High Point community members turn out in force to support
principal at High Point Central High School.

High Point community members rallied
to support the principal at High Point Central High School, speaking out during
the most recent meeting of the Guilford County School Board in response to a
campaign by a small group of parents to remove her.

Two speakers at the June 11 school
board meeting called for Principal Shelley Nixon-Green to be replaced, citing
safety concerns, worries about the stability of the International Baccalaureate
program and the principal’s communication style.

“We have a tragically deteriorating
situation at High Point Central High School,” said Anthony Sedberry, a former
parent. “We have weak leadership, and we’re putting our school at risk.
Communication to the parents is absent. Safety for our teachers and students is
not being taken seriously, and we have a frightening rate of teacher
departure.”

But during the June 27 meeting, 13
speakers, including the Parent-Teacher Organization co-president, educators,
former students and a former county commissioner unanimously voiced support,
and dozens more stood to show solidarity. Nixon-Green’s supporters comprised a
multiracial coalition of black, white and Latinx people.

“The issue is not whether Dr.
Nixon-Green is capable of being the principal of High Point Central; it is
really nothing more than a witch hunt,” said Linda Willard, who formerly worked
under Nixon-Green at her former assignment as principal of Penn-Griffin School
for the Arts.

“Unfortunately, some people in High
Point are still stuck in the good-old-boy’s mentality,” said Willard, who is
white. “The good old boys in High Point cannot deal with a successful and
competent and intelligent African-American female.”

The Rev. Greg Drumwright and High
Point NAACP President James Adams said the movement to remove Nixon-Green fits
a pattern of interference by board members, who are white, to undermine the
leadership of black female administrators. They took umbrage to critical
comments by board member Anita Sharpe, a white Republican who represents the district
where the school is located, in the High
Point Enterprise
.

“It suffices to say that High Point
Central is not a happy place right now, and it hasn’t been for a while,” Sharpe
said in the newspaper. “It doesn’t appear to be a team.”

During the June 27, Blake Odum,
executive of the Motivational Foundation, chided Sharpe without mentioning her
by name.

“I’d like to remind those in
positions of power on this board that administrative personnel and the
appointment of personnel is at the purview of the superintendent,” he said. “We
have an expert superintendent. We shouldn’t even have things come out in the
media against someone who is so profound for High Point Central.”

Nixon-Green’s critics have also
charged that she hasn’t adequately responded to safety concerns following a
December 2017 incident in which an intruder fired shots inside the school.

“Concerned parents have a hard time
finding tangible policies or actions that have been implemented since the
shooting incident in December 2017,” charged Stuart Nunn, a parent of a rising
senior, during the June 11 meeting.

Claudia Eldridge, whose daughter
graduated from High Point Central High School in 1997 and who now works as a
counselor under Nixon-Green, said during the June 27 meeting that Nunn’s
comment was “hurtful.”

“Because Dr. Nixon-Green had trained
our staff on lockdown procedures, because our administrative team had trained
our student support staff and stationed them at the entrances to the cafeteria
and because one of the support staff recognized that this student was an
intruder and was not allowed into the building, a few shots were fired but no
one was hurt,” she said.

Tonya Withers, co-president of the
High Point Central High School Parent/Teacher Organization, said she was disheartened
to hear negative comments made about Nixon-Green at the previous board meeting
and in the media.

“While being in this space, I have
seen and heard parents attempt to make decisions for the school and question
the decisions of the principal simply for the benefit of a select group of
students and parents,” said Withers, as her co-president Joanie Ratchford stood
at her side. “And when the principal decides to do what’s best for all students, she is met with
resistance.”

Nixon-Green also received an
endorsement from Christine Joyner Greene, a leadership facilitator who is the
namesake of a school in Jamestown. Greene said she has been working with
Nixon-Green at High Point Central High School for the past four months.

“She is an exceptional, bright,
caring and knowledgeable leader,” Greene said. “She is intimately involved with
the curriculum and every other aspect of the school program. She has personal
qualities that others follow, and together great growth is achieved by our students.”

Other speakers, including former
Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis, noted that High Point Central ranked
first for most improved high school in Guilford County during the 2018-19
school year, and ninth for most improved across the state.

Despite being quoted in the High
Point newspaper, board member Sharpe did not comment on the school leadership
controversy during the June 27 meeting.

Khem Irby, a black Democrat whose
district covers the north end of High Point, had previously read a letter of
support for Nixon-Green during the June 11 meeting.

On June 27, Dianne Bellamy-Small, a
black Democrat who also represents High Point, thanked supporters for showing
up.

“I want to take a moment to remind
us we have some very well-trained staff,” she said. “Conversations have been
had about the safety of our schools. I feel it’s important to have folk
understand that we’ve had police have to be called to our schools for various
situations, but not one time has the superintendent or staff had to report to
us that there was a tragedy at those schools, whether it was fights, whether it
was an intruder, because of the well-trained staff.”

Winston McGregor, a white Democrat
who was elected to the countywide at-large seat on the board, also thanked
community members for sharing their concerns with the board.

“I really support that this is in
the superintendent’s purview as the CEO of this $700 million-dollar-,
10,000-employee organization,” McGregor said. “I think she’s up to the task to
make principal assignments, and I have confidence in her and her choices.”

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