Butler High to get new leader

Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden put Butler High School on notice Friday and announced he will be sending a new principal there to restore order and improve academics.

"We're going to find a way to make it uncomfortable for those who decide they don't want to be in a place they should be," Dr. Bedden said at a news conference. "For those who are not students at Butler, we're going to make it really uncomfortable."

Nonstudents will be arrested for trespassing, he said.

The superintendent also served notice to the school's employees.

"We've got a number of people on that staff who are doing an excellent job, but I have also seen a number of them who are not," Dr. Bedden said. "This will not be a place where you can stay around and collect a paycheck and buy time until you retire. Those days are over."

Dr. Bedden announced Gregory Thompson, the assistant principal at T.W. Josey High School, as Butler's next principal. The school board must approve the change.

Mr. Thompson has also served as principal of Strom Thurmond High School in Edgefield County, where he said discipline problems were similar to those at Butler.

"When you create a safe environment, you are creating an environment for academic achievement," Mr. Thompson said. "Probably the biggest challenge is changing the mind-set of the people in Augusta about Butler, changing the mind-set of the kids to create a different atmosphere at the school."

Dr. Bedden said he is requesting assistance from Sheriff Ronnie Strength to quell problems at Butler.

Sheriff Strength told The Augusta Chronicle that deputies have already been at the school several times this year.

"Whatever support they need from the sheriff's office, they will get," he said.

Lt. Scott Gay, of the sheriff's crime suppression team, said deputies were most recently at the school Sept. 12 and Monday after a fight Sept. 11 in which a dozen Butler students and a student from the Academy of Richmond County were arrested.

"I certainly think they notice the presence of an outside police force," Lt. Gay said.

Mr. Thompson will replace Walter Reeves, who has been principal since April 2003. Dr. Reeves will move to Hephzibah High School, where he will take over for Dr. Veta New, who will retire at the end of the month to take a position with the Georgia Department of Education.

On Thursday night, Dr. Bedden confirmed to The Chronicle that he was considering moving Tubman Middle School Principal Wayne Frazier to Butler. At noon Friday, however, he said his office had received an "overwhelming barrage" of phone calls from parents requesting that Dr. Frazier remain at Tubman.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.