Protesters call for Copeland Elementary principal's dismissal

 

A Copeland Elementary School parent led a protest on the eighth block of Broad Street on Wednesday into the Richmond County Board of Education offices, where he delivered Superintendent Frank Roberson a petition demanding the removal of Principal Kim Davis.

The Rev. Franklin Victor Beckles is alleging Davis has mistreated parents, suspended pupils without cause and “abused her power as principal.”

Beckles provided a petition with 200 signatures, which he said came from parents and residents in the community, demanding Davis’ removal.

The seven adults who accompanied Beckles said Davis has threatened parents, allowed students to be driven home by strangers and not properly reported incidents at school.

“We’re doing this for the children,” Beckles said. “Our kids are being suspended from school for frivolous reasons.”

Roberson said he has no evidence that verifies any of Beckles’ claims and has no reason to discipline Davis. In an exchange between the men in the board conference room, Roberson said he would not tolerate anyone slandering his employees without proof.

“When you say parents have been threatened by the principal, I’m going to require you to provide evidence of that,” Roberson said. “This is totally unfair. I’m not going to allow any member of my staff to be defamed.”

After two parents said they withdrew their children this year because of Davis, Roberson told them there is no problem so severe at Copeland to deny pupils an education.

He asked the parents to explain their concerns and the specific problems they were facing at Copeland, but the group chose to leave. Roberson offered to take down their names and numbers, but parent Iiesha McLendon said they did not provide their information because they have tried to contact Roberson in the past without success.

On Wednesday morning, about 25 supporters of Davis held a news conference outside the school defending their principal.

Renaldo Woolfolk, the outgoing Copeland PTA president, said he also had a petition of nearly 200 signatures of those who support Davis and stand by her through “false accusations.”

He said Davis is available for any parents who have concerns, has led the school through curriculum changes and takes care of children as though they are her own.

“Our school is under control and is being run by one of the top principals in the county,” Woolfolk said.

Supporters of Davis also questioned the motives and credibility of the person bringing accusations against her.

Beckles said he is affiliated with Sons for Christ Church of God and is the founder of Children’s Christian Center on Old McDuffie Road.

He said Thursday he is a firefighter for the Augusta Fire Department, but according to Fire Chief Chris James, Beckles has not been employed for several years.

Beckles also said he was a police officer with the New Orleans Police Department, but a human resources official there told The Augusta Chronicle on Wednesday there is no record of Beckles in their organization.

Beckles later told The Chronicle that he was actually a security guard in New Orleans.

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools Missoura Ashe said school safety officers were called because Beckles made the front office staffers uncomfortable May 2. By the time they arrived, he had left.

Beckles said that he was concerned about an incident in April in which his son was bullied and had his glasses broken and that Davis never addressed the issue.

Ashe said a statement taken from another pupil showed the pupil was playing a “slapping game” with Beckles’ son and accidently knocked off his glasses, which she apologized for.

Beckles said he will continue to reach out to school officials and still wants to see Davis out of Copeland.

“We want to let them know what’s going on in these schools,” Beckles said.

Roberson said he wants to hear the concerns directly from parents but believes the school is functioning properly.

“This is a fabrication, this is a complete fabrication,” Roberson said. “When you’re manipulating children through their parents, I’m totally upset about that. I’m not going to let this guy get away with this mess.”

Staff Writer Steve Crawford contributed to this article.

 

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