committee dismissed all three of the grievances during the closed session of a June 6 illegal meeting that violated public notice requirements.

A few days later, 43rd Prosecutorial District Attorney Ashley Welch declined to charge Morgan with any crimes related to a Waynesville Police Department investigation into Shining Rock parent Kelley Messer’s contention that Morgan had been unusually forceful with her child during school.

In the intervening weeks, both supporters and opponents of Morgan were vocal in their assertions about his ability, character and fitness for the job.

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After a two-hour closed session for personnel held the night of June 27, Board Chair Michelle Haynes returned to open session and asked for a motion to offer Morgan a contract. That motion passed unanimously. 

Morgan becomes Shining Rock’s third head of school in the past four school years, replacing prior Head of School Nathan Duncan, who was terminated this past February after Shining Rock’s attorney found credible allegations of sexual harassment by Duncan.

Founding Head of School Ben Butler resigned without explanation in another illegal meeting for which public notice laws were violated in October of 2017.

Morgan has his work cut out for him — since 2015, the taxpayer-funded charter school’s test scores have declined in each of the three years for which academic data are available, to the point that they’re not only well below the Haywood County average, but also below the state average.

Haynes refused to provide The Smoky Mountain News with a copy of Morgan’s contract after the meeting had concluded, saying instead she’d email it. The contract wasn’t provided until six days later, after it had already been signed. The one-year contract provides Morgan with a $75,000 salary. 

Morgan refused to answer questions after the meeting, asking instead that they be emailed. As of July 2, Morgan had not responded to a series of questions emailed by The Smoky Mountain News immediately after the meeting on June 27, and for the second week in a row, Haynes also refused to answer questions emailed to her by SMN. 

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