When she heard that the assistant principal at her children’s school was going to be transferred to a new school on July 1, Debbie Hunter was alarmed. “I just don’t understand why they send him away when he does such a fabulous job at South Macon,” she said.
Randy Shepherd has been the assistant principal at South Macon Elementary School for five years, and according to Hunter, vice president of the school’s PTO, he has done such a good job that the parents don’t want to see him go. And they are going to fight to keep him.
On Friday afternoon, a group of parents and kids holding picket signs mounted a small protest across from the school as other parents were arriving to pick up their children. With signs that read, “Save Shep,” the protestors explained to passing cars that Shepherd had been informed earlier in the week that he would be transferred to fill the assistant principal position at Cartoogechaye Elementary School effective July 1.
“This team that we have with Principal Bowles and Mr. Shepherd, there is such a good connection between the two of them,” said Rebecca Martin, mother of two South Macon students. Since Shepherd came to South Macon five years ago, the school has seen a marked rise in the end of grade test scores at the school, which Martin attributes largely to the positive working relationship seen between Shepherd and Principal Tolly Bowles.
“What we have going on here has been so instrumental in the success of our school and our children,” Martin said of the Bowles/Shepherd team. “For me, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
According to school board chairman, Tommy Cabe, Shepherd’s transfer did not need to be approved by the board as it is a lateral transfer under the purview of the schools superintendent, Dr. Dan Brigman.
“Nothing’s positive in this world, but I think Mr. Shepherd is happy with the transfer, so it will probably go ahead,” said Cabe when asked if the transfer had in fact been finalized. “I’ve known Mr. Shepherd for a long time. He’s doing a great job, and he’ll do a good job wherever he goes.”
Superintendent Brigman confirmed on Wednesday that Shepherd has been asked to prepare for the move and that a new individual will be sought to fill his shoes at South Macon in the position that will be reclassified as lead teacher.
“Our goal is to put people where their strengths will be best utilized,” Brigman said of the transfer. He added that he fully expects South Macon to maintain its successes in testing and otherwise under the continued leadership of Principal Bowles. “I feel confident that the school will continue to perform at as high a standard as it has in the past,” he said.
Shepherd agrees. He says that he is proud of the job he’s done at South Macon working with Bowles, but he knows Bowles will find a good replacement to help him continue the school’s success.
“It’s good to feel appreciated, and you hate to leave people, but I have to look at what’s best for me and my family down the road,” Shepherd said, adding that he supported the transfer “100 percent.”
Brigman noted that transfers within the district are not uncommon, especially during times of restricted budgets when hiring outside personnel is less feasible. Bowles will begin the process of looking for a replacement for Shepherd immediately, said Brigman, starting with potential candidates in the school district.
At Cartoogechaye, Shepherd is to replace outgoing assistant principal Shirley Parks who has been chosen to take over as principal at East Franklin Elementary School. To accommodate this move, a number of other positions have been shuffled in the county, including the transfer of East Franklin’s lead teacher, Michelle Bell, to Iotla Valley/Cowee School where she will assist principal Gary Brown. The current lead teacher at Cowee, Josh Lynch, will move to East Franklin to assist Parks.
Despite all of this planning, South Macon parents are still not happy to see Shepherd go.
“We do not want to lose Mr. Shepherd,” said Melissa Setzer, a mother at Friday’s protest with one child in second grade at the school and another soon to enter. Setzer listed some of Shepherd’s more famous qualities as reasons they don’t want to see him go, including the fact that he knows every child at the school by name. “He doesn’t talk down to them; he treats them as adults so they act more like adults.”
Setzer’s second grade daughter, Teri, also said she doesn't want to see Shepherd go. “He’s nice, he’s funny and I like him,” she said when asked why.
Alan, a fourth grade student at South Macon, said that even though he will be leaving the school next year, he hopes that Shepherd will be able to stay at South Macon. “He does fun things with us,” he said of Shepherd, recalling in particular the time the students were allowed to tape the assistant principal to the wall with duct tape.
On Friday, Hunter seemed to be considering similar tactics to get Shepherd to stay. “I’m not going to stop until I know that anything that can be done to keep him here has been done,” she said.
Brigman not going to Huntsville
Macon County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Dan Brigman, will be staying in the county for at least a little while longer as he was not chosen to be the next leader of the Huntsville City School District. Earlier in the spring, when his candidacy for the position was announced, Brigman appeared to have a good shot at the job in Huntsville, Ala. After the first round of interviews, he remained among the top three candidates being considered for the position. But in the end, according to the Huntsville Times, Brigman was edged out by Casey Wardynski, a retired Army officer and the current Chief Financial Officer of the Aurora (Colo.) school system. The 3-2 decision was announced by the Huntsville City after a meeting last Thursday.