Richmond County school district backs Laney principal

Letter lays out expectations

Richmond County school officials released on Friday a "comprehensive letter of support, concern and advisement of direction" given to Lucy C. Laney Comprehensive High School Principal Tonethia Beasley.

The letter, dated July 27 and issued by Interim Superintendent James Whitson, is not a reprimand and won't go in Beasley's permanent record, but it does address some recent "unrest" expressed to Beasley by some Laney alumni and community members. It also details expectations and directives to Beasley, some of which, officials say, she suggested.

"It goes without saying that over the past few months reported incidents and community unrest involving you have caused substantial concern among you, your colleagues, my leadership staff, and the Board," the letter states. "Hopefully this letter will allow the community to know that your permanent goal is to improve Laney and that you realize that effective and continuing communication is key to ultimate success. ..."

The letter was written before a $12,458 two-day, one-night "team-building" retreat Laney took July 29-30 at the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee, Ga., as part of a federal school improvement grant.

School officials say they are happy with Beasley's overall performance, adding that she has been effective at other schools in achieving Adequate Yearly Progress as part of No Child Left Behind initiatives and was sent to Laney because "it was believed that your academic leadership would help turn Laney into a high achieving high school."

School board President Marion Barnes has reiterated that he feels Beasley is doing a good job, and said he didn't think the letter was necessary.

The letter, officials say, was drafted by the administration as a caution for better communication with alumni and community members. On July 20, some Laney alumni and parents assembled outside a school board meeting to protest Beasley, who, they charged, hadn't properly involved them in changes at the school, including the reform plan.

A phone message left Friday afternoon for Beasley at Laney wasn't immediately returned.

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Beasley's directives

According to Beasley's letter, expectations and directives she agreed to include that:

- She hold a monthly meeting to hear concerns and share a report on the school's status

- She distribute a newsletter three times a year

- She coordinate workshops and meetings with booster clubs, alumni groups and the community to cooperate in raising money for the school

- Executive Director Lynn Warr meet monthly with school faculty members to hear their concerns, with Beasley not in attendance

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