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Troy School Board renews high school principal's contract

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| March 12, 2009 12:00 AM

Despite protests from a group of high school staff members, Troy School Board unanimously voted Monday to renew Principal Jeff Ralston’s contract for another year.

Monday’s school board meeting went into executive session for over an hour to listen to five people defend why they believed Ralston was unfit to continue as Troy High School principal.

“When I evaluated Mr. Ralston,” Superintendent Brady Selle said before the vote, “I highlighted important areas we’d like to see him improve in – some of the things you brought forward today.”

Selle said that with the staff’s help, Ralston could improve. He then gave his formal recommendation to renew Ralston’s contract, and the board voted it in.

The five who addressed the board – three teachers, a librarian and a student’s mother – along with other teachers in attendance, were visibly disconcerted with the board’s decision.

“We heard you and listened to you,” Board Chair Sylvia Maffit reassured attendees. “I would like to think the staff at our school would be willing to start over and work together.”

Maffit told staff members that they should approach Ralston if they are offended by something he says. She also expressed that the board would be willing to talk to staff in their setting, at the high school, to further discuss their concerns.

Ralston is in his second year as Troy High School principal but missed a number of months last year recovering from a heart attack. He believes people expressed dissatisfaction with his performance because he is an outsider who is instigating change.

“People react to a new leader that wants to change the climate of the school,” Ralston said after the meeting. “We’re all trying to improve education for the kids, but that requires change and change is difficult for everyone. (Teachers) are being asked to change the way they teach, what they teach and their teaching methods.”  

During the first hour of the board meeting, Troy Elementary Principal Lance Pearson’s contract was uneventfully renewed, but when Ralston’s renewal came up, board member Darren Coldwell spoke.

“I have some concerns that were brought to me mostly by staff,” Coldwell said.

Attendees were asked to leave the room, which is customary when discussing personnel issues. Some minutes later, Maffit requested that those who had firsthand complaints against Ralston address the board one at a time.

School staffers quietly chatted amongst themselves during the wait. Though talk of teacher evaluations and Ralston’s rudeness floated through the air, staffers declined to give a direct comment about their complaints.

Resource teacher Glenn Herman, librarian Kay Randall, math and science teacher Cliff Bara, math teacher Mary Ann Drury and a parent and her son took turns addressing their concerns.

Shortly after attendees were welcomed back in for an open session, the board apologized and asked them to leave again.

“Send more in,” Ralston teased, referring to those against his renewal. “I want to hear some more.”

“We’ll make a list,” Herman mumbled as he walked out of the room.

Selle said in an interview that he was surprised that two-thirds through the school year, this is the first complaint he had heard about Ralston.  

“It caught us off guard,” he said. “I need to be more perceptive and available for their concerns.”

In other news at Monday’s meeting:

• The board voted to extend a contract to Bonnie Price as a library aide 10 hours per week.

• The board voted to hire teacher Hana Coy as the high school’s assistant track coach.

• The board voted to hire Shawna Kelsey and Jill Dieser as drama advisers to replace Bara and Tony Smith, who resigned.

• Jim Jones was again hired by the board to teach the Drivers’ Education Program.

• The board approve the 2009-10 school calendar.