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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