Originally created 03/29/03

Parents protest teacher moves



One by one, parents of students at A.R. Johnson Health, Science and Engineering High School stepped to the microphone Friday night to voice their opinions about the possible transfer of some of the school's top teachers.

Before the meeting, held at the Bernie Ward Community Center off Lumpkin Road, parents and students lined up to sign a petition asking the board not to approve the transfers.

"It's very disappointing that (the administration) should want to transfer the best teachers," said Jessica Claudio, a senior at Johnson. "There's no way we can be No. 1 in the state without those teachers."

Last Friday, several teachers were called into Principal Dorothy Gandy's office for their annual evaluations. During those meetings, four or five of the school's 30 teachers were told they would not be returning for the 2003-04 school year.

"These teachers were told they would not be returning because they weren't 'team players,"' said Larry Garner, a Johnson parent and organizer of the event. "She's never defined for me or any of us what a team player is."

Among those scheduled to leave are a Georgia Foreign Language Educator of the Year, a 2002 Richmond County Teacher of the Year and a Nationally Board Certified Teacher.

"She's just brokenhearted," said Phylis Holliday, the mother of Sheryl Wendzik, a teacher who was told she would be transferred. "She felt like she was such an integral part of preparing educationally for the future, and now she's just had the rug pulled out from under her."

Ms. Wendzik teaches math courses, including calculus and trigonometry.

School officials from the Richmond County Board of Education did not attend the meeting. Barbara Padgett was the lone attendee from the Richmond County School Board, which has 10 members.

On Thursday, Richmond County Schools Superintendent Charles Larke said he disagreed with the way Dr. Gandy told the teachers they wouldn't be returning.

"She should have waited until the end of the school day," he said.

By law, the school system is required to let teachers know by April 15 whether they will be returning for the next school year.

Johnson parents said they plan to attend the school board meeting April 17 and let the full board know how they feel.

"We just want to bombard the school board and let them know that as parents of this school we are not going to stand for this," Mr. Garner said.

Reach Ashlee Griggs at (706) 823-3552, or ashlee.griggs@augustachronicle.com.