Principal switch at Rawlings draws fire at meeting
Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at 11:08 p.m.
The Alachua County School Board approved a controversial mid-year job change for the principal of Rawlings Elementary School Tuesday night.
Joyce Daniels was relieved of her duties at Rawlings to instead become the district's director of voluntary prekindergarten and early childhood education.
It's a promotion for Daniels, but some believe the move could handicap a predominantly black school, already facing its own challenges.
Before the change was approved, several community members complained that the job shift comes too close to the FCAT exams, which are five weeks away.
"That school is improving day by day, and it is important that that family be together for the FCAT," said Charles Chestnut, adding the district "snatched" Daniels out of the school.
Rawlings is on the east side of town, where school performance on the FCAT is often lower than the more affluent west side. The community members who spoke each said the school is making positive strides under Daniels' leadership and that the sudden reappointment would hurt the students' progress.
"I don't think the parents nor the community or the teachers are satisfied with the way this transpired," said Evelyn Fox, who identified herself as vice president of Alachua County's NAACP.
But Superintendent Dan Boyd, who chose Daniels for the job, said it was the principal herself who approached him over the summer and said she'd be interested in a job change. When the opening for an early childhood education director opened, Boyd said she was a good fit.
"I don't know of anyone in the school district who is better qualified," he said. He added that her replacement, Emery Bishop, has a long history of working in the district's east side schools and will provide a smooth transition. Bishop's 16-year career includes work as both a teacher and an administrator. Most recently, he was the assistant principal at Howard Bishop Middle School.
"I see no reason why any child would be handicapped by this appointment," Boyd said.
Fox, the NAACP vice president, then told the board, "I beg to differ with Dr. Boyd."
She gestured toward Bishop, who is white, and said, "I don't think he can relate to the students at Rawlings, who are 95 percent African-American children. He doesn't look like me or the children that attend that school."
Noting Martin Luther King Day was one day earlier, board Vice Chairman Tina Pinkoson told Fox her comment was a "disservice" to King.
"It doesn't mean (Bishop) can't relate, because of the color of his skin, to those children," she said. Pinkoson recalled working as a teacher alongside Bishop years ago at Williams Elementary, also an east side school, and she said he put his heart into helping the children in and out of the classroom.
To Fox and the other community members, Pinkoson said, 'I hope each one of you will walk into Mr. Bishop's office and do what you can to help Rawlings succeed."
The board unanimously approved both Daniels' new post and Bishop's.
School Board Chairman Wes Eubank and member Ginny Childs each suggested the board evaluate its policies to ensure a community receives better notice in the future.
Tiffany Pakkala can be reached at 338-3111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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