By: Noelani Mathews | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 22, 2019
THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WCTV) -- For the last month, the future leadership of Harper Elementary School has caused controversy among parents and members in the community.
The Thomasville City School Board voted not to renew Principal Melvin Hugans' contract at the end of the school year.
Two weeks later, the school superintendent involved in the vote announced her resignation. The former superintendent said that her decision not to renew Hugans' contract was because of a need to move in a different direction with leadership at Harper.
On Tuesday, the school board met for their monthly meeting, and a 4-3 vote reversed their initial decision, allowing Hugans to stay.
WCTV was told these decisions are personnel matters and not subject to open records requests.
Concerned residents and parents are raising two different arguments. Some are for the principal's reinstatement, while others are not.
"By every measure and standard, Melvin is an outstanding principal," said Lindquist.
"People do not want their kids at Harper, especially under his leadership," said Brown.
Ben Lindquist and Lucinda Brown were two of three concerned citizens to take the podium at Tuesday's school board meeting.
"He really faced a daunting task. They had the lowest scores at Harper in the system. They were losing students and having difficulty retaining teachers," said Lindquist.
Lindquist says in Hugans' two years at Harper, teacher retention, student attendance and statewide performance increased. Some members in the community feel differently.
"They don't care about how the kids are feeling. They don't care about how the parents are feeling. They don't care about how the community is feeling," said Brown.
Brown says she's speaking out for several Harper parents who disagree with Hugans' leadership.
"It has to do with quality education, a relationship with the school to move forward and not just be someone who brought the scores up," said Brown.
"Are the students progressing? Are they succeeding under his leadership? It's unquestionable," said Lindquist.
We reached out to Thomasville City Schools assistant superintendent for comment, but have not heard back.
Hugans declined to comment on any personnel matters, but released a statement expressing his gratitude for the decision and the community's support.
"First and foremost I am thankful for the overwhelming amount of prayers, support, and encouragement my family and I have received throughout this entire process. The outpouring of support from the community as a whole, both in Thomas County and Thomasville has been overwhelming. My family and I are thankful for the many prayers, text messages, words of encouragement, insight, and wisdom shared by so many people. We are reminded of what a special place Thomasville is. We are both humbled and thankful to be a part of such a supportive community!
This experience has revealed several areas that I, as a principal, can grow in both personally and professionally. Our goal at Harper is to continue to expose students to experiences that will help them develop academically, socially, and emotionally. We will also continue our efforts to build strong bridges with every element of the community and every Harper stakeholder. There is a "Yoruba" proverb that states, "It takes a village to raise a child." We encourage all community members to walk with us in the process to make Harper a better school and to help students become productive members of our community."